- The recent Manipur crisis in India’s Northeast is linked to ethnic conflicts and secessionist movements.
- Demographic shifts driven by conversions have led to a decline in the Hindu population and a rise in the Christian population.
- The policies of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, favored Christian missionaries and contributed to the demographic changes.
- The dramatic growth of the Christian population in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya has resulted in the emergence of Christian terrorist groups in the Northeast.
- Neglect and apathy toward the Northeast during the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty further exacerbated alienation from mainstream India. Recent economic development under Modi’s Act East Policy is helping, but demographic imbalance remains a challenge.
In the serene landscapes of northeastern India, a long-standing civilizational conflict has erupted into the current Manipur crisis. This region, often viewed as tranquil, is now marred by ethno-communal violence and secessionist movements. According to the state’s chief minister, N. Biren Singh, this is not merely a clash between ethnic groups but a full-scale war against the Indian Union by Myanmar and Bangladesh-based Kuki militants in collaboration with militant groups operating in Manipur.
To understand the roots of this turmoil, we must examine the policies of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and their unintended consequences.
According to the state’s chief minister, N. Biren Singh, this is not merely a clash between ethnic groups but a full-scale war against the Indian Union by Myanmar and Bangladesh-based Kuki militants in collaboration with militant groups operating in Manipur.
The recent upheaval in Manipur has its roots in the state government’s drive to eliminate illegal settlements and poppy plantations in the Hills, inhabited by Kuki individuals of Myanmar origin. Parallels can be drawn to the insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir, where Pakistan-sponsored jihadists have wreaked havoc. Similarly, in India’s Northeast, Christian terrorist groups have been striving to establish Christian states in Manipur (Kukiland) and Nagaland (Nagalim). The government’s proactive stance against illegal Kuki immigrants from Myanmar, especially in reserved forests, aims to prevent demographic shifts and counter the aspirations of Christian secessionist groups.
Conversion Crusades Lead to Seismic Shifts in Demography
For a century, northeastern India has witnessed significant demographic changes driven by the rampant conversion of Hill tribes, leading to the erosion of Hinduism’s foothold. At its core, the Manipur conflict seeks to safeguard the region’s civilizational identity. In the Imphal Valley, accounting for only 10% of the state’s landmass, the Meiteis constitute a narrow majority. In contrast, the Hills, representing 90% of the state, house tribes of Christian converts, primarily Kukis-Zos and Nagas.
However, laws enacted over the years to appease the Christian vote bank have prevented the small minority of Meiteis in the Hills from owning land there. This demographic imbalance has essentially turned the Hills into Christian protectorates while keeping the valley open to all, ultimately threatening the Meiteis’ status even in the valley.
To grasp Manipur’s volatile demographic situation and the impending extinction of Hindus in the state, we must examine census data from 1900 to 2011. In 1901, Hindus constituted 96% of the population, but by 1951, their numbers had dwindled to 81%. The most alarming changes occurred from 1951 to 2011, dominated by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s rule. In the 2011 census, Hindu and Hindu-friendly Sanmahi tribals made up only 53% of the state’s population, a sharp drop of nearly 30%. Meanwhile, the Christian population has risen to nearly 40%, with Muslims comprising the rest.
This drastic shift is attributed to Nehru and his dynast successors’ dalliance with the missionaries . The Nehru dynasty (later molted into the Gandhi dynasty with Nehru’s daughter, Indira, marrying Firoze Gandhi, a Zoroastrian), which ruled India for the better part of six decades, merrily conferred state patronization to Christian evangelists to carry out their soul-harvesting agenda with impunity, inflicting a body blow to the native Hindu population.
However, demographic imbalance, by itself, does not explain the existential threat the Hindus face in Manipur. It is the power imbalance between the Christian and Hindu populations that poses an existential threat to the Hindus of Manipur. As noted earlier, the acquisition of land within the predominantly Hindu-inhabited Imphal valley is open to non-Hindus, whereas the hills are exclusively designated for Christians. Any endeavor to redress this discrepancy is met with violence from the Kuki community. In one incident in 1997, a Hindu tribe’s attempt to establish residence in the neighboring Christian-majority state of Mizoram was met with forceful eviction at the hands of Christian groups.
The Nehru dynasty (later molted into the Gandhi dynasty with Nehru’s daughter, Indira, marrying Firoze Gandhi, a Zoroastrian), which ruled India for the better part of six decades, merrily conferred state patronization to Christian evangelists to carry out their soul-harvesting agenda with impunity, inflicting a body blow to the native Hindu population.
