A Tale of Two Regions: Unveiling the Underlying Similarities between Manipur and Chittagong Hill Tracts

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Sarder Ali Haider


The North Eastern part of India, known for its culturally rich and diverse population, is currently witnessing a spell of upheaval in Manipur. This region, once a peaceful abode nestled amidst the hills, is now clouded by an air of uncertainty and distress. As it stands today, the instability in Manipur has taken a severe toll on the region with an alarming toll of 140 lives lost.

Manipur, one of the seven sister states of North East India, is bordered by Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram and shares an international border with Myanmar. The region is predominantly hilly, with seven major hills enclosing a valley that accounts for only 10% of the total area. The indigenous tribes of Kukis and Nagas inhabit the vast hilly regions, while the Meitei tribe resides in the valley. However, the harmony among these tribes has been tainted by land ownership disputes and religious differences. A considerable part of the tension arises from the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960, which restricts the Meiteis from purchasing land in the hilly regions. Adding to this, the varying religious practices with Kukis and Nagas following Christianity, and Meiteis practicing Hinduism and Buddhism, has further deepened the divide.

The situation has worsened recently due to a High Court verdict that granted the Meiteis Scheduled Tribe status, enabling them to buy land in hilly areas. This verdict triggered massive protests from the Kukis and Nagas, fueling a socio-political crisis. With an increasingly unstable situation exacerbated by illegal migration from Myanmar and escalating violence, Manipur is struggling to find peace. In this article, we delve into the intricate aspects of this crisis, comparing it with a similar situation that unfolds over 500 kilometers away in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, offering a unique perspective on the underlying issues shared by these two regions.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), located in the southeastern region of Bangladesh, mirrors the socio-political unrest experienced in Manipur, India. Spanning 10% of Bangladesh’s land, the CHT is home to a sparse 1% of the nation’s population. The populace comprises over 50% Bengali community members and a diverse mix of 13 different tribal groups, each with its distinct customs, traditions, and language. The tribal communities, claiming themselves as indigenous peoples of CHT, express a sense of ownership over the land, viewing the Bengalis as outsiders. This sentiment echoes the Meiteis’ views in Manipur, albeit with the roles reversed, creating a divide that has been the source of longstanding tensions.

Like Manipur, the influence of British colonization has left an indelible mark on the religious landscape of CHT. A substantial number of the tribal populace has converted to Christianity under the influence of missionaries during British rule, evidenced by the existence of more than 120 churches in the Khagrachari district alone. Paralleling the situation in Manipur, land ownership issues form a significant part of the dispute in the CHT. Just as the Meiteis cannot legally purchase lands in the hilly territories of Manipur, the Bengalis face similar restrictions in the CHT areas. Occurrences of vandalism directed at religious sites, such as Buddhist temples in the CHT and Christian churches in Manipur, further underline the shared experiences of these two regions. In the face of such compelling similarities, a comparative study of the ongoing crises in Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts could offer critical insights into the complexities of ethnic diversity, land disputes, religious divergence, and the legacy of colonial rule, with the ultimate goal of finding paths toward reconciliation and peace.

The tumultuous scenarios unfolding in Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts present an uncanny mirror image of each other. Both regions, rich in cultural diversity and influenced by the remnants of British colonial rule, are grappling with strikingly similar socio-political crises. These include land ownership disputes and the divergences in religious practices among their indigenous tribes. Additionally, both regions are facing the impact of migration, either legal or illegal, affecting the demographic balance and creating a perception of the ‘outsider’. The exploration of these shared experiences can provide a deeper understanding of the root causes, common factors, and potential solutions to these complex issues. In examining the two contexts side by side, we can unveil the broader narrative about regional conflicts, the interplay of ethnicity, religion, and colonial legacies, and the persistent struggles of indigenous communities in South Asia.

