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Delhi: Kuki Zo Community Narrates Stories of Displacement, Brutality, Mob Violence

Neelam Gaur |
In a protest held at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar after six months of the ongoing ethnic conflict, Manipuris expressed their anger and wanted the Centre to intervene.
kuki protest

New Delhi: Harrowing narratives of displacement, mob violence and brutality resonated at Jantar Mantar at a protest organised by the Kuki Zo community, six months since the ethnic violence began in the North-Eastern state.

The protest on Friday, which saw hundreds of participants, was called to draw attention to “gross human rights violations” in Manipur. As the Manipuri conflict drags on, the protesters expressed their anger and frustration, calling for immediate intervention by the Central government. 

The turmoil reached its tipping point when the killing of a sub-divisional police officer, Chinghtam Anand Kumar, took place in Moreh town on October 30. According to the state government’s statement, he was killed by an armed Kuki militant while he was on duty.

The tragic incident resulted in an increased deployment of Manipur state police forces in the town. Notably, the Kuki Zo community alleged that by taking advantage of the incident, the police started combing operations, which allegedly resulted in looting, arson and assault under the pretext of finding the murderer. 

In response, hundreds of Kuki Zo women and children huddled outside the camp of the Assam Rifles and BSF (Border Security Forces). The mob shouted slogans and alleged that the state police, locally known as commandos, had assaulted a 15-year-old girl. The parents of the survivor also filed a police complaint against unidentified commandos.

In the background of all these events taking place back home in Manipur, the displaced citizens, some of whom are currently residing in Delhi, came together to voice their grievances. They raised a number of demands ranging from addressing the issue of missing people, to demanding the Central government’s intervention as also a separate administrative state for Kuki Mizo Zo communities.

The protest was organised jointly by civil society and student groups in Delhi, including UNAU Students' Forum Delhi, Kuki Zo Women's Forum Delhi, and UNAU Tribal Women's Forum Delhi. The event also saw the participation of human rights activists, advocates and eminent political personalities of the state.

The Manipur ethnic conflict, which started on May 3, has now stretched to six months with no sign of resolution. The state government's data revealed that approximately 70,000 Manipuri citizens have been displaced during this conflict. Tragically, due to this, thousands of citizens of the state have been stuck in different parts of the country as it’s deemed unsafe to return home, especially for people who reside in the hilly region.

One of them is 31-year-old Hainu, a research scholar at Ambedkar University in Delhi. Hainu belongs to Mureh town, where the latest tension between the state police and local Kuki Zo Mizo communities is taking place. Speaking with NewsClick, she said the Mureh assault incident took place to “express her anger over the deployment of state police commandos in the town.”

“Our people had clearly asked for central forces deployment as the Kuki community has little faith in the state police. Despite Home Minister Amit Shah’s assurance, the CM deployed the state police force, which aggravated the tension and anxiety of the community,” she said.

On August 9, when Home Minister Amit Shah was on a visit to the state, he had assured a delegation of Kuki Zo leaders that theManipur Police would not conduct any operation without the presence of Central forces.

“I was supposed to go home in July, just after I finished my degree, but the tension back home is not letting us. I also fear for my safety while travelling through the state now,” she added.

The protesters here also firmly placed their demands for the involvement of central forces as the first step in ensuring peace in the region, as there was “very little faith” in the state police force. They alleged that the state police was working on the orders of Chief Minister Biren Singh and other militia groups belonging to the Meitei community.

Questioning the Central government’s “competence”, another student, Mercy (28), asked, “How is it possible that the CM doesn’t care about the Home Minister’s promise to the people? The CM is clearly bypassing the Union Home Minister. It’s been six months into the conflict, and the Prime Minister hasn’t found a solution for it. I want to tell him that his delay in the decision-making is taking the lives of our brothers and sisters.”

The latter half of the protest was devoted to the narratives of the survivors who had fled from Manipur. State government’s data revealed that officially, this violence has claimed the lives of 175 and injuries of 1118. The data further revealed that at least 5,172 cases of arson, including 4,786 houses and 386 religious places, were reported till September.

Dr Tara Manchiin said she fled Imphal city after three days of the violence. Due to a mob attack in her area, she fled her along with her family members, including her 86-year-old mother. Currently, she is involved with relief work taking place in Delhi. Sharing her experience with NewsClick, she expressed her disappointment over the situation of relief camps.

“My family was fortunate enough to have a financial standing, so we could rent out a place in Delhi. The people who didn’t have this privilege are in relief camps and are forced to live in dire conditions without enough food and medicines. How are they going to survive this harsh winter?” she said.

She also expressed concern about lack of nutrition for newborns and healthcare facilities for lactating mothers in these camps. 

Like Dr Manchiin, many other volunteers have rallied to help the displaced people in other cities.

Human rights lawyer and social worker Suhas Chakma told NewsClick that these protests should be seen against the silence that PM Modi and his government had kept on the Manipur issue. The large number of protesters is a sign that the people are feeling that their voices are not being heard.

“The PM has the time to speak about the Israel-Palestine war but doesn’t have time to look at a state that has been suffering for the last six months. In which democracy does this happen?” he asked.

Chakma warned the Union government that the delay in the decision-making from its side would only further complicate the issue, which would result in losses of more human lives, and increase in the suffering of people in Manipur. 

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