ITLF demands UT; CoTU seeks SA, Kukl-Zo regiment
Source: Chronicle News Service

Imphal, June 24 2024: Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF), representing the Kuki-Zo tribes, has submitted a memorandum to Union Home Minister Amit Shah through the DC Churachandpur, seeking expeditious political solution to the ongoing crisis in Manipur even as Committee on Tribal Unity (CotU) proposed to the union government for granting separate administration and establishment of a Kuki-Zo regiment.

In the memorandum, ITLF expressed gratitude to the Union Home Minister for his efforts to address the violence and restore peace in the state.

However, ITLF emphasised that lasting peace would entail political resolution to prevent worsening of the security situation.

While advocating for creation of a Union Territory with a legislature under Article 239(A) of the Indian Constitution, ITLF also called for addressing challenges faced by the Kuki-Zo communities as the violence continues to rage.

Highlighting spread of the violence in Jiribam district, including widespread destruction of houses and properties, and at-least two deaths, the statement contended that over a year, Kuki-Zo people have been subjected to blockades, which limited their access to essential goods, including medical supplies.

Additionally, the development and maintenance of public infrastructure in Kuki-Zo inhabited areas have come to a halt, the memorandum said, while claiming that the valley areas controlled by the Meetei community continue to receive state support.

ITLF further alleged that the state government has conducted mass job recruitments, excluding 'tribal' youth from these opportunities due to their inability to travel to the state capital, consequently deepening feelings of discrimination and marginalisation.

Tribal students, particularly those in technical fields, have also been severely affected as major educational institutions and head offices are located in the state capital, making access difficult.

Moreover, the memorandum highlighted the constant threat posed by armed groups possessing large arsenals of weapons.

These groups have openly declared their intention to either eliminate the 'tribal' population or force them out of their lands, ITLF further alleged.

Given these severe challenges, ITLF argued that a swift political solution is essential to break the cycle of violence in the state.

It warned that returning to a state controlled by the Meeteis would subject the tribal communities to continued hostility and discrimination, akin to a new-age apartheid.

To manage hill affairs independently until a political resolution is reached, ITLF called for the establishment of a separate secretariat for the hill districts.

Meanwhile, Committee on Tribal Unity's memorandum to Amit Shah submitted through the Kangpokpi DC sought acceleration of process for political solution to the ongoing violence, and creation of a Union Territory with a legislature under Article 239(A) of the Indian Constitution.

Additionally, CoTU proposed streamlining of all Kuki-Zo village volunteer forces into a proper military unit, in the form of a Kuki-Zo Regiment, to ensure the community's defence.

The memorandum said that Kuki-Zo community had made significant contributions to India's nation-building efforts, including fighting against the British during the Anglo-Kuki War (1917-1919) and serving alongside Subhas Chandra Bose in the Indian National Army.

Despite these contributions, the Kuki-Zo's patriotism has been repeatedly challenged, culminating in genocide aimed at eradicating them from Manipur, it claimed.

The memorandum highlighted escalation of violence since May 3, which they alleged was orchestrated to annihilate their community.

They have to defend their right to live with dignity against continuous physical aggressions by Meetei groups, CoTU claimed.

The inaction of the state government in preventing extremism against the Kuki-Zo has led to the demand for a separate administration, it reasoned.

CoTU emphasised on urgency of their plea by accusing police apparatus of compromising and armed cadres disguising themselves as police commandos subsequently diluting credibility and creating heightened fear among the Kuki-Zo community.

The recent escalation of violence in peaceful areas like Jiribam has led to killings, abductions, and the destruction of homes, it claimed.

The memorandum also alleged continuous burning and destruction of Kuki-Zo properties in the Imphal valley, citing the recent fire incident at the residence of the former chief secretary of Goa, late T Kipgen, and the former ambassador late S Kipgen, located opposite to the Chief Minister's bungalow.

The on-going violence has resulted in the deaths of nearly 200 Kuki-Zo people and destruction of more than 7000 homes and places of worship, CoTU claimed.