Geographic and Demographic Overview

Overview of Manipur’s Geographic and Demographic Characteristics

Located in the northeastern corner of India, Manipur, one of the “Seven Sister” states, is defined by its distinct geographic and demographic characteristics. It is hemmed in by Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram, and the international border with Myanmar, sharing a 350-kilometer-long boundary with the latter.

Manipur is a state of contrast and diversity, primarily featuring valleys surrounded by nine significant hill ranges, covering about 90% of the total land area. Amid these hills lies a valley constituting around 10% of the state’s total land area, home to the majority of Manipur’s population. The state’s population is split between the Meiteis, who predominantly inhabit the valley, and the Nagas and Kukis, who reside in the hilly regions. The Meiteis, constituting about 55% of the total population, follow Hindu and Buddhist religions, while the Nagas and Kukis, making up around 45% of the state’s population, are predominantly Christians.

The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act 1960 has added a layer of complexity to this diverse demography. It grants the scheduled tribes, namely the Nagas and Kukis, the right to buy land anywhere in Manipur, including the valley. In contrast, the Meiteis, despite their numerical majority, are not recognized as a scheduled tribe and are legally barred from purchasing land in the hilly regions. This discrepancy in land rights has sown seeds of discontent, leading to significant socio-political turmoil in the state.

Overview of Chittagong Hill Tracts’ Geographic and Demographic Characteristics

The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), located in the southeastern part of Bangladesh, is known for its distinct geographical features and diverse demographic composition. It is a mountainous region constituting approximately 10% of the total landmass of Bangladesh.

Despite the region’s considerable area, it is home to a relatively small population, accounting for only about 1% of the total population of the country. The demographics of CHT are a mix of the Bengali community and a variety of indigenous tribal groups. The tribal communities, including as many as 13 different tribes, constitute approximately half of the population, with the remaining half primarily being the Bengali community.

The ethnic tribes of the CHT regard themselves as the sons of the soil, arguing that the Bengalis, who primarily moved to the region after the partition of India, are outsiders. This perception has fueled longstanding land ownership disputes and ethnic tensions in the region. Similar to Manipur, land ownership rights are a significant issue in the CHT. The tribal people have exclusive rights to purchase land within the CHT and other part of Bangladesh, while Bengalis, despite being a sizeable part of the population, are not legally permitted to do so. This discrepancy in land rights, combined with religious and cultural differences, has contributed to a volatile socio-political environment in the CHT.

Comparative analysis of the two regions

A comparative analysis of Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) reveals striking similarities in their geographic, demographic, and socio-political contexts. Both regions are geographically distinct, with vast hilly terrains surrounding fertile valleys. The populations of these regions are split along ethnic, cultural, and religious lines, contributing to the complexities of their respective social fabrics.

In both cases, land ownership disputes act as a catalyst for ongoing unrest. While the Nagas and Kukis in Manipur and the tribal communities in the CHT enjoy exclusive land rights in their respective hilly regions, the Meiteis and Bengalis, despite constituting a significant part of their respective populations, are legally barred from purchasing land in these areas. This discrepancy in land rights has fueled a sense of resentment and marginalization, leading to significant socio-political discord.

The religious dynamics in both regions also mirror each other. The conversion of ethnic communities to Christianity during the British colonial period has led to a religious divide in both Manipur and the CHT. In both cases, religious sites have been vandalized or demolished, further exacerbating tensions.

Additionally, migration plays a crucial role in the socio-political dynamics of both regions. In Manipur, the influx of Kukis from Myanmar is causing demographic shifts and stirring up tensions among the Meiteis. Similarly, in the CHT, the migration of Bengalis, viewed as outsiders by the ethnic tribes, has led to communal tension and land disputes. Thus, the situations in Manipur and the CHT, though geographically distant and uniquely complex, share remarkable similarities that provide a broader perspective on the interplay of ethnicity, religion, colonial legacies, and land rights in South Asia.

