MEDICINE HAT, Alberta (LifeSiteNews) – My wife is trapped in the Manipur war zone, and I’m not sure how to get her out.
Where is Manipur? Why is there a war there? These are questions I’ve been fielding for several days. When I tell people of the dire situation my wife is in, the usual response is “Wait, what? I thought your wife went to India to pick up her mom?” They don’t know where Manipur is, but to be honest, even many people in India don’t know much about their northeastern province.
I was 19 when I met my wife and as green as you could get. I’d never been on a plane before. I’d gone on a mission trip to South India having promised to go anywhere God asked me to. I was suffering from culture shock, trying to fit in, when I first saw the stunning face of my future wife. Thanks to her, I dove headlong into the deep end of yet another new culture, one within wider Indian culture itself. And as this vision of beauty explained to me how she had landed in the school I was working at, I learned just how dangerous a place Manipur is.
At its root, the current fight in Manipur is a fight over land. A long time ago, the Meitei tribe controlled the valley region of Manipur while the hill country was uninhabited and uncultivated. Several migratory tribes of people arrived and made a deal with the Meitei to occupy the hills.
The British Empire, which eventually controlled India, saw the northeastern states as decidedly more ‘primitive’ and naïve than the others, in need of special protection. In 1891, it declared the northeast a ‘Protected Area’; outsiders could not take or buy the land from any of the protected tribes there. At first these protections were a good thing, but later they caused significant strife.
Until shortly after my wife and I were married, there were still significant restrictions against foreigners entering Manipur; the British Empire’s protected area restrictions were maintained under the post-colonial Indian government’s 1949 Manipur Administration Order (MAO). When I visited Manipur, I had to apply for a 10-day permit, register as soon as I landed, apply for an extension on my stay, 3 days after landing, and list every town and village I would be visiting. Our wedding was a significant logistical endeavour. Besides managing 960 guests at the wedding and feeding over 600 at the reception, I had to have all the permits and papers for my Canadian relatives in order. But the removal of these restrictions, while extremely convenient for me, was the first crack in the dam that led to the violence now pouring over Manipur.
A tribal and religious fight for land and influence
In 2020, the Bharatiya Janta Party was the second largest party in Manipur. The BJP are essentially a Hindu party, composed mostly of Brahman Hindu Meitei candidates. The 2017-2022 Manipur Assembly, headed by a minority government, was very fractured. Many actions taken by the government were seen as antagonistic and not the will of the people. One was the demolition of villages and churches on suddenly contested lands, buildings alleged to have been constructed without permits or their owners alleged to not be paying proper property taxes. (Some were built in the 1970s.) These disputed properties all belonged to Christians or hill tribe individuals.
The 2022 elections were widely regarded to be compromised. Allegations of candidates buying votes or threatening voters were widespread. Nevertheless, the BJP ended up getting a majority government, winning 32 of the 60 seats in the assembly. The Meitei claim to have been a protected tribe up until 1949 when Manipur was officially annexed by the post-colonial Indian government, and after the election the BJP immediately began the process to demand they be included ‘again’ as a protected tribe. This was granted on April 19, 2023.
On April 4, the Manipur court had vacated a standing order to maintain the status quo on 3 churches in a tribal colony in Imphal East, allegedly on government land. The churches were demolished on April 11 in the middle of the night. The timing of the vacate order, the granting of “protected tribe” status to 51% of the population, and the demolishing of entire villages in February, were seen as a deliberate attack on the hill tribes in favor of the Meitei. There was suddenly more land for the Meitei, too.
There are two reasons why the hill tribes believe the Meitei are going on an offensive.
- Since the Meitei first agreed to allow the hill tribe migrants to settle in the hills, the Meitei have outgrown the land they have available, and the old British protections for the hill tribes has prevented the Meitei from expanding. Being granted protected status allows the Meitei to take tribal lands, claiming they were theirs “since time immemorial.”
- The Christian minority in the Meitei tribe has been growing. Indeed, evangelism has been spreading in the 7 northeastern states for nearly 100 years. (There is a good movie on this called “Beyond the Next Mountain.”) The Hindu Meitei feared the growth of the Christian church would diminish their power and influence, and so they targeted the churches of the smaller hill tribes. Initially, they left the churches of the Naga, one of the other larger tribes, alone.
The government’s actions touched off a protest rally in the Churachandpur (C’c’pur) district on May 3. Said to have been attended by 150,000 people, the rally reportedly ended just before the violence broke out. No one is sure who instigated the violence; both side claims that the other side did it. Whoever started it, the violence was immediately seen by both sides as the ‘trigger’ to begin the war. Many Meitei inside the hill tribe area fled to government buildings at once, and non-Meitei were ‘evacuated’ to ‘relief’ centres in Imphal almost immediately as well. Many saw this as suspicious: how could word have spread so fast? The Meitei flight and non-Meitei “evacuation” began just hours after the initial brawl in C’c’pur.
