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Hilal English

Human Rights Violations in India: A Comparative Analysis of IIOJK and Manipur Conflict

July 2023

This article draws similarities between the case studies of IIOJK and Manipur regarding human rights violations. It highlights the illegal means BJP government is using to achieve their goals of Hindu Rashtra by eliminating religious minorities from India and IIOJK.

Authorities in India have adopted laws and policies that systematically discriminate against minorities and stigmatize critics of the government. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the prejudices embedded in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government have permeated independent institutions, including the police and the courts, empowering nationalist groups. Consequently, these groups have been able to intimidate, harass, and assault religious minorities without facing legal consequences.1
In 2022, the laws and policies were implemented in India without sufficient public and legislative consultation, leading to the erosion of the rights of human rights defenders and religious minorities. According to the report of Amnesty International, the government targeted religious minorities, and there were instances of explicit advocacy of hatred towards them by political leaders and public officials, with no consequences. Punitive demolitions of Muslim homes and businesses occurred without accountability. 
Peaceful protesters advocating for minority rights were treated as a threat to public order. Repressive laws, including counterterrorism legislation, were misused to suppress dissent. Human rights defenders were intimidated through unlawful surveillance using digital technology. Adivasis and marginalized communities, including Dalits, continued to experience violence and entrenched discrimination. 
Arbitrary arrests, restrictions on the right to protest, excessive use of force and hate crimes are becoming increasingly common. According to official data, Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) accounted for the highest proportion of deaths involving the police in India between April 2020 and March 2022. Media reports suggested that armed groups killed at least 19 civilians in 2022, of which seven belonged to the regional Hindu minority community.2 As per the report, authorities intensified efforts to silence civil society activists and independent journalists by using politically motivated criminal charges, including terrorism, to jail those exposing or criticizing government abuses.
Manipur Conflict
For centuries, Manipur was an independent kingdom occupying a fertile valley in the forested mountains between Myanmar and what locals still call the Indian “mainland.” Violent ethnic clashes in northeast India have a long local history. Additionally, the influx of refugees after the 2021 military coup in neighbouring Myanmar, especially from the Sagaing region, immigrants with strong ties with the Kukis, has created a greater sense of insecurity for the Meitei indigenous community.3 At the start of the escalated tensions, there was a notable silence from the central government. BJP was busy focusing more on the upcoming elections and using silence to foster violence.

In targeting the indigenous status of any community, the first stage often involves displacement, forced assimilation, and the erosion of their heritage and institutions. This is happening in IIOJK and now in Manipur as well.

The state has been carved up to prevent the targeted violence that engulfed it in the conflict's early days. Over 35,000 people have become refugees, with many living in makeshift camps.4 Internet service has been cut—an increasingly common tactic by the Indian government—and travel restrictions have made it difficult for the outside world to see in.
IIOJK Conflict
The roots of the conflict lie in the region's colonial past when it was part of the British Empire. Initially British ruled most of the Indian Subcontinent through the British East India Company from the 17th century until 1858, when the rule shifted to the British Crown. Being a Muslim state, it was decided that Jammu and Kashmir would be part of Pakistan, according to the terms of the 1947 partition.

Under Article 370, outsiders were not allowed to buy property in IIOJK, and the same restriction exists under Article 371C in Manipur's tribal areas. Therefore, including the Meitei community of Hindus in the Scheduled Tribes would enable them to buy land and settle in those areas, similar to what happens in IIOJK, where settlers (Hindus/non-locals) purchase land and property.

On August 5, 2019, the abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 by the Modi government terminated the state's autonomy. It is one of the Modi government's systematic tactics, where changing Kashmir's demographic status is a prime objective. It implies granting citizenship and property rights to other ethnicities, mainly Hindus, leading to a shift in population figures and ultimately nullifying the claim of Kashmiri Muslims.5
Similarities between Manipur and IIOJK Conflict
The situation in Manipur is similar to the indigenous movement in IIOJK. In both cases, people struggle to protect their distinct identities against what they perceive as an existential threat from Indian (Hindutva) settler colonialism. The BJP-led government aims to amend Article 370C, which would prohibit Meiteis from purchasing tribal lands or property, similar to what happened with Article 370 in IIOJK. 
The main trigger point and cause of the violent indigenous struggles in both regions is India’s non-adherence to its constitution and violation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions in IIOJK. Both the people of IIOJK and the tribal communities of Manipur are victims of a Hindu supremacist mindset that seeks to protect the interests of the Hindu community. In targeting the indigenous status of any community, the first stage often involves displacement, forced assimilation, and the erosion of their heritage and institutions. This is happening in IIOJK and now in Manipur as well.
True settler colonialism agenda seeks to "extinguish itself" by eliminating indigenous communities, so there is no distinction from the settlers. The primary objective of settler colonialism is to occupy the territory permanently, and settler states recruit settlers who believe they have the sovereign prerogative to establish a new state on someone else's land. The abolition of Article 370 in IIOJK aimed to change the demographic composition of the Muslim-majority region and deprive Kashmiris of their true leadership by installing a BJP Chief Minister. Similar concerns are now being raised for Manipur's Hill Tribes/Scheduled Tribes.
Under Article 370, outsiders were not allowed to buy property in IIOJK, and the same restriction exists under Article 371C in Manipur's tribal areas. Therefore, including the Meitei community of Hindus in the Scheduled Tribes would enable them to buy land and settle in those areas, similar to what happens in IIOJK, where settlers (Hindus/non-locals) purchase land and property.

