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Probe Role of CM, Rajya Sabha MP in Fuelling Violence: Manipur Tribal Body

The Manipur Tribals’ Forum, Delhi (MTFD) has called for the Union government to investigate the alleged role of the Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Leishemba Sanajaoba in fuelling the violent ethnic clashes that erupted in Manipur on May 3 between the dominant Meitei community and the Kuki-Zomi community.

The MTFD, which was the first to approach the Supreme Court seeking intervention in Manipur days after the violence began, held a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday reiterating the demand of the Kuki-Zomi community to impose President’s Rule in the State and initiate the process of creating a separate administration for them. 

More urgently, the MTFD urged the Manipur government to ensure that the mortal remains of tribal people killed by Meitei extremists, which are lying at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences and the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, be kept intact and that their identification be conducted on a priority basis. 

Polarisation politics

The outfit alleged that the violence against the Kuki-Zomi-Mizo-Hmar communities in Manipur was being perpetrated by extremist Meitei groups like Arambai Tenggol and Meetei Leepun, who they said were “allowed” to steal weapons from strongholds of State security forces in the Imphal valley. On the other hand, the MTFD said that Kuki-Zomi villagers have been using handmade weapons and ammunition and a few licensed guns to defend themselves. 

MTFD general secretary W.L. Hanzsing said that Manipur has been seeing “polarisation politics” only after the N. Biren Singh government came to power. “The Kuki people have traditionally been the closest geographical neighbours of Meiteis in the valley for the longest time. This is a classic case of looking for an enemy to consolidate power,” Mr. Hanzsing said.

‘Supporting State policy’

Arambai Tenggol and Meetei Leepun gained popularity as cultural youth outfits only about four to five years ago and many in Manipur had not heard of their activities until a few months ago. While public statements show that Meetei Leepun owe their allegiance to Mr. Sanajaoba, who is not just an MP but also the titular king of Manipur, Arambai Tenggol has been known to be pro-State government and has consistently countered protests against the State government. 

Social media posts of the Arambai Tenggol show public support for State government policies like its “war on drugs” campaign to clear poppy cultivation in the hill areas and the drive to clear forest land of “illegal encroachments” to preserve them. These are policies that Kuki organisations have maintained are discriminatory and meant to target their community. The Chief Minister has attended several public programmes held by these outfits in the last few years.

Insurgents involved

Mr. Hanzsing alleged that the valley-based groups of Meitei insurgents who were surrendering to the State government were being absorbed into the Arambai Tenggol and Meetei Leepun. They were, in turn, leading them in the violence against the Kuki-Zomi-Mizo-Hmar communities, claimed the MTFD, adding that the groundwork for this was being laid for months in association with the State government. 

In January this year, 43 cadres — mostly from Meitei underground outfits that have been fighting for the restoration of the Kangleipak kingdom — had surrendered their weapons in the presence of the CM and Mr. Sanajaoba, in an event that the State government had branded as a “homecoming”. 

Separate administration

Given this context, the MTFD emphasised the need for a separate administration, saying that just providing relief was not a permanent solution. It argued that if new States and Union Territories like Jharkhand, Telangana, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh could be carved out, then the same could be done in Manipur as well. 

It also called for a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the violence, something that Home Minister Amit Shah has already broached in his peace talks with civil society groups in the State during his visit. 

Changing narrative

The MTFD also made it clear that it is pinning its hopes entirely on the Union government and Home Minister to solve this crisis. Mr. Hanzsing also claimed that the State government’s narrative was constantly changing. “First, they said it was poppy cultivators, then they said illegal immigrants and now they are saying militants and terrorists even though the Chief of Defence Staff has dispelled any notion of the violence being linked to insurgency,” he said. 

The immediate trigger for the violence was a March 27 Manipur High Court order, calling for the State government to recommend the Meiteis’ inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list. At least 115 people have been killed in the violence that first began in Churachandpur district and then spread all over the State. The Manipur High Court order has already been challenged. 

Meanwhile, Kuki-Zomi-Hmar student outfits in Delhi came together for a demonstration at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday afternoon, also demanding President’s Rule to be immediately imposed in Manipur, and a separate administration for the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar communities. Hundreds of students participated in the demonstration and paid their respects to all those killed in the violence over the last month. They also submitted their demands in a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Source : The Hindu