UNHRC hears views of Manipur's warring communities
Source: Chronicle News Service

Imphal, September 20 2023: International Peace and Social Advancement (IPSA) vice-president Khuraijam Athouba, who is also the spokesperson of COCOMI, raised several key facts concerning the current humanitarian crisis in the state at the second intervention of the 54th UN Human Rights Council session 2023 held in Geneva on Tuesday.

Athouba delivered a presentation in person during an interactive dialogue with the vice-chairman of the session at the 'Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self determination' (ID with WG on Mercenaries) .

In his speech, Athouba said that the issue of mercenaries operating in global conflicts presents a grave concern that not only challenges the bedrock principles of human rights but also obstructs the inherent right of peoples to self-determination.

Nowhere is the urgency of this matter more pronounced than in regions like Northeast India, where the influence of mercenaries has exacted a particularly devastating toll in recent times.

In the north-eastern part of India, a region steeped in historical diversity and cultural richness, various narco-terrorist groups have resorted to recruiting mercenaries to advance their objectives.

The inclusion of mercenaries in these conflicts has further complicated an already intricate socio-political landscape, resulting in grave human rights violations and the disruption of peace processes.

An illustrative case is the recent outbreak of violence in the state of Manipur, where a significant number of fatalities occurred, he said.

He further explained that of the 175 reported casualties to date, distressingly, several of them remain unidentified, highlighting the involvement of mercenaries employed by narco-terrorist groups during the recent upheaval.

These narco-terrorist groups, through their utilisation of mercenaries, have escalated the conflict and exacerbated tensions, exacting a heavy toll on indigenous communities like the Meetei, and Nagas who often find themselves on the frontlines.

The deployment of mercenaries in these regions is not only a violation of international law but also serves to intensify tensions, perpetuate human suffering, and protract conflicts that could otherwise be resolved through peaceful means, he pointed out.

To effectively address this pressing issue, it is imperative for the international community to forge close partnerships with the affected nations and communities.

Such collaboration should encompass support for conflict resolution, peacebuilding initiatives, and the safeguarding of human rights, he maintained.

In conclusion, Athouba said that the use of mercenaries in Northeast India, particularly in the recent aggression in Manipur, is a serious concern that demands immediate and concerted attention.

"By unequivocally condemning and actively countering the involvement of mercenaries in this region, we can take substantial strides towards upholding the fundamental principles of human rights.

In doing so, we can pave the way for peace, stability, and justice for all," he added.

Additionally, Athouba participated in a side event organised by the World Evangelical Alliance at the United Nations Room No XXV.

During this event, three panellists attempted to address the biased and one-sided reporting of individual incidents that occurred during the ongoing Manipur violence.

They also lapped up with the exaggerated Kuki narratives, particularly the use of what can be referred to as "The Minority Tribal Christian Victim Card"' and "Tribal Christian Minorities being attacked and targeted by Majority Meetei Hindu" on international platforms.

During