The cars caught fire after the violence broke out

Cars were set on fire after violence broke out during the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ called by the Tribal Students Union of Manipur in Imphal on Thursday. (Image/PTI)

Intelligence agencies now suspect that the poppy-growing affair was used to add fuel to the fire between the Coques and the Métis.

The center hailed Manipur’s fight against drugs, specifically poppy cultivation, as pioneering. State police records indicate that 4,305.1 acres were destroyed from illegal poppy cultivation in 2022-2023. 787.3 acres were destroyed between January and March of this year. According to the Narcotics Control Bureau, Manipur is one of the drug control success stories. “Manipur, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana are leading the fight against drugs. Manipur has done a lot of work in destroying poppy cultivation,” an NCB officer told News18.

But intelligence agencies now suspect that the poppy-growing affair was used to add fuel to the fire between the Coques and the Métis. “There are several factors. The trigger was the status of the scheduled tribe. But this impression has been given that only hill people and tribes like Kukes are being targeted in the name of destroying poppy cultivation,” an intelligence agency official told News18.

Churachandpur district is among the hardest hit in the current wave of violence. The area controlled by Kouki saw the Meiteis targeted. A few days ago, the Chief Minister, N. Beren Singh, on his Facebook page brought up the story of the drug seizure in Churachandpur and said, “These are the people who are destroying our generation. They are destroying our natural forests to grow poppies, further inflaming societal issues to do drug trafficking business” .

Environmental activist Licypriya Kangujam tweeted a video of the destruction and blamed poppy farmers. Thousands of Mitte natives have been left homeless after illegal immigrants set fire to their homes since yesterday. We want to protect our forests, but they want to grow poppies to make Manipur a drug hub in Southeast Asia. Pray for peace.”

But Cookie community leaders reject the charge. They blame the prime minister and his supporters for giving this version of violence. A few BJP MLAs came from the hills to Delhi to meet the union Home Minister over the alleged mishandling of the situation by the government. Saikot MLA Paolienlal Haokip said, “It is completely wrong to say that the Kukis support poppy cultivation… Kuki groups have issued strict instructions against poppy cultivation… Some Kuki armed groups have also done the same… But the problem is that it is very profitable.. Some were defiant. However, most are very pleased with the steps taken by the government.”

Khaitanthan Hokib, a student leader from Manipur, also rejected the accusation that any community supports the drug trade and is responsible for the violence. “It’s a complex matter. There are many complaints that the hill people suffer from. While the government is trying to push one agenda that the poppies and the kokes are growing poppies…the actual beneficiaries are the rich and powerful…some of them are from the valley.”

As fault lines and mistrust between communities deepen, the union home ministry has asked the state government’s security advisor to step in and restore people’s trust on both sides to end the violence.

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