It proposed the establishment of a Kuki-Zo Regiment under the Indian military apparatus to streamline the Kuki-Zo village volunteer force into a proper military unit so as prevent upsurge of armed insurgency among young Kuki-Zo defenders.

The memorandum also highlighted impact on healthcare and the economy in Kuki-Zo areas, alleging that for over a year, essential supplies, including medical items, have been blocked from entering their areas by Meetei.

The lack of quality healthcare, coupled with the destruction of infrastructure and public utilities, has severely affected the quality of life for the Kuki-Zo community.

It further claimed that the Kuki-Zo have historically been known as a tribe of "Small Republics" who accepted governance by the Union of India.

The memorandum asserted that the demand for a separate administration in the form of a Union Territory with a legislature is justified, given the failure of the Manipur state administration to protect their rights and uphold their faith in democratic institutions.

CoTU expressed believe that only the Central government can restore their trust and ensure their safety and dignity.

Submission of memorandum to the union government through the deputy commissioners and officials concerned was preceded by public rallies in Kuki-dominated districts.

Among others, ITLF and CoTU organised rallies in Churachandpur and Kangpokpi districts respectively to coincide with the commencement of the 18th Lok Sabha's first session.

The rally in Churachandpur district, spearheaded by ITLF, began from 11 am from Churachandpur Public Ground and ended at the Peace Ground near the Churachandpur DC's office.

Prior to the march, the public, led by presidents of Zomi Council, Kuki Inpi, Zo United, and leaders of all tribes, congregated at the Public Ground where the gathering was addressed by leaders of Zo United, Kuki Inpi Manipur, Zomi Council, and ITLF, followed by flagging off of the rally by Zomi Council general secretary Pauneihlal Vaiphei.

The participants carried banners reading "Expedite a Political Solution for the Kuki-Zo People" and placards with slogans such as "No Political Solution, No Peace, " "Forced Union with Meiteis won't Last," and "Ensure Justice, Peace will then Follow".

Talking to this correspondent, Saikot MLA Paolienlal Haokip stated that if the government wants peace, it has to come and find peace here, adding, "We have been knocking at the doors of various central authorities in our quest for peace, but it has been made elusive".

One young boy from Jiribam, identified as Siamlian, whose father Lallianmuang was abducted on June 6, also joined the rally and sought justice for his father.

He said his father Lallianmuang was kidnapped by the Arambai activists, and he witnessed the incident with his own eyes.

In the memorandum submitted to home minister Amit Shah, ITLF appealed to expedite their political demands for the Kuki-Zo community in Manipur.

In Kangpokpi district, the "Non-Violent Mass Rally" was organised under the aegis of CoTU, following a unanimous decision adopted in a joint meeting of all CSOs in the district, including tribebased civil bodies and Inpis, on June 22.The mass rally kicked off from Nute Kailhang in downtown Kangpokpi and proceeded towards Kangpokpi DC's office via National Highway 2 with thousands of participants holding placards which read, "End the Delay: Secure Kuki-Zo's Future Now", "No More Waiting: Fast-Track Kuki-Zo's Political Solution ", "Time for Change: Expedite the Kuki-Zo Political Solution Now", "Justice for Kuki-Zo, Expedite the Political Solution".

A three-hour total shutdown was also imposed in the entire district from 10 am during which all government offices and institutions, banks, private institutions, and business establishments, also remained shut and vehicular movement was restricted.

However, students appearing for semester examinations, media persons, and emergency services were exempted from the purview of the total shutdown.

Reverend Dr Satkai Chongloi delivered a message for the Separate Administration movement before the rally, led by CoTU's Women Wing, kicked off from Nute Kailhang.

A five-page memorandum was submitted to Union home minister Amit Shah through the DC Kangpokpi by leaders of CoTU and various other Kuki-Zo CSO leaders at the DC office in Kangpokpi.

Demanding political solution, Kuki Inpi-Tengnoupal District (KIT) also took out a rally at Tengnoupal district headquarters on Monday and submitted a memorandum to the union home minister through the deputy commissioner.

The memorandum was accepted by SDO Tengnoupal on behalf of the DC .

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