The common belief among the hill tribes is that the violence in C’c’pur was done either by a black flag operation or by paid agitators. Pre-emptively attacking others seems more than a bit out of character for a mostly Christian area, especially when village chiefs around where my wife is gave orders to protect the Meitei and their homes. The Meitei in the hill tribe territories have either inter-married with hill tribe people or lived alongside the other tribes for decades. It would be insane for the Christians to have instigated this.
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UPDATE (05/30/23): Major victory as York Catholic District School Board votes against raising LGBT flag
Your committment to this campaign has paid off - please continue circulating the petition far and wide, and read below about our huge victory at YCDSB thanks to people like you.
(LifeSiteNews) - During a May 29 York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) meeting, trustees voted 6-4 against flying the pro-LGBT flag atop of its schools and other buildings in celebration of so-called “Pride Month”, in a move that has been met with pleasant surprise by pro-family advocates.
While the decision brought cheers from the crowd, some angrily shouted in protest and had to be escorted out by YCDSB security.
“The Cross represents all!” Myles Vosylius, a former student at Cardinal Carter Catholic High School in Aurora, Ontario, tweeted, celebrating the decision.
“The cross represents all!” - Faithful Catholic attending the @YCDSB meeting tonight, where the victorious decision was made NOT to fly the ‘pride’ flag! #YCDSB #CdnPoli #OnPoli pic.twitter.com/CSNCEQbS0c— Myles Vosylius (@TheMylesV) May 30, 2023
While the YCDSB represents a victory for faithful Catholics in York region, many Catholic school boards have caved to pressure by LGBT activists and will fly “pride flags” during the month of June. However, increasingly, Ontario parents are fighting back as hundreds of students, reportedly predominantly Muslim, stayed home earlier this month when their schools flew the flag.
Parents have also begun to speak out against LGBT agenda being promoted to their children in schools. Pro-LGBT trustee for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) Wendy Ashby recently resigned after over 3,000 parents petitioned for her ousting.
Similarly, last month, a group of young Canadians protested a school-sponsored drag queen event in front of York Mills Collegiate Institute in Toronto.
Furthermore, Campaign Life Coalition is calling for parents to keep their children home from school on June 1 to protest schools flying the “pride flag.”
“Parents need to keep up the pressure, just like this, right across the country!” Fonseca encouraged.
As Catholics, we are taught that we must love our neighbour and treat every individual as a child of God, accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
Parents make a clear choice when they decide that their children will attend a Catholic school. They rightly expect that trustees, principals, teachers all partners in education will ensure that Catholic teaching is presented, lived and infused in all that we do. In that regard, the appropriate symbol that represents our faith, and the inclusion and acceptance of others, is the cross, which is visible at the entrance of every Catholic school. It is the primary symbol of our Christian faith.
We have created this petition to express opposition of flying the pride flag at schools for the month of June. Our kids should not be forced to celebrate anyones sexuality, and a flag will do nothing to keep anyone more safe. Its nothing more than a symbol of sexual celebration, completely inappropriate.
Catholicism and parental rights are being threatened, and we will not allow teachers who are LGBTQ to influence our children.
We are not homophobes. We are trying to shield our children from any sexual ideologies, both gay and straight. Children are minors who have a right to a normal and innocent childhood. We are not STAKEHOLDERS. We are parents. EQUITY is not and will never be the same as EQUALITY. Inclusion means EVERYONE and the York Region Catholic District School Board & its Union members are infringing upon our religious beliefs by suffocating our children with woke political agendas & indoctrinations when they should be focusing on educating our kids!
We love all humans equally. Hate is the wrong word to describe parents feelings about the climate in schools today. Parents protesting the pride flag at school do not harbour any negative feelings towards the LGBTQ+ community. We do however feel that their rights seem to supersede everyone elses. We also believe that kids should never learn about sex at school and we condemn any classroom discussion or public display that encourages or promotes gender confusion and same sex lifestyles in a classroom setting. We also strongly condemn the nature of several library books that contain sensitive material on homosexuality and transgender issues in elementary school libraries. Similarly, we harbour no contempt for transgenders as individuals but their insistence on using female-only spaces is invasive.
The promotion of a pride sticker and the likelihood that a flag will go up in June at all schools suggests a particular political agenda, which warrants examination. Concern about alleged incidents of bullying directed at the LGBTQ community within schools has been raised. However when requesting specific information on the actual number of such reports, it was communicated that the data is currently confidential and not publicly available. Despite clarifying that only the number of incidents was desired, the same response was given.
