Manipur govt may airlift Meiteis from Mizoram after ex-militants’ warning
With a former militant organisation in Mizoram cautioning the Meiteis to leave the state for their “own safety” as the May 4 incident of two Kuki women being paraded naked and molested, allegedly by Meitei men, came to light, the Manipur government reportedly plans to airlift Meiteis from Aizawl.
These reports came even as the Mizoram government on Saturday (July 22) reassured the Meitei community living in the state of their safety and told them not to pay heed to rumours. Many Meiteis have already started fleeing the state in fear of retaliation.
The Peace Accord MNF Returnees’ Association (PAMRA) on Friday said in a statement that there was “anger among Mizo youths” over the May 4 incident in which two women were paraded naked and sexually assaulted by a gang of men, a video of which surfaced two and a half months later, on July 19, sparking massive outrage.
“The situation in Mizoram has become tense and it is no longer safe for Meitei people from Manipur to live in Mizoram in the wake of barbaric and heinous acts committed by miscreants in Manipur,” said the PAMRA statement released from Aizawl.
Following that, the Mizo Students’ Union (MSU) reportedly announced a plan to conduct a Meitei census at educational institutions in Mizoram, prompting Meitei students to start fleeing.
“Misconstrued by media”
However, Mizoram home commissioner and secretary H Lalengmawia, in a meeting with Meitei leaders, said the press statement by PAMRA was misconstrued by a section of the media. He assured the Meiteis of their safety and security, said an official statement.
During the meeting with leaders of the All Mizoram Manipuri Association (AMMA), Lalengamwia asked them to persuade their fellow Meiteis, both government employees and students, not to leave Mizoram in the wake of the PAMRA advisory, the statement said.
The home secretary also convened a meeting with leaders of PAMRA, who clarified that the press release was issued as an “advisory” requesting the Meitei community living in Mizoram to exercise caution in the light of public sentiments regarding the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur, the statement said.
According to the home secretary’s statement, the PAMRA leaders clarified that the press release was not a diktat or a quit notice to the Meiteis. Expressing regret that their press statement was misconstrued, the PAMRA leaders have decided not to pursue their release any further to maintain peace and tranquillity in the state, the statement added.
However, according to reports, Mizoram Police beefed up security to ensure the safety of Meiteis in Aizawl. Reports also say that the Manipur government plans to airlift Meiteis from Aizawl by special ATR flights flying to Manipur’s Imphal and Assam’s Silchar. However, the details of the operation are not yet known. Mizoram is home to a few thousand Meiteis.
News agency PTI quoted principal consultant for civil aviation in Mizoram, Wing Commander J Lalhmingliana, as saying that 65 Meiteis had left for Manipur by flight on Saturday. He reportedly said all tickets for the next flight to Imphal on Monday were booked as well.
Mizoram deputy inspector general of police (Northern Range) Lallianmawia told PTI that security has been tightened in some places, including Mizoram University and Zoram Medical College, where a sizeable number of Meiteis study. “We have deployed police personnel in some areas and institutions where the Meitei people are living, and regular patrolling is being done to avoid any untoward incident,” he told PTI.
Protest rally sparks fears
He said no untoward incident had happened till Saturday and the police department is in constant touch with Meitei leaders. According to Lallianmawia, Meiteis feel insecure not because of the PAMRA press release, but due to the proposed protest rally by civil society groups on July 25. The Meitei community is afraid that something might go wrong after the rally, as violence in Manipur began after the tribal solidarity march on May 3, he said.
However, the central committee of Young Mizo Association (CYMA) issued a press release on Saturday urging the Meiteis not to be afraid because of the proposed rally and also to live in peace. The organisation urged the Manipur government to ensure the safety of Mizo students in Imphal.
Scores of people have lost their lives in Manipur and many injured since May 3, when ethnic clashes broke out between the valley-dominant Meiteis and the hill-dominant Kukis, apparently over a Tribal Solidarity March organized by the latter to oppose Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. Some 60,000 people have been internally displaced and are living in temporary camps or have fled to neighbouring states like Mizoram.
(With agency inputs)