It is worth noting that the predatory proclivities of Christian missionaries are not a recent development. Indeed, the disruptions wrought by their “peaceful armies” upon non-Christian territories around the world are well-documented and bear no repetition. 
At its core, the prevailing situation underscores a stark and deeply disconcerting reality: beleaguered Hindus  are contending not solely with a demographic imbalance but, in essence, fighting for their very survival against a predatory and alien culture.
Nehru’s Gift to Christian Missionaries
The Christianization of the Northeast is neither organic nor accidental. The unrest, distrust among ethnic groups, and communal disharmony we see today in the Northeast are the result of a calculated strategy aimed at alienating tribes from their native culture and traditions. As per the Centre for Policy Studies (CPC) report on the Religion Data Census of 2011, this conspiracy was set in motion on the eve of India’s Independence in 1947.
In 2011, of India’s 28 million Christians, nearly 8 million were in the Northeast, including Assam, making it the largest concentration of Christians in India after the coastal region stretching from southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala to coastal Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra. However, the Northeastern expansion of Christianity is primarily a twentieth-century phenomenon, starting in the 1930s and gaining momentum through the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s rule.
During these sixty years after India’s Independence, nearly all the tribal population of Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland was converted to Christianity. Much of the credit for this transformation goes to India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, with his innate allergy to wisdom and incurable fascination for anything non-Indian. He threw the entire Northeast under the bus by giving free rein to the British missionary Verrier Elwin.
According to Dr. N S Rajaram, while General KM Cariappa, the army Chief, advised Nehru to develop the Northeast and integrate its population into the national fold, the British missionary Verrier Elwin advocated leaving the tribal communities untouched to preserve their unique character. Nehru’s fascination with Elvin resulted in a signed pact involving banning the entry of Hindu sadhus to Nagaland, clearing the field for Christian missionaries to carry out their business of soul-harvesting. Nehru’s disregard for General Cariappa’s advice and his acquiescence to Elwin’s predation designs resulted in creating a highly contentious and vulnerable region, undermining national security.
The repercussions of Nehru’s blunder can be seen in the dramatic demographic changes in Nagaland after Independence. The Christian population, which stood at 20% in 1947, has since surged to 95%. Similar trends are evident in Mizoram, where the Christian share of the population grew from 3% in 1911 to 87% today.
Much of the credit for this transformation goes to India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, with his innate allergy to wisdom and incurable fascination for anything non-Indian.
Meghalaya, the first region to witness the expansion of Christianity, saw its Christian population rise from 6% in 1901 to 75% today, while Hindus were reduced to a minority. Having conquered Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya, Christian missionaries turned their attention to Meitei Hindus in Manipur. Presently, the Meitei Hindu community constitutes just 53% of the state’s population, standing as the last bastion against the Hindu population’s decline in Manipur.
The catastrophic demographic changes and neglect by successive governments during the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s rule gave rise to Christian terrorist groups in the Northeast. Comprising neo-converts who often consider themselves more Catholic than the Pope, these terrorists are now waging a war to establish separate Christian states.
Policy of Benign Neglect
The Northeast, a cluster of 8 Indian states encompassing 8% of India’s total area and only 4% of its population, has long suffered from neglect and apathy. The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s approach mirrored the British dictum of ‘leave them alone in splendid segregation.’ The legendary Mizo leader Laldenga once said: “…if Shillong (then the capital of composite Assam) had been little more informed and aware of the situation in Lushai hills during those fateful years, we probably would not have had to go into the jungles and take up arms.” Laldenga was referring to the famous famine in the Lushai Hills in the early sixties, which was brought about by the flowering of bamboo and the subsequent growth of rodents. The State government simply had no clue about the situation.
- For nearly seven decades post-independence, six of the seven state capitals in the Northeast lacked rail connectivity.
- Until 2013, three state capitals had no airports.
- Modernization of agricultural practices lagged, necessitating the importation of essential goods.
- Despite significant contributions to India’s tea, plywood, and oil production, the region saw negligible reinvestment of profits.
- Education, healthcare, and communication infrastructure remained underdeveloped.
Only after the BJP’s rise to power in the region and the implementation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East Policy  did the Northeast begin to gain national attention and move toward integration with the rest of India. Notable developments include:
- The plan to connect the northeastern states to the railway network, originally proposed in 1990 but with no action for the next three decades, was fast-tracked under Modi’s Act East Policy and completed in 2022.
- Today, the Northeast boasts 17 airports, thanks to Modi’s policy of cultivating economic and strategic relations with the Southeast Asian region.
While there is no quick solution to the socio-economic devastation caused by decades of neglect under the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, significant progress has been made under the new regime. However, the impact of the demographic imbalance will prove to be a far more formidable challenge than economic progress.