Historical Context

History of Manipur, Its Tribes, Religious Conversion, and British Rule

Manipur’s history is intrinsically linked with its diverse tribes, religious transitions, and colonial past. Historically, Manipur was an independent state, ruled by Hindu kings. The Meiteis, who inhabited the valley region of Manipur, converted to Hinduism in 1730 AD and have maintained their religious practices fervently ever since.

The indigenous Nagas and Kukis, who primarily lived in the hilly regions surrounding the valley, practiced nature worship until the advent of British colonial rule. The British, with their policy of religious conversion, brought Christianity to Manipur. While the Meiteis in the valley remained firmly adhered to Hinduism, the Nagas and Kukis in the hilly regions were converted to Christianity by the efforts of numerous Christian missionaries who were active in the region during the British rule.

In 1820, Manipur was engaged in a seven-year-long war with Burma (now Myanmar). Understanding his imminent defeat, the king of Manipur sought help from the British, who assisted in defeating Burma. Following this, the British gained significant influence over Manipur. In 1891, the king of Manipur declared an Anglo-Manipur war against the British, but the superior weaponry of the British led to Manipur’s defeat.

After the defeat, the king of Manipur was compelled to abide by the British rules, and a Meitei king was kept in place under British influence. This marked the beginning of direct British control over Manipur, which continued until the end of colonial rule in India in 1947. When India gained independence, Manipur initially remained a self-governing entity. However, on 21st September 1949, the king of Manipur signed a merger agreement, integrating the kingdom into the newly formed Indian Union. This historical backdrop has profoundly impacted the socio-political fabric of contemporary Manipur, from land rights issues to the religious divide and ongoing ethnic tensions.

History of Chittagong Hill Tracts, tribal communities and British rule

The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), located in the South Eastern part of Bangladesh, bear an intriguing history intertwined with tribal diversity, British colonial influence, and ensuing conflicts. The CHT is home to various tribal communities, including 13 different ethnic tribes, alongside the Bengali community. These ethnic tribes consider themselves as the sons of the soil, while viewing Bengalis as outsiders.

Like Manipur, the British exerted a significant influence over the CHT. During their rule, the British implemented policies that resulted in a dramatic shift in the region’s religious landscape. Similar to the situation in Manipur, Christian missionaries were active in the CHT and successfully converted a large number of tribal people to Christianity. The outcome is evident in the presence of numerous churches across the CHT, with as many as 120 churches in Khagrachari district alone.

On the political front, the British followed a policy of indirect rule in the CHT, allowing the tribal chieftains to retain their power under the overall supervision of a British political officer. After the end of British rule and the partition of India in 1947, the CHT became a part of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). However, the region has since witnessed continuous unrest due to land rights issues and ethnic conflicts.

In the modern context, similar to Manipur, the Bengalis in the CHT demand rights to purchase land in different places of CHT areas, which is currently not permitted. This, along with ongoing socio-political tensions, has led to unrest in the region, mirroring the situation in Manipur in many ways. These historical dynamics continue to shape the realities of the CHT today.

Land Ownership Laws and Tribal Advantages

Explanation of land ownership laws and tribal advantages in Manipur

Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960: This act plays a pivotal role in the land ownership issue in Manipur. As per this act, the Meiteis, are legally barred from buying land in tribal areas, which account for about 90% of the state’s total area.

Schedule Tribe Status: The Kukis and Nagas, who inhabit these hilly regions, have been classified as Scheduled Tribes. As Scheduled Tribes, they enjoy certain benefits including reservation in jobs and education, and protection of their cultural identity.

Advantage and Disadvantage: While the aforementioned law provides advantages for the Kukis and Nagas in terms of land ownership, it has also created a sense of deprivation among the Meiteis, who despite being the majority in terms of population, have legal rights over just 10% of the state’s land. This is the root cause of a long-standing demand by the Meiteis for a Scheduled Tribe status, which would give them the right to buy land in the hilly areas.

