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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Kuki-Zo members seek split from Manipur: Massive rallies demand 'safe life in Union Territory'

The rallies, peacefully conducted in Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Tengoupal, Chandel and Pherzawl, were strategically timed to coincide with the commencement of the 18th Lok Sabha session. Their objective was to draw attention to their plight amid the ongoing ethnic conflict with the Meitei community

Umanand Jaiswal Guwahati Published 25.06.24, 05:12 AM
COTU rally in Kangpokpi seeking political solution on Monday.

COTU rally in Kangpokpi seeking political solution on Monday. Sourced by The Telegraph

Kuki-Zo members held massive rallies across five districts of Manipur on Monday, pressing the Centre to expedite their demand for a Union Territory with a legislature under Article 239(A) of the Constitution as “they would no longer be able to live a safe and dignified life in the state”.

Article 239(A) of the Constitution deals with the creation of local legislatures or a council of ministers or both for certain Union Territories.

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The rallies, peacefully conducted in Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Tengoupal, Chandel and Pherzawl, were strategically timed to coincide with the commencement of the 18th Lok Sabha session on Monday. Their objective was to draw attention to the community’s plight amid the ongoing ethnic conflict with the Meitei community.

Since the conflict erupted on May 3, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not visited Manipur. The unrest has claimed over 229 lives and displaced more than 67,000 people, reflecting the widespread dissatisfaction as seen in the recent Lok Sabha election results where the BJP and the NPF lost to the Congress.The Congress is poised to raised the Manipur issue in Parliament.

The rally organisers submitted a separate memorandum to Union home minister Amit Shah in support of an early political solution in the form of a Union Territory and expressing their distrust in the BJP government, which they felt would not be able to ensure their well-being. The organisers had also calleda total shutdown during the rallies which started at 10am and ended at 2pm.

An Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) official said that before the ongoing violence, the demand was different — a territorial council within Manipur. “Now that we have been chased out, we want total separation from Manipur in the form of a UT,” he said.

In its memorandum, the ITLF, a conglomerate of recognised tribes in Churachandpur that organised the rally in the district, said: “The ITLF, keeping in mind the realities on the ground and safeguarding the rights of all citizens to live a safe and dignified life, Suspension of Operation (SoO) groups belonging to the Kuki-Zo tribes have submitted our political demand, asking for a Union Territory with a legislature under Article 239(A) of the Constitution.”

The BJP-led state government and the Meitei organisations are opposed to any bifurcation of Manipur. They have blamed the Kuki-Zo SoO groups (militant outfits in ceasefire) and narco-terrorists from neighbouring Myanmar for fanning the ongoing conflict.

At the Churachandpur rally, participants displayed placards with messages such as “No Political Solution, No Peace”, “Union Territory for Kuki-Zo People Right Now”, “Forced Union With Meiteis Will Not Last” and “We Want UT Under Article 239A” during their 3-km rally.

ITLF rally in Churachandpur seeking political solution on Monday.

ITLF rally in Churachandpur seeking political solution on Monday.

The rallies concluded with the submission of a two-page memorandum to Shah through the deputy commissioner.

The ITLF memorandum said there has been “no improvement in the security situation” after more than a year of killings and displacements and that “the minority Kuki-Zo community will no longer be able to live a safe and dignified life in Manipur”.

Kuki-Zos and Meiteis can no longer enter each other’s areas because of safety concerns.

The memorandum also mentioned the threat posed by radical armed groups such as the Arambai Tenggol and the proscribed UNLF, which have “access to a large arsenal of weapons bought from across the border or looted from state armouries”.

The ITLF said it was clear that if the Kuki-Zos return to a state dispensation controlled by the Meiteis, they would be subjected to open hostility and discrimination — a new-age apartheid. “It is also imperative that the hill districts have their secretariat to manage all hill affairs until a political solution can be reached,” it said.

A similar rally pushing for a UT as a political solution was also organised by the Committee on Tribal Unity (Cotu) in Kangpokpi.

The Cotu submitted a five-page memorandum to Shah and urged him to table their demand in the ongoing Parliament session so that the Kuki-Zos of Kangpokpi, Churachandpur, Tengnoupal and Chandel can live a “life free from subjugation and oppression”.

Imphal city also witnessed a protest staged by the Khwairamband Ima Keithel Coordinating Committee for Peace on Monday.

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