Desecration of Sacred Site in Manipur Fuels Meitei-Kuki Conflict

Imphal: The ongoing Meitei-Kuki conflict in Manipur has taken a distressing turn as a sacred site revered by the Meitei community faced desecration. Allegedly, Kuki individuals mounted a cross and raised the flag of the Zomi Revolutionary Army on Mount Thangjing, a location held in high regard by the Meitei community of Manipur.

The incident of desecration reportedly occurred earlier this month, causing deep distress within the Meitei community. Mount Thangjing, situated in the Churachandpur district, is believed to be the dwelling place of Thangching, the ancestral deity of Moirang. Atop this mountain, there is a temple that holds significant religious importance for Hindus in Manipur.

Visual evidence depicts the presence of a cross and the flag of the Zomi Revolutionary Army on the sacred mountain. The Zomi Revolutionary Army is a militant group associated with the Kuki-Zomi community and is active in Manipur. The video footage of this incident initially surfaced on social media on September 10th.

The Meitei Heritage Society expressed its deep concern over this act of desecration. They drew parallels to the significance of this event, equating it to the conversion of revered temples like Amarnath or Badrinath into cemeteries. The Society emphasized that Mount Thangjing is considered the abode of Eputhou Thangching, a sacred pilgrimage site, and is even mentioned in the great Meitei epic Khamba Thoibi. They called upon the government to take necessary actions to address this issue.

The Committee on Protection and Preservation of the Historical Rights of the Koubru and Thangjing Hill Ranges (CPPKT) reported the installation of a crematorium at the holy location dedicated to the Meitei deity on the summit of Thangjing Hill. It is alleged that a group believed to be Kukis was responsible for this act. The CPPKT further revealed the discovery of a Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) flag and a crucifix on September 11th.

The committee has demanded the immediate removal of the cross from this sacred site and has urged the government to take prompt action. They have announced their intention to engage in various forms of demonstrations until the structure is dismantled.

The committee also highlighted that this act of desecration violates a prior agreement with Kuki groups. Notably, the Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO) had previously imposed restrictions on access to Mount Thangjing. In response, the Committee on Protection and Preservation of the Historical Rights of the Koubru and Thangjing Hill Ranges had instituted counter-restrictions on the entry of Kukis in Moirang Bazar.

Following discussions chaired by the Director-General of Police (DGP) between the two groups, an agreement was reached to lift the restrictions. However, Y Shyam Kuman, the general secretary of the committee, asserted that the KSO had violated the agreement. He further stated that they intend to file a legal case and an FIR against KSO.

Thangching (also known as Thangjing in modern Meitei) holds a special place as one of the guardian deities in the ancient Meitei mythology. Thangching is credited with invoking the seven divine manifestations of the God and Goddess of Love in the ancient Moirang kingdom, situated in the southern Kangleipak region of northeastern India.

The ethnic conflict between the Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur has already resulted in more than 100 fatalities and thousands of displaced residents. The conflict emerged following a "Tribal Solidarity March" opposing the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status and escalated due to a Manipur High Court decision regarding the ST status issue. The Manipur Police reported numerous cases of arson, looting, and property damage during the unrest, reflecting the significant damage inflicted on the state during this period of ethnic tension.

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