Manipur: SC to hear NGO's plea seeking protection for Kuki tribals on July 3
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on July 3 a plea by an NGO seeking army protection for the minority Kuki tribals in Manipur and prosecution of communal groups attacking them.
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra will be hearing the petition filed by NGO Manipur Tribal Forum. On June 20, a vacation bench headed by Justice Surya Kant had declined urgent hearing on the plea, saying it’s a law and order issue which the administration should tackle.
70 tribals killed
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the NGO had submitted notwithstanding the solemn assurances that nobody will die, 70 tribals have been killed in ethnic violence in the state. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the state had opposed the prayer for urgent hearing, and asserted security agencies are on the ground doing their best to stem violence and restore normalcy.
He had submitted that the main matter pertaining to the Manipur High Court’s order for grant of Scheduled Tribe status to the majority Meitei community, which set off a chain of violence in the northeastern state, has been posted for hearing on July 17 by the top court. The vacation bench had then posted the plea of the NGO for hearing on July 3.
The Manipur Tribal Forum, in its plea filed through advocate Satya Mitra, urged the apex court not to rely on “empty assurances” given by the Centre and sought army protection for the Kukis.
More than 120 people have lost their lives in bloody clashes between Meitei and Kuki communities which first broke out on May 3 after a Tribal Solidarity March was organised in the hill districts of the state to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipurs population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribal Nagas and Kukis constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
“The reason why this court ought not to rely anymore on the empty assurances given by UOI (Union of India) is because both the UOI and the chief minister of the state have embarked jointly on a communal agenda for the ethnic cleansing of the Kukis,” the NGO has alleged in its petition.
The petition said the narrative that there is a “clash” between the two communities – the majority Meiteis and the tribals – is far from truth as the two have coexisted since long. “Such a narrative misses the fact that the two communities have co-existed for a long time despite their sometime deep-rooted differences and, secondly, that the unique situation presently existing is of a couple of armed communal groups linked to the party in power in the state, carrying out a predesigned communal attack on the tribals.”
“The clash narrative camouflages the presence of these two groups behind all the attacks and renders them immune from prosecution thereby emboldening them to carry on further attacks,” the petition alleged. It has sought constitution of an SIT headed by former Assam police chief Harekrishna Deka to look into the violence and an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 crore to the kin of each of those killed within three months. It also demanded a permanent government job to a member of the families of those slain.
The state is in the throes of a bloody conflict between the Meiteis and tribal Kukis since the March 27 Manipur High Court order that asked the state government to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks on the demand for ST status to the majority community.
The apex court is seized of a batch of pleas on the Manipur situation, including one by a ruling BJP MLA challenging the high court order on Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community, and a PIL by the tribal NGO for an SIT probe into the violence that has rocked the northeastern state.
(With agency inputs)