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Kuki-Zo youth shot dead in Manipur, call for shutdown in Churachandpur district

ITLF says protest’s objective is to pay homage to 'the fallen martyr' and seek protection from central security forces against a possible 'bigger attack' by 'Meitei militants'

Umanand Jaiswal Guwahati Published 26.11.23, 05:21 AM
According to an army official, victim died during firing between Kuki village defence volunteers and an armed group around 2.45am on Saturday.

According to an army official, victim died during firing between Kuki village defence volunteers and an armed group around 2.45am on Saturday. File picture

A Kuki-Zo youth was shot dead in the early hours of Saturday in Kangpokpi district of Manipur, prompting an organisation of the community to blame Meitei militants and call for a shutdown in Kuki-Zo-majority Churachandpur district.

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), the frontal organisation of recognised Kuki-Zo tribes in Churachandpur, said the protest’s objective was to pay homage to “the fallen martyr” and seek protection from the central security forces against a possible “bigger attack” by “Meitei militants”.

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It also urged the Centre to “immediately remove” BJP chief minister N. Biren Singh, saying a remark he had made recently at an Imphal event implied that “he is only working for the interest of the Meitei community and is fighting the tribals”.

The dead youth has been identified as Khupminthang Haokip, 21, a defence volunteer at Joupi village.

An army official told The Telegraph that the victim died during firing between Kuki village defence volunteers and an armed group around 2.45am on Saturday.

“The firing continued intermittently for about 45 minutes, leaving a 21-year-old dead. Security forces have started combing and sanitising operations. The village borders (Meitei-majority) Bishnupur district,” the official said.

On November 21, an India Reserve Battalion jawan and a civilian were killed in Kuki-Zo-majority Kangpokpi district in an ambush by suspected militants who, the ITLF says, were from the Meitei community.

The back-to-back killings come despite the deployment of over 35,000 central force personnel in the state, where continuing violence between the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities since May 3 has killed at least 184 people and displaced 67,000.

The ITLF has alleged that Meitei militants armed with sophisticated weapons had attacked Joupi, killing Haokip who was “guarding” a bunker.

“Armed with single-barrel rifles, the courageous villagers fought valiantly and managed to push back the attackers,” the ITLF said.

It warned: “During the melee, some of the assailants reportedly went missing.... Upon realising that some of their members were missing, the attackers regrouped and are gathering in significant numbers near Ngarian in Bishnupur district since dawn, indicating a potential escalation of hostilities in the area.”

Meeting on Mizoram counting day on Nov 28

A delegation of Mizoram NGO Coordination Committee (NGOCC), a conglomerate of five leading civil society organisations and student bodies, will be meeting the chief election commissioner (CEC) on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the rescheduling of the counting day as it falls on Sunday (December 3), a sacred day in the Christian-majority state.

An NGOCC member said they have got an appointment with CEC Rajiv Kumar at 3pm on November 28.

A six-member NGOCC delegation had flown to New Delhi on Thursday to meet the Election Commission of India brass with a request to reschedule the day of counting.

Since the day of counting falls on Sunday when most people in the Christian-majority state are busy with Church-related activities, leading NGOs, Church bodies and political parties submitted representations to the ECI to reschedule the date of counting. They also sent reminders but to no avail. Most wanted the date changed to either December 4 or 5.

UMANAND JAISWAL

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