The disempowerment and marginalization of the Muslim majority in IIOJK and the Hill Tribes/Scheduled Tribes in Manipur indicate attempts to reduce their political influence and turn them into second-class citizens.

Struggle for Identity and Autonomy. There is a struggle to protect the local population’s distinct identity and cultural heritage in both regions. They seek to preserve their autonomy and resist perceived threats to their way of life.
Disputed Territorial Claims. IIOJK and Manipur have experienced long-standing disputes over their territorial status. Different stakeholders' claims and counterclaims lead to tensions and conflicts.
▪ Militarization and Armed Conflict. Both regions have witnessed a heavy presence of security forces and a history of armed conflict. Force and militarization have been employed to maintain control and suppress dissent.
Human Rights Violations. IIOJK and Manipur have faced allegations of human rights violations. These include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detentions, and restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
Self-determination Movements. There are movements in both regions that advocate for self-determination and greater political autonomy. These movements seek to challenge the authority and policies of the Indian government and assert their rights to govern themselves.
Demographic Changes and Land Disputes. IIOJK and Manipur have witnessed concerns over demographic changes and land disputes. There are fears of outsiders settling in the region and the impact on the cultural and demographic composition of the local population.
Political Marginalization. Both regions have experienced political marginalization, where the voices and aspirations of the local populations have been disregarded or suppressed. This has led to feelings of alienation and discontent among the affected communities. It is important to note that while there are similarities between both conflicts, each has its unique dynamics, historical context, and specific grievances. Understanding these nuances is crucial for addressing the root causes and finding lasting solutions.6
Human Rights Violations
It is worth mentioning that India is a signatory of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), but it has disregarded their rights with impunity. 
Violation of Indigenous Rights. The indigenous communities in both IIOJK and Manipur are facing violations of their rights to self-determination, cultural preservation, and protection of their lands and resources. The attempt to change demographics and settle outsiders in their territories disregards their distinct identities and undermines their right to control their destinies.
Suppression of Political Rights. The disempowerment and marginalization of the Muslim majority in IIOJK and the Hill Tribes/Scheduled Tribes in Manipur indicate attempts to reduce their political influence and turn them into second-class citizens. This undermines their right to political participation and decision-making, effectively silencing their voices.
Land Dispossession and Forced Assimilation. The alteration of Article 370 in IIOJK and the potential amendment of Article 371C in Manipur's tribal areas threaten the indigenous communities’ control over their lands. Allowing outsiders to purchase land and settle in these regions poses a risk of displacement, forced assimilation, and erasure of indigenous heritage and institutions.
Non-Adherence to International Commitments. India's disregard for its constitution and violation of UNSC Council resolutions in IIOJK go against its international obligations. India is contravening its commitments by flouting the UNDRIP and failing to protect the rights of indigenous communities.
▪Targeting of Minority and Underprivileged Groups. Using political machinations that exploit the underprivileged and minority status of specific communities for self-serving political interests can be seen as a violation of human rights. This instrumentalization further perpetuates marginalization and exacerbates social inequalities.
These violations collectively contribute to the erosion of human rights and the infringement upon the dignity and freedoms of the affected communities in both IIOJK and Manipur. According to recent reports, there has been a disturbing rise in violence, harassment, and attacks targeting religious and ethnic minorities. For instance, data reveals a sharp increase in cases of intimidation and physical assaults against religious minorities, with a substantial number of incidents being linked to nationalist groups empowered by prejudiced elements within the ruling party. These attacks are often carried out with impunity, as the authorities rarely hold the perpetrators accountable.
The protests in Manipur against the Indian state and civil war are just a glimpse of the issues India has been hiding for a very long time. India needs to learn an important lesson from the current situation in Manipur and acknowledge the indigenous nature of the struggle for the right to self-determination in IIOJK. The country often prioritizes its self-serving political interests over humanity, using underprivileged and minority status for political manipulation, which can be considered grave human rights violations.

The writer has done MPhil in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad. 
E-mail: [email protected]

1.  “India: Government Policies, Actions Target Minorities”, February 19, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/19/india-government-policies-actions-target-minorities 
2.  “India 2022”, Amnesty International, https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/asia-and-the-pacific/south-asia/india/report-india/ 
3.    Binalakshmi Nepram & Brigitta W. Schuchert, “Understanding India’s Manipur Conflict and Its Geopolitical Implications”, USIP, https://www.usip.org/publications/2023/06/understanding-indias-manipur-conflict-and-its-geopolitical-implications 
4.   By Suhasini Raj & Alex Travelli, The New York Times, June 9, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/09/world/asia/india-manipur-conflict.html 
5.   Salma Malik & Nasreen Akhtar, “Explaining Jammu And Kashmir Conflict Under Indian Illegal Occupation: Past And Present”, Margalla Papers, 25 (1): 23-35, 2021, https://doi.org/10.54690/margallapapers.25.1.48 
6.   Kaur, S. (2023, June 1). Manipur Christians: “The Violence Has Shattered Us.” News & Reporting. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2023/june/manipur-christians-india-violence-persecution-displacement-.html