Kuki-Zo people of Kangpokpi district on Tuesday “commemorated five months” of the Manipur unrest with a coffin rally, a candlelight vigil and a 15-hour shutdown that paralysed normal life.
The Committee on Tribal Unity (CoTU), a civil society organisation of Kuki-Zo people from Kangpokpi district, had organised the events and called the shutdown to “pay tribute to the Kuki-Zo martyrs” who perished in the unrest and to “draw the attention” of the government to resolve the ongoing conflict that erupted on May 3 by meeting the political aspirations of the Kuki-Zo people.
The Kuki-Zo people are seeking a separate administration because they “can no longer live in Meitei-majority Imphal valley” after what they have “suffered” during the ongoing conflict.
The CoTU member from Kuki-Zo majority Kangpokpi district said the half-a-kilometre symbolic coffin rally and the candlelight vigil ended around 7pm.
“The conflict has completed five months on Tuesday. To commemorate the day, we marched with 10 symbolic coffins and then had a candlelight vigil to express our solidarity with the martyrs’ families and pay tributes to the departed,” he said.
Thousands participated in the commemoration held at the Brig. M. Thomas Ground in Kangpokpi town. They observed a minute’s silence as the coffins were placed in a line by village volunteers. Kuki-Zo leaders paid their respect by placing a garland over the coffin.
A CoTU member said: “The 15-hour Kangpokpi shutdown was called from 6am as part of the commemoration to ensure the participation of all. We also wanted to keep the central government on its toes about the ongoing conflict which completed five months today and which needs resolution.”
The ongoing conflict between the Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur has claimed at least 176 lives and displaced over 67,000 in the state. At least 96 bodies are still lying unclaimed in four morgues, three in Meitei-majority Imphal Valley and one in Kuki-Zo majority Churachandpur.
Sources said a CoTU leader in his address called for the imposition of President’s rule, removal of chief minister N. Biren Singh, and re-imposition of AFSPA in 19 valley stations. According to him, 140 Kuki-Zo people have been killed in the conflict till now.
Though the indefinite shutdown of another Kuki-Zo majority Churachandpur district since Monday was called off on Tuesday evening, protests in Kangpokpi could intensify in the days to come.
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), a conglomerate of Kuki-Zo civil society organisations from Churachandpur district, that had called the indefinite shutdown of Churachandpur seeking the early release of the people arrested and detained by the CBI and the NIA, said they withdrew the bandh “considering the hardship of the people” and “we felt we made our grievances known to the government”.
The CBI had arrested four persons from Churachandpur over the alleged abduction and murder of two Meitei students from Imphal. The deceased had gone missing on July 6. Their bodies are yet to be recovered.
The CBI also flew two children of the accused to Guwahati and handed them over to the child protection officer in Kamrup. The NIA, on the other hand, had arrested one person from Churachandpur in connection with a “transnational conspiracy” case.
The shutdown in Churachandpur for the second day was total and peaceful like the shutdown in Kangpokpi on Tuesday.
The CoTU has already announced the launch of an indefinite bandh in Kangpokpi district from October 5 if the Union home ministry does not ensure the release of the people arrested by the CBI and the NIA before its deadline ends on Thursday.