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Manipur: We are Seeing Deaths, Hearing Gunshots Every Day, Say Kuki Groups

Kuki activists blame Centre for giving free hand to the Biren government to push “discriminatory” policies. Fresh violence in Churachandpur, 2 youth die in firing by security forces.
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Kolkata: “Every day we are seeing deaths from close quarters, from gunshots and wounds, of Kuki people”, Mang Baite, a school teacher and Kuki activist, told NewsClick, when asked about the recent firing in Churachandpur by the security forces, as the Armed Forces Special Power Act or AFSPA is still active in the hill districts of the North Eastern state, which has been embroiled in ethnic violence since May 2023.

According to news reports, two young adults were killed and 25 others were injured in the firing. The incident began when youths started demonstrating in front of Police Superintendent Sivanand Surve’s office at around 10 a.m last Thursday, protesting over “illegal suspension” of Kuki head constable. They alleged that the constable had been suspended without even being issued a show cause notice. The protesters alleged that the Police Superintendent showed “attitude and behaved in an ill-mannered” way with the young protesters.

Kuki activists said that around 3 p.m, the protesters gathered again. There were reports of stone-pelting, But, the said police officer, instead of going by the law book on mob control measures, like dispersal with tear gas shells and baton charge, directly gave a “shoot and sight” order, following which Manipur Police and Assam Rifles personnel protecting the compound started indiscriminate firing at the protesters leading to the death of two protesters and wounding 25 others, the activists alleged.

The incident sparked anger among the local people, which led to the Deputy Commissioner’s office being set ablaze by the irate mob. Surve, who allegedly gave the firing order, was reportedly holed up in the Assam Rifles camp, claimed the activists.

 “It is two Indias, two Manipurs, two sets of laws, that are being seen in part of India. The Christian Kuki community is at the receiving end of ethno-religious clashes as the police is also seen as taking sides and raining bullets on the innocent,” Len Chongloi, Kuki INPI Lhangsam (minister) told NewsClick. Kuki INPI is a mode of self-government amongst the tribal community that claims to represent the voice of the Kuki people of Manipur and elsewhere.

“We are being discriminated against quite openly now. New Delhi is to be blamed. An end to this discrimination was what the protesters were demanding after the sudden suspension of a Kuki head constable by Sivanand Surve who, we now are quite sure, has been posted to a Kuki-dominated area to create spaces of animosity between the State and the people and take it to an even more vicious level”, he alleged.  

Lhangsam said “it was alleged that the head constable was seen in Facebook in the companionship of Kuki volunteers. He was not given a chance to explain and was straightaway suspended. This, when in the Imphal valley, every day armed Arambai Tenggol cadres and policemen are seen together and Facebook is flooded with such photos”.

He further alleged that “even the Meitei militant UFPN group is seen hand-in-glove with security personnel causing amok in Imphal valley,” adding that there “is no AFSPA in the Imphal valley though dozens of Meitei militant groups are active in the area.”

These groups, he alleged, “recently flew the National flag below the Arambai Tenggol flag. However, in the hills of Manipur, “where all the Kuki militant organisations are covered under the suspension of operation (SOO) pact, why has AFSPA been kept alive by the Manipur government?” he told Newsclick over the phone.

He accused the BJP-run Biren Singh government of trying to “finish the Kuki community through military solutions”.

Another top ranking Kuki civil servant, who wished to remain anonymous, told NewsClick that the condition was such that there were many impetus being given to the average Kuki youths to stop studies and engage in protests, mostly radical in nature. These youth fall in the Moreh or the recent firing incident kind of trap.

"Earlier, it was Meiteis vs Kukis, now the BJP-run Biren Singh government wants to make it Kuki versus State, We Kukis are extremely law-abiding citizens by nature, and such incidents where Kuki youths fall to government bullets are digging fresh wounds in the average Kuki heart ", he added.

“As citizens of the country, if you deny the Constitution, challenging the very union of India, that is like challenging the soul of the country. So, what we want is not for people to take sides. We want every citizen of the country and leaders alike to really look at the challenge that the grave violations of human rights and constitutional principles hold for the country. We want people to look at justice and equality issues that are raging in our state," Janghoulolun H, information and publicity secretary of Kuki IPNI, told Newsclick.

He said the recent firing in Churachandpur was the “direct consequence of the discriminatory policies of the Manipur state government under Mr Biren Singh.”

“It is also the consequence of the indecision of the Central government, allowing Biren to act at will; against constitutional values and principles. It is a shame for India to turn a blind eye to the wanton misuse of power and authority by the Manipur state government against the minority Kukis. The Kukis deserve justice and equality as equal citizens of the country” he said, adding that “the state has failed us; and it is only legitimate, constitutional, and just that the Kuki's and Meitei must have separate administrative units”.

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