Recent Developments: The High Court’s recent verdict in favor of the Meiteis, allowing them to have Scheduled Tribe status, has further inflamed the already volatile situation. The Kukis and Nagas view this as an encroachment on their rights, leading to heightened tensions and violent protests.

The complex interplay of land ownership laws and tribal advantages has created a contentious situation in Manipur, leading to communal strife and an unstable social and political environment.

Explanation of Land Ownership Laws and Tribal Advantages in Chittagong Hill Tracts

Land Ownership Laws: In the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), similar to Manipur, the land ownership is predominantly regulated by tribal customs and laws. Non-tribal people, primarily the Bengali community, are generally restricted from buying land in different places of three CHT districts areas. The land is owned and managed by the ethnic communities as per their traditional practices.

Indigenous Status: The ethnic communities of the CHT, comprising 13 different tribes, are the primary inhabitants of the region. They consider themselves as the ‘sons of the soil’ and perceive the Bengalis as outsiders.

Advantage and Disadvantage: These laws, though designed to protect the rights and interests of the indigenous communities, have led to feelings of resentment among the Bengali population. They believe their inability to own land in the CHT is unfair and discriminatory.

Demographic Shift: Over time, due to state policies and conflicts in the region, there has been a significant demographic shift in the CHT. The Bengali population, once a minority, now constitutes over 50% of the region’s population. This aspect has intensified the demand for land rights among the Bengali community, leading to increased friction between the communities. Therefore, as in Manipur, the issues of land ownership and tribal advantages have caused socio-political unrest and communal tension in the Chittagong Hill Tracts as well. The demographic shifts coupled with the perceived unfairness of land laws have led to a protracted conflict in the region.

Comparative Analysis of Land Ownership Laws and Tribal Advantages in Both Regions

Similarities in Land Ownership Laws: Both in Manipur and Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), the land ownership laws favor the tribal communities. In both regions, there are restrictions on non-tribals owning land in tribal-dominated areas. These laws were established to protect tribal land rights and preserve their culture and traditions.

Tribal Advantages: The tribal communities in both regions are granted certain advantages, such as Scheduled Tribe status in Manipur and indigenous status in CHT. These classifications offer certain protections and benefits, such as the right to own land in tribal areas.

Socio-Political Tensions: Both in Manipur and CHT, these land laws and tribal advantages have led to socio-political tensions. In Manipur, the Meiteis, who are not classified as Scheduled Tribes, feel discriminated against due to their inability to purchase land in the tribal areas. Similarly, in CHT, the Bengali community, seen as outsiders, resent the land ownership laws that restrict them from buying land in tribal areas.

Demographic Shifts: Both regions have experienced significant demographic shifts. In Manipur, an increase in the Christian Kuki and Naga population in the valley, historically dominated by the Hindu Meiteis, has led to concerns among the Meiteis. Similarly, in CHT, a growth in the Bengali population has intensified demands for land rights and led to increased tensions between the Bengali and tribal communities.

Outcomes of Resentment: The resentment among the Meiteis in Manipur has led to violent protests following a court verdict granting them Scheduled Tribe status. In CHT, similar feelings of resentment among the Bengali community have contributed to the ongoing conflict in the region.

Therefore, while the land ownership laws and tribal advantages in both regions were intended to protect the rights of tribal communities, they have also led to significant socio-political tensions and conflicts, reflecting the complex realities of these multi-ethnic regions.

Recent Developments and Causes of Unrest

Recent Developments in Manipur, Including High Court Rulings, Religious Tensions, and Violence

High Court Ruling on Scheduled Tribe Status: The recent High Court verdict granting the Meitei community the Scheduled Tribe status sparked considerable controversy. This ruling, which grants the Meiteis the right to buy land in the tribal areas, was seen as a threat by the Naga and Kuki communities, leading to widespread protests and violence.

