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As tribal body seeks Prez rule, Meiteis urge PM not to talk to Kuki militants

Source: PTI
July 26, 2023 00:44 IST
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The Zomi Council Steering Committee, representing nine Kuki-Zomi tribes of Manipur, on Tuesday demanded imposition of President's Rule in the state, while a leading Meitei civil rights organisation -- Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity -- urged the Centre not to hold talks with Kuki militant groups.

IMAGE: Civil society organisations stage a demonstration to express solidarity with the Zo people in ethnic strife-torn Manipur, in Aizawl, Mizoram, July 25, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Zomi-Kuki organisation also sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention for a permanent solution to the ongoing ethnic strife


In a letter to the prime minister, the ZCSC also asked for a National Investigation Agency probe into the root causes of the “state-sponsored” attacks on the tribals of the northeastern state and re-introduction of provisions of the AFSPA in all valley districts so that the Army can take over full control of the law and order.

“Your (the PM's) immediate intervention is indispensable to restore peace and normalcy in this sensitive and strategic eastern corner of the country,” the organisation said in the letter seeking several measures to address the situation.

The Constitutional failure and collapse of law and order in the state warrants invoking Article 356 (President's Rule) immediately, the letter added.

Claiming that more than 5000 sophisticated arms and lakhs of ammunition were looted from state armouries across the state, the ZCSC said, “Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act may be re-introduced in all the valley districts so that the Army can take full control of the law and order situation.”

The Committee also alleged that systematic injustice, institutional neglect and discrimination of the Kuki-Zomi tribals have been continuing for many decades.

“The viral video clip which awakened the conscience of the entire world is just the tip of the iceberg in the current conflict of Manipur,” the letter read.

It was referring to a video in which two women were shown stripped and paraded by a group of men. The video shot on May 4 surfaced on July 19.

On the other hand, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity, an umbrella body of several Imphal-based civil society organisations, on Tuesday urged the Centre not to hold talks with Kuki militant groups claiming that members of those bodies are responsible for the current turmoil in the state.

The influential group in Manipur representing the majority Meitei community also claimed that members of Kuki militant groups are "foreigners".

"We have received inputs from sources in the media that the government of India is scheduled to hold talks with the Kuki outfits on Wednesday. We are totally against it," COCOMI Convenor Jitendra Ningomba told a press conference at Imphal.

The government should not hold talks with any of the Kuki groups who had earlier signed a Suspension of Operations pact with the government.

The SoO was signed by the Centre, the Manipur government and two conglomerates of Kuki militant outfits -- Kuki National Organisations and United Peoples Front. The pact was first signed in 2008 and extended periodically.

"We are against any talk between Kuki militant groups and the government of India as those are made up of foreign nationals, Ningomba said.

He said the COCOMI will organise a rally on July 29 to press for its demand that the territorial integrity of the state cannot be compromised and no separate administration would be allowed.

Meanwhile, in another press conference in New Delhi, COCOMI spokesperson Kh Athouba accused the state and union governments of not doing enough to stop violence in Manipur.

"It took four days to control the situation during the (2002) Gujarat riots. Why cannot the violence be controlled in a small state like Manipur, despite the deployment of force," he said.

Athouba also charged the Assam Rifles with supporting militants, and said their group is gathering supporting evidence, and demanded that some battalions of the paramilitary force be removed from the state.

Assam Rifles has already filed a sedition and defamation case against COCOMI after the organisation had given a call asking the majority Meitei community not to surrender weapons.

Ethnic violence broke out in Manipur nearly three months ago, killing over 160 people since then, and injuring hundreds.

The violence erupted on May 3 after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while tribals, which include Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mainly in the hill districts.

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