Manipur: Tribal NGO alleges ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Kukis by Centre, CM in SC plea
A well-known tribal NGO has accused the Union government and Manipur chief minister of jointly embarking on a communal agenda aimed at “ethnic cleansing” of Kuki tribals in the north-eastern state.
The Manipur Tribal Forum in an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court told them not to rely on “empty assurances” given by the Centre and sought army protection for the minority Kuki tribals.
The NGO said in its petition that the assurances of the authorities are not useful anymore and made in a non-serious fashion and are not even intended to be implemented.
“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 claimed despite assurances, 81 more people belonging to the tribe have been killed and 31,410 displaced since May 17, when the top court last heard the matter.
This claim was made in the backdrop of violence rearing its head again in the trouble-torn north-eastern state of Manipur on the afternoon of June 15. Two houses were set on fire by a mob in Imphal, a day after an attack in the Khamenlok area left nine people dead and injured ten others.
Security forces who tried to quell the mob were forced to use force and they fired tear gas shells at the mob at New Checkon area. This incident happened even after the army and Assam Rifles have intensified patrolling and taking down any barriers especially after the recent spurt in violence.
‘Clash’ narrative between two communities far from truth
Meanwhile, the petition by the Manipur Tribal Forum said the narrative that there is a “clash” between the two communities – the majority Meiteis and the tribals – is far from the truth as the two have co-existed since a long time.
“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 pre-designed 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 said.
It sought constitution of an SIT headed by former Assam police chief Harekrishna Deka and an ex-gratia payment of ₹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.
On May 17, the top court had directed the Manipur government to take steps to foster confidence and ensure peace and tranquillity in the state torn by ethnic violence, asserting that being the top-most court it can ensure that the political executive exercises its power and does not turn a blind eye to the situation.
Taking note of the submissions on the alleged provocative statements by Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, the top court had asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to advise him to exercise restraint.
Attack on Kuki village
The situation took a turn for the worse again when in the wee hours of Wednesday (June 14), a Kuki village in the Khamenlok area bordering Imphal East and Kangpoki districts was attacked. Nine people died and 10 more were injured in a gun battle which ensued between the miscreants who attacked the village and villagers.
Later, on Wednesday evening, other miscreants set on fire the official quarters of woman Manipur minister Nemcha Kipgen in the Lamphel area in Imphal West district. Firefighters reached the spot and doused the flames before the blaze could spread to the neighbourhood.
More than 100 people have lost their lives in the ethnic violence between the Meitei and Kuki community in Manipur that broke out a month ago. The state has imposed a curfew on 11 districts and banned the Internet in a bid to stop the spread of rumours in the state.
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. Clashes broke out on May 3 after a Tribal Solidarity March was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Meitei’s account for about 53 per cent of Manipurs population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals – Nagas and Kukis – constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
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 a tribal outfit for an SIT probe into the violence that has rocked the north-eastern state.
(With inputs from agencies)