A wave of ethnoreligious conflict has swept through the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, and has not left the B’nei Menashe—a local group claiming Jewish descent, many of whom now reside in Israel—unscathed. Avi Kumar reports:
Caught in the middle of violence between Meitei Hindus and Kuki Christians, the B’nei Menashe . . . have been displaced from their homes. The B’nei Menashe identify as Jews, most belonging to the Mizo and Kuki ethnic groups that hail from the hills of . . . Manipur, while the Meitei live in the valley.
Some 200 homes and churches have been set ablaze in Manipur. Yoel Bayta, a B’nei Menashe father of four, has been killed, and synagogues, Torah scrolls, and a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) reportedly have been burnt. Many have been living in shelters awaiting the chance to return home, and some people have been unable to reach missing family members.
Lemuel Haokip, [a] communal leader, told JNS that the homes of many members of the group were razed, and the B’nei Menashe had to flee to the forest to hide until the Indian military arrived. Individuals are now housed in military camps operated by the Assam Rifles—part of the Central Armed Police Forces under India’s home affairs ministry—and others are hiding in private residences.
There is no indication that there is anti-Semitism involved in the current violence, which seems to involve the B’nei Menashe insofar as they are Kuki and Mizo.