The lack of transparency and information provided by the York Region Catholic District School Board concerning alleged incidents combined with these extreme campaigns using safe space stickers to promote political agendas, raises necessary questions about their motives. Despite facing opposition from relevant individuals, including the Archbishop of Toronto and Cardinal Collins, who have both explicitly expressed their disapproval of such displays, the union and its members have vehemently insisted the stickers remain.
We must stand up against this before the Board caves to the pressure of political correctness and decide to raise the pride flag too.
Please share this. We must get as many signatures as possible before May 20th so that we may present a united front at this months meeting with this petition in hand that will speak for itself and will represent all of us.
Why my wife is in Manipur
My wife, incidental to all this history but crucial to me, arrived in Manipur on April 12, 2023, the day after the churches were demolished. She didn’t hear about it until after she arrived. It was all anyone was talking about. She had gone expecting to spend a couple of weeks ensuring the property her mother lives on was protected, so that no one saw it as ripe for the picking or abandoned during my mother-in-law’s planned six month visit to Canada. I got the call that something was terribly wrong on the morning (night in India) of May 3, soon after the violence broke out. The internet connection had been cut, and soon the village’s only source of information about what was going on was my wife’s mobile phone—and me.
The next day, May 4, I contacted the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, which at first seemed surprised to hear the news of the unrest. Then the state government issued shoot-on-sight orders to all authorities in the affected areas which, as bad as it sounds, gave me and my wife and her family some hope.
On May 5, the Indian Army sent a small contingent to the C’c’pur District to extract the Meitei people from their shelters in the government buildings in the district. This resulted in a firefight, which I could hear over the phone while speaking with my wife. There were 3 fatalities.
The Army mission failed, and the hill people now believe that the state government was attempting to remove their leverage, as they had no intention of releasing the “evacuated” hill tribe people in Imphal. There are reportedly 5000 people still being held in so-called “relief” centres near the Imphal airport. Two of my wife’s cousins are being held in them. Crowds of Meitei are outside, threatening to kill anyone that attempts to leave. One cousin reported that they were not being provided food or water, and that they got their first meal 3 days after being interned there. There was not enough food for everyone, and there are insufficient sanitary stations.
On May 6, that cousin joined some people who decided, at extreme risk to themselves, to escape rather than starve. She and her group miraculously made it safely to the airport and out of the state. The other cousin remains confined in another relief centre. His home and business were among the first hill tribe locations to be destroyed in Imphal. He and his family have nowhere to go, and no resources to barter with.
Also on May 6, hill tribe chiefs and officials were flown to a secret location to negotiate with the state government. There was an agreement to exchange the hill tribe people for the Meitei people. Peace talks would begin after the exchange. The exchange was supposed to have been on May 7, but it did not happen. This has further cemented the belief that the state government has bad intentions for the people in the relief centres. The last time I spoke to my wife, the negotiations were at a stalemate.
A humanitarian disaster waiting to happen
According to Al-jazeera, 23,000 people had been displaced by May 7. I believe this figure, as many people in Manipur have corroborated it. It is even likely to be higher. The markets in the C’c’pur district are empty, and many people have food for only a few days now. Power is intermittent, and with the internet shut down and cell phones being jammed in many locations, no one can make their plight known. While people understand why the internet was turned off—to prevent false rumors and calls for violence—it is making it hard to get real information to the people who need it. Many hill tribe people were not even aware of the shoot-on-sight order, which led to unnecessary death.
My contacts have informed the Red Cross of the developing situation, but they are powerless to help, as they must be invited into the area by the Indian government. Canadian Foreign Affairs and the Canadian High Commission in India are aware of what is happening … but only because I was the one who called them asking for help. There must be a spotlight on this conflict so that it can be resolved quickly, before it escalates to further bloodshed.
It is very clear to me that the state government in Manipur is attempting both an ethnic and religious cleansing of the hill tribes in Manipur. This fight is not going to be over soon, as the hill tribes firmly believe that their very lives and existence in the state are at stake, and only clear concrete assurances that their lives and property will be protected will lead them to lay down their arms.
Please pray for Manipur, pray for the people, pray for the governments, and pray for the international community to bring this to a peaceful end before it becomes another Sudan. If you have any influence in politics or policy, at any level, please call in those favors. The lives of three million people—including my wife, the mother of our two children, and her mother—depend on it. Can you help us?
Hon. Mélanie Joly
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Twitter: Mélanie Joly @melaniejoly
Canadian High Commissioner, New Delhi
Telephone: +91 11 4178 2000.
Fax: +91 11 4178 2020.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: Cameron MacKay (@HCCanInd)
Jeremy Williamson is the Assistant Web Developer for LifeSiteNews. He and his wife, whom we cannot name for her own safety, have been married since 2008.
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