Imphal - (Agenzia Fides) - Deep sorrow and concern for the unrest and violence that took place in the state of Maniupur, in northeastern India, and a heartfelt appeal for respect for human life and justice: this is expressed by the "United Christian Forum of North East India" (UCF), an ecumenical body, in the face of the inter-ethnic violence that has devastated the state in recent days and which subsided only after the intervention of the police and the establishment of a curfew. The first report of several days of large-scale violence reports arson, demolition of property and loss of life (about 58 dead), desecration of places of worship (including devastated Catholic churches and convents) and more than 7,500 people forced to leave their homes . The clashes see the majority ethnic group of the Meitei, mainly Hindu, against tribal communities (of various groups), the vast majority of whom are Christian.
Originally, there was the request of the Meitei community to obtain the "tribal status", which would allow them not only to benefit from the aid allocated to disadvantaged communities, but also to settle in the territories reserved for the tribals, which would then be severely damaged. They then organized a "tribal solidarity march" on May 3 that led them to confront the Meitei majority: hence the outbreak of widespread violence.
"We urge all parties involved to exercise restraint and work towards a peaceful resolution of the situation", wrote the UCF, which recalls that "Christians believe in the value of human life and in the importance of respecting the dignity of each individual". "We call on all members of society to refrain from violent acts and instead engage in peaceful dialogue to address their concerns," the UCF said, expressing condolences to the families of those who died in the riots and calling on the competent authorities to take appropriate measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"We also call on the government to address the underlying issues that have contributed to this situation and work towards a lasting solution.
The "fundamental problems" were explained by the Jesuit Walter Fernandes, former director of the Indian Social Institute in Delhi, who lived for decades in northeast India: "The conflict - he wrote - is between tribal and non-tribal people, but some political forces are trying to turn it into a religious conflict. It is true that the tribal people in Manipur are largely Christian and the majority of the Meitei, who make up 53% of the population, are Hindu. The Meitei live on 10% of the land and want to be declared a 'scheduled tribe' to gain access to land protected as "tribal land". The High Court has ruled in their favor. Attempts are being made to divert the attention to this question by giving it a religious coloring".
The United Christian Forum of North East India adds: "In such situations, it is essential to promote peace, harmony and understanding among all communities in order to avoid further bloodshed and suffering", announcing a prayer campaign and a direct commitment to the establishment of peace. Prayer is "a powerful way to rely on God's intervention and guidance and to unite people," the statement said. To defuse the logic of inter-religious conflicts, the forum invited people of different faiths, Christian and Hindu, to come together to invoke the blessings of God and for the common good of peace, justice, respect and mutual solidarity. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 9/5/2023)