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Manipur: Kuki Youth, Women Decide to Boycott Lok Sabha Polls; Call for ‘Meaningful’ Talks for Peace

The Kuki Zo organisations said the boycott served not only as an expression of collective dissent but also as a plea for urgent attention to the community’s plight.
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Kolkata: Representatives of several Kuki youth organisations, along with a global Kuki women organisation, have decided to boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha, as they feel that their grievances have been overlooked ever since ethnic violence began in Manipur on May 3, 2023.

In a press release, Young Kuki, in the outer Manipur Lok Sabha constituency, said a collective decision had been taken following deep-seated grievances and a series of unaddressed injustices that have plagued Kuki tribes, especially since the violent outbreak.

The release said that this “drastic step” was being in the face of continued violence against the Kuki people, and “impunity of the perpetrators of this violence” from the state machinery of Manipur.

They said the “destruction and displacement, unchecked arms violence, inadequate support for displaced Kukis, unaddressed crimes against Kuki women, defamation by state officials, including the chief minister calling the Kuki tribes monkeys, directly attack our dignity and demand immediate accountability.”

The organisations said the poll boycott serves not only as an expression of collective dissent but also as a plea for urgent attention to our community’s plight.

“It is a call for justice, for the protection of our rights and for the acknowledgement of our existence and sufferings,” said the release adding that the organisations were open to constructive dialogue with Centre, and urged it to engage with the community in “meaningful discussions to resolve these pressing issues.”

A newsletter brought out by the Kiki Zo community, backing the boycott call, said this was the “loudest and clearest way to demonstrate that there is an absence of political representation for the Kuki-Zo people and all is not well with the great Indian democracy.”

Listing details of some reasons for the tribal community’s decision, the newsletter pointed out the lack lack of basic amenities, like proper roads, drinking water, street lights in Kuki inhabited areas,  claiming that “20 of our Kuki-Zo women were raped & killed/ strangled to death/ lynched to death/ shot dead/ mutilated & burnt besides paraded naked, raped, attacked by Meitei mobs; more than 168 Kuki-Zo died and no NIA or CBI enquiry was done…more than 360 Kuki-Zo churches/synagogues burnt” and over 200 villages and 7,000 houses burnt.

Eligible voters among the more than 9,000 displaced people from strife-ravaged Manipur, who are now living in Mizoram, also appear unlikely to be able to vote this year.

The Kuki organisations also pointed out that as the Model Code of Conduct comes into effect, all areas participating in the upcoming elections will be mandated to surrender and deposit their licensed guns to the state police authorities.

“If we are to engage in the election process we would be compelled to comply with the regulations which will leave our frontlines defenceless. Our Village Volunteers will be stripped of the little arms supply they have, rendering them unable to protect our villages and towns from any attacks from the Meitei radicals,” they said.

Highlighting that the “demographic figures are stacked against us, a small community like ours just does not have the numbers to win an MP seat on our own. In the current situation no major party has offered any tickets to any Kuki-Zo candidate, not to mention that a significant part of the Outer-Manipur constituency includes Thoubal and Jiribam, areas that are Meitei-dominated. It is highly unlikely that Meiteis or Nagas will vote for a Kuki-Zo candidate”.

Meanwhile, over 15 Kuki Zo Hmar women organisations also said they would boycott the Lok Sabha polls.

“The crux of our decision stems from the following unresolved issues: the absence of justice for the ethnic cleansing that has resulted in the displacement of over 41,425 Kuki-Zomi-Hmar from Imphal, along with the lack of prosecution for the rape and murder of more than 20 Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women, and 167 confirmed deaths” among others.

They said the “continued negligence of our demand for a separate administration under the Indian Constitution disregards the distinct cultural identity and governance needs of our community.”

Alleging discrimination and disenfranchisement of internally displaced people outside Manipur, they pointed out “there are no special arrangements for internally displaced persons (IDPs) outside the state of Manipur to exercise their right to vote. This discriminatory treatment is a denial of their constitutional rights that are tantamount to their disenfranchisement which will be a blot on the credibility of the democratic process in India.”

“This decision is a call for urgent and sincere engagement from the government with our community to address grievances and work towards a just and equitable solution,” the women’s organisation added.

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