Religious Tensions: Religious tensions have also been a significant factor contributing to the unrest in Manipur. The demolition of Christian churches in Imphal, mainly used by the Kuki and Naga communities, has heightened tensions between the Christian and Hindu communities. This event, coupled with the long-standing religious differences between the Meiteis (Hindus and Buddhists) and the Nagas and Kukis (Christians), have further fueled the conflict.

Violence and Displacement: The situation in Manipur has escalated to alarming levels, with widespread violence, loss of lives, and massive displacement of people. The violence, mostly targeted against the Meiteis, has led to an intense humanitarian crisis, with thousands of people forced to seek refuge in camps. The violence has also posed a severe challenge to law and order in the region, further complicating the conflict resolution process.

Illegal Migration and Drug Cultivation: The ongoing political instability in Myanmar has led to an increase in the illegal migration of Kuki tribes into the hilly regions of Manipur. The Meitei community sees this as a potential demographic threat. Furthermore, the Manipur government’s claims of illegal drug cultivation by the Kuki migrants have added another dimension to the conflict.

These recent developments have created a complex socio-political scenario in Manipur, with multiple interconnected factors contributing to the unrest. The challenge now lies in addressing these issues in a manner that ensures justice and peace for all communities involved.

Similarities with Chittagong Hill Tracts’ own unrest, including disputes over land ownership and religious tensions

Land Ownership Disputes: The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh faces similar issues related to land ownership. The tribal communities of the region consider themselves indigenous, and view the Bengalis as outsiders. The Bengali community’s demand to purchase land in the CHT, which is not permitted under current laws, mirrors the conflict in Manipur where the Meiteis demand the same right to buy land in the tribal areas.

Religious Tensions: The CHT region has also experienced religious tensions, similar to those in Manipur. The region has seen incidents of vandalism against Buddhist temples, leading to heightened tensions. While the tribal communities in the CHT were also targeted for conversion to Christianity by the British, like in Manipur, the major religious tension here is between the Buddhist tribes and the Bengali Muslim majority.

Tribal Community Concerns: Like the Kukis in Manipur, the tribal communities in CHT also express concerns about their marginalization. They fear that the Bengali community, if allowed to buy land in the CHT, would eventually lead to the tribal communities becoming a minority in their own lands.

Impact of Migration: The influx of Bengali migrants into the CHT, primarily due to government resettlement programs, is seen as a demographic threat by the tribal communities. This situation bears a resemblance to the concerns raised by the Meiteis over the influx of Kuki migrants from Myanmar into Manipur.

These striking similarities between the situation in Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts underscore the common themes of indigenous rights, land ownership, and religious tensions that contribute to unrest in both regions.

Comparative Analysis of the Causes of Unrest in Both Regions

Land Ownership: The issue of land ownership stands out as a primary cause of unrest in both regions. In Manipur, the Meiteis’ inability to purchase land in the tribal areas, coupled with the recent high court ruling in their favor, has ignited tensions. Similarly, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Bengali community’s demand for land purchasing rights in tribal areas has created friction.

Tribal Advantages: The legal advantages given to tribes in both regions—whether in terms of land ownership or benefits of Scheduled Tribe status—have exacerbated divisions. In Manipur, the Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribe status to equalize opportunities has led to conflict, while in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, similar tribal advantages have created a sense of exclusion among the Bengali community.

Religious Tensions: Both regions have seen religious tensions escalate, largely due to historical influences of religious conversions by the British. In Manipur, this tension is more prominently observed between the Christian Nagas/Kukis and the Hindu/Buddhist Meiteis. The Chittagong Hill Tracts sees tension between the Muslim Bengalis and the predominantly Buddhist tribes.

Migration and Demographic Concerns: In both regions, migration patterns have sparked fears of demographic displacement. In Manipur, the migration of Kukis from Myanmar has led to anxieties among the Meiteis of becoming a minority in the future. Likewise, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bengali resettlement into tribal areas has heightened concerns among the tribes of demographic dilution.

