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India

10 MLAs call out the excessive use of force against Kuki-Zo community in Manipur

Imphal: Nothing seems to hold the Modi 2.0 regime accountable, not even unchecked violence on its own people, be they Kuki-Zos or Meitis in the north eastern state of Manipur. Now, in one more clear and sharp expression of discontent, a group of ten Kuki MLAs, which includes eight MLAs from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, have  expressed sharp opposition to the use of excessive force against the Kuki-Zo community by  the Manipur Police since Thursday-Friday, November 2 and 3.

According to Kashmir Media Service, in a widely publicised public statement, the signatories have stated that law enforcement officers have reportedly molested women and assaulted people from their community in what seems to be a case of violation of human rights, states a report in the India Today North East. In late September too there were accusations against the authorities of using excessive force against protests that erupted after the photographs of murdered two Meitei students spread; the reported use of pellet guns used on students drew widespread criticism.

In this joint statement issued by the MLAs to the press, they expressed their condolences for the death of a sub divisional police officer who was reportedly killed by a Kuki militant, and they further strongly condemned the “excesses” of Manipur Police, especially that by the commandos.

According to a report, a sub divisional police officer was shot dead by a Kuki militant on October 31 near the Myanmar border with India.

The legislators have clearly stated that, “Our people can no longer exist under Manipur as the hatred against our tribal community reached such a height that MLAs, Ministers, pastors, police and civil officers, laymen, women and even children were not spared., not to mention the destruction of places of worship, homes and properties. To live amidst the Meitei again is as good as death for our people.”

Meanwhile the protests continue. A citizen’s protest was held at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on November 3, Manipuris expressed their anger and called upon the Central government to intervene in the long-standing ethnic conflict. Members of Kuki-Zo tribal groups from Manipur participated in the sit-in protest, accusing both the state and central governments of failing to quell the ethnic violence that has wreaked havoc in Manipur for more than six months, according to PTI. The protest was called by a number of organisations, including the Joint UNAU Student’s Forum Delhi, Kuki-Zo Women’s Forum Delhi and the UNAU Tribal Women’s Forum Delhi. Protestors at the gathering raised the demand for a separate administration for the tribal areas.

The conflict in Manipur resonates in the southern tip of India, Kerala. In  a response to BJP leader Suresh Gopi, who stated that “People here do not have to worry about Uttar Pradesh and Manipur,” the archdiocese of Kerala’s Thrissur Syro-Malabar Church criticised the BJP, including Suresh Gopi and Narendra Modi in an editorial titled “Will not forget Manipur” in the latest edition of the Catholic Sabha. In response to this scathing critique, Gopi who is reportedly contesting from Thrissur, stated on Sunday that he has “no regrets” over his statements.

Unfortunately, tensions continue to grip Manipur. On November 5, the government extended the mobile internet ban till November 8. According to the government directive issued by Commissioner T Ranjit Singh, there are high chances that internet may be allegedly used for anti-social activities. The Home Ministry has however repeatedly extended the mobile Internet ban again even though the Chief Minister N. Biren Singh had suggested that the ban might be lifted in the near future. The mobile internet ban was initially imposed across the entire state after ethnic violence started on May 3. Hereafter, the ban was again reinstated on September 26 after being briefly lifted on for a short duration around September 23 after tensions flared in the region again.

Since May 3, 2023, the ethnic conflict between the majority Meiteis and the minority Kuki tribe has led to over 180 casualties and the displacement of about 60,000 people. Meiteis form about 53% of the population, and Kuki-Zo community forms about 40 % of the population. As tensions continue to escalate, the 10 MLAS have issued a call for urgent intervention by the Union government in the light of the fact that the crisis in Manipur refuses to abate.

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