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regular-article-logo Monday, 22 April 2024

Manipur tribal body claims relief 'withheld' in Kuki-Zo-majority Churachandpur district

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum made the claim in a two-page memorandum to Union home minister Amit Shah

Umanand Jaiswal Guwahati Published 28.02.24, 07:11 AM
Firefighters douse a blaze after a vehicle was targeted by a mob following a blast in Imphal on February 23.

Firefighters douse a blaze after a vehicle was targeted by a mob following a blast in Imphal on February 23. Reuters

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) — a conglomerate of recognised Kuki-Zo tribes in Manipur’s Churachandpur district — has claimed that relief materials for the internally displaced in the Kuki-Zo-majority hill district have been “withheld” by the district administration since February 15.

The ITLF made the claim in a two-page memorandum to Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday.

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The organisation, which was formed in the wake of the ongoing ethnic conflict in the state, claimed that “relief materials including rice and dal sent by the central government for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in more than 100 relief camps in Churachandpur had been withheld since the night of the protest on February 15, 2024”.

According to the ITLF, the deputy commissioner has “refused” to release rations for the past two weeks, putting “more than 17,000 IDPs at the risk of starvation”.

“This is another form of discrimination, whereby the DC is punishing people who have already lost their homes by threatening to starve them. We request the central government to urgently intervene so that the supply of rations to relief centres is resumed at the earliest,” the ITLF has claimed in the memorandum.

On February 15, violence broke out in Churachandpur town in protest against the suspension of a constable by the superintendent of police (SP), leading to attacks on the SP’s and DC’s offices and the DC’s residence and resulting in the death of two persons in firing by security personnel.

Twelve vehicles were also set on fire or damaged in the mob violence, prompting the administration to ban Internet services in Churachandpur for five days, but that had been extended till March 2.

The ITLF had held the DC and the SP responsible for the mob trouble and had asked them to leave the district within 24 hours. However, the state government responded by asserting such threats would not be taken lightly.

The ongoing ethnic conflict between the Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo communities since May 3 has left at least 213 dead and over 67,000 displaced in the state. The situation remains tense and is set to dominate the Assembly session starting Wednesday.

Govt claim

The ITLF allegation came two days after the Manipur home department issued a statement (on February 24) dismissing reports from Churachandpur that accused the state government of delaying the disbursement of relief materials post the February 15 mob violence.

The home department’s statement stated the Churachandpur DC “has always ensured that all relief materials such as rice, dal, vegetables and other consumables are released in a timely manner” through local civil society organisations.

The government claimed the relief was last distributed on February 12-13 when “about 50,000kg of rice, 245 bags of dal, 55 bags of sugar and other consumables such as vegetables, cooking oil, eggs, tea leaf and spices were released”.

The government also said a lot of official documents and records were burnt in the February 15 arson and that two of the 12 vehicles damaged that night were used for distribution of relief materials in the district.

However, officials based in Churachandpur are yet to react to the ITLF claim. Relief materials are distributed once a week, a resident said.

Internet plea

The ITLF, in its memorandum, also urged the home minister to get the ban on Internet services lifted immediately “as the prevailing situation does not justify denying the people a commodity which the Supreme Court describes as a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution”.

The ITLF said: “Not a single incident of violence has been reported in the district since the night of the protest... the state government has extended the ban twice, the latest of which will last till March 2.”

“Dear Minister, we request your intervention to lift the ban on Internet in Churachandpur immediately as this is a matter of fundamental right and fairness,” the memorandum said.

Cop ‘abducted’

Armed miscreants on Tuesday evening attacked the residence of additional SP M. Amit Singh at Wangkhei in Imphal East district, “overpowering and abducting” him leading to heavy exchange of firing between the two sides. Sources said that three persons had suffered injuries. The three have been hospitalised.

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