Economic Disparity: Economic factors, such as cultivable land and access to resources, contribute to the tension in both regions. In Manipur, the hilly terrain, where the Nagas and Kukis reside, is less fertile compared to the Meiteis’ valley land. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Bengali community views the tribal lands as more resource-rich, which fuels the desire for land ownership.

By looking at these areas of unrest in both regions, it is evident that the issues in Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts share a deep-rooted historical context, complicated by tribal divisions, religious tensions, and concerns over land ownership and demographic changes.

Impact of Myanmar and Illegal Migration

Impact of the unstable situation in Myanmar on Manipur, with focus on illegal migration and cultivation of banned substances

Illegal Migration: The unstable situation in Myanmar has been a significant factor influencing Manipur, particularly regarding illegal migration. The Kuki tribes of Myanmar have been migrating to Manipur and settling in the hilly areas of the region since the 1970s, a trend that continues even today. This ongoing migration not only changes the demographic balance but also brings along several socio-cultural issues.

Land Ownership Disputes: With the illegal migration of Kukis from Myanmar to Manipur, the ownership and usage of the hilly regions have become contentious issues. The Meitei people perceive the migrants as encroachers, further escalating tensions in the region.

Cultivation of Banned Substances: The instability in Myanmar and the influx of Kuki migrants into Manipur have also led to the widespread cultivation of banned substances, such as poppy and opium. These activities, although illegal, offer an economic lifeline to the economically disadvantaged Kuki migrants and the tribes residing in the hilly regions. In CHT, the security forces has burnt a good number of marijuana plants in different places of Khagrachari district and poppy plants in Bandarban district.

Security Concerns: The large-scale illegal migration, combined with the illicit cultivation of banned substances, raises significant security concerns for Manipur. Law enforcement agencies often find it challenging to deal with these issues due to the region’s challenging topography and the migrant population’s lack of formal documentation.

Impact on Socio-Cultural Dynamics: The incoming Christian Kuki migrants have also impacted the region’s socio-cultural dynamics. Their numbers, combined with their different religious practices, have led to religious tensions, as evidenced by incidents such as the demolition of Christian churches.

The unstable situation in Myanmar has exerted a profound influence on Manipur. It has manifested in illegal migration, altered demographic balances, increased cultivation of banned substances, heightened security issues, and escalated socio-cultural tensions.

Comparative Analysis of the Role of Migration and Foreign Influence in Both Regions

Both Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts have been significantly impacted by migration, both internal and external. However, the nature and the extent of these influences vary in both regions due to their distinct geopolitical realities.

Nature of Migration: In Manipur, migration has primarily been external, from neighboring Myanmar and other states within India. These movements have led to demographic shifts and increased ethnic diversity in the region. On the other hand, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, migration is primarily internal, largely consisting of the Bengali community migrating from other regions of Bangladesh, leading to increased ethnic tensions and conflict over land resources.

Impact of Migration: In both regions, migration has led to major changes in the ethnic composition, which has, in turn, influenced local politics, economy, and society. In Manipur, the influx of migrants from Myanmar has led to a rise in illicit activities, including cultivation of banned substances, which has had detrimental effects on the local economy and society. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the tribal communities claim that the influx of the Bengali community has led to disputes over land ownership, altering the economic and socio-cultural fabric of the region.

Role of Foreign Influence: Foreign influence plays a significant role in Manipur due to its proximity to Myanmar. The political instability in Myanmar has led to increased migration, illegal activities, and security concerns. However, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, while experiencing similar unrest, has its turmoil largely rooted in internal dynamics of Bangladesh rather than foreign influence.

While both regions have been affected by migration and changing demographics, the role of foreign influence is more pronounced in Manipur due to its proximity and relations with Myanmar. The situations in both regions underscore the importance of addressing migration and foreign influence in regional stability and conflict resolution.

