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The BBC's Jill McGivering
"Public fear a pro-separatist land deal, despite Indian government's reassurances"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Analysis: Manipur's ethnic bloodlines
Regional map
The BBC's Subir Bhaumik looks at ethnic tensions in the north-east Indian state of Manipur, where the death toll has been increasing in violent protests over a government truce with separatist rebels.

The riots that have rocked the Indian state of Manipur were triggered by the extension of a ceasefire between the Indian Government and separatist Naga rebels.

The complex demography of the state is believed to be at the root of the violence.

In the state's central region which lies in a valley, a majority of the people are Hindu Meiteis.

An injured protester is led away
More than 50 people were injured in Monday's violence
But the Nagas and the Kukis - martial tribes with a fierce tradition of clan warfare - control the hills around the valley and make up about 30% of the population.

While the Nagas and the Kuki militants fought a bitter ethnic feud in the 1990s, the relations between the Nagas and the Meiteis have worsened since the separatist National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) started negotiating with the Indian Government.

'Greater Nagaland'

When the Naga insurrection began in the 1950s, the Indian army tried to take control of the hills of Manipur which caused the insurgency to spread throughout the Manipur valley.

The NSCN has called for a greater Naga state, proposing to integrate Naga inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and even Burma with Nagaland.

Manipur assembly building in flames
The attacks also reflect frustration over Manipur's politicians
But the Meiteis as well as insurgent groups representing them have threatened violent action if Naga-dominant districts are parcelled away to Nagaland.

Last week's extension of the ceasefire between the NSCN and the Indian Government is seen by most Manipuris as a prelude to the creation of the greater Naga state.

The Indian Government and even the NSCN has said there is no correlation between the two - but since the NSCN has not renounced the demand, the Meiteis remain very suspicious about a possible division of their state.

Political uncertainty

Manipur has also been gripped by political turmoil, with two governments falling in as many months and the state has been placed under federal rule.

Monday's attacks on the state assembly reflects as much the apprehension of a possible break-up of Manipur as well as frustration over the state's own politicians.

All this has eroded the credibility of the political system in Manipur and people, particularly youths, are turning to militant non-political groups to lead the agitation.

But observers say Delhi will not be able to revoke the extension of its ceasefire with the NSCN as that could send the group's 2,000-strong guerrilla army back to war.

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See also:

15 Jun 01 | South Asia
Row over Naga rebel ceasefire
18 Sep 00 | South Asia
Naga rebel freed from Thai prison
02 Nov 00 | South Asia
Ten killed in Manipur gunbattle
21 Nov 97 | From Our Own Correspondent
The forgotten war in Nagaland
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