Lesson Learnt for the Government of Bangladesh and the security forces operating in Chittagong Hill Tracts

The situation in both Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts offers important lessons for the Government of Bangladesh and the security forces operating in the Chittagong Hill Tracts:

Respect for Ethnic Rights: Both regions underscore the importance of respecting and protecting the rights of ethnic communities. Inclusive policies that recognize their unique cultural traditions, land ownership systems, and socioeconomic structures are necessary. Avoiding forced assimilation and promoting cultural diversity could be one way to reduce tensions.

Addressing Migration Issues: As seen in Manipur, unchecked migration can lead to demographic shifts that stoke ethnic tensions. It is crucial for the Bangladesh government to manage and regulate migration to the Chittagong Hill Tracts effectively to prevent such issues. This involves developing and implementing clear migration policies, while also ensuring the humane treatment of migrants.

Combating Illicit Activities: The experiences from Manipur show the danger of illegal activities, such as the cultivation of banned substances that can arise in regions of instability. Active and effective policing, combined with community engagement and opportunities for legal employment, can help mitigate these risks.

Dialogue and Reconciliation: Both regions demonstrate the need for continuous dialogue and reconciliation processes between different ethnic groups, and between these groups and the government. The government and security forces should work to build trust with local communities, which can help in resolving conflicts and preventing violence.

Understanding Local Dynamics: Just as foreign influence plays a significant role in Manipur’s stability, understanding the local dynamics of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, its history, the reasons behind the conflicts, the needs and grievances of its people is vital for the Bangladesh government and security forces. Such understanding will help them to address the root causes of unrest and formulate more effective strategies for peace.

By learning from the situation in Manipur and applying these lessons, the Government of Bangladesh and the security forces can aim to create a more peaceful and stable environment in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.


This article presented a comprehensive comparison between Manipur, India, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. Both regions, while geographically distant, share profound similarities in their demographic composition, historical context, land ownership laws, causes of unrest, and the impact of migration and foreign influence.

Geographically, both Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts exhibit diverse landscapes, while housing a variety of ethnic communities that add to the cultural richness of these areas. Historically, both regions have experienced British colonial rule, which significantly shaped their socio-political structures. Indigenous land ownership laws and rights are deeply rooted in both regions’ cultures, often forming the basis for social unrest and conflict.

In recent times, Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts have experienced unrest fueled by a mix of factors including disputes over land ownership, religious tensions, and political conflicts. An increasing influx of migrants, mainly from the unstable neighboring country of Myanmar, has also exacerbated tensions, adding to the complexity of these issues.

Lastly, this analysis offers valuable lessons for the government and security forces operating in regions like the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The importance of respect for ethnic rights, addressing migration issues effectively, combating illicit activities, and promoting dialogue and reconciliation cannot be understated. Understanding local dynamics is also key to addressing the root causes of unrest and formulating effective strategies for peace.

Through this comparative study, we see that the situations in Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, while specific to their contexts, provide relevant insights that could help policymakers and stakeholders address similar challenges in diverse regions worldwide. The analysis reaffirms the initial thesis that the situations in Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts mirror each other in many significant ways. This reflects in their demographic profiles, historical underpinnings, land ownership laws, causes of unrest, and impacts of migration and external influences. Such correlations suggest a common pattern in how ethnically diverse regions grapple with social, political, and economic issues.

As the situations continue to evolve in both Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, it is essential to remain vigilant and empathetic. These regions, with their rich cultures and vibrant histories, are facing challenging times that demand attention and understanding from all corners of society. They highlight the urgent need for comprehensive strategies that balance respect for indigenous rights with national interests, and for solutions that are underpinned by sustainable peace, justice, and development. It is hoped that this analysis will contribute to a broader understanding of these complex regions, inspire more in-depth research, and prompt discussions that will lead to effective and sustainable solutions. The story of Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts is not merely a tale of two regions; it’s a testament to the resilience of indigenous cultures and a reminder of the issues they face in today’s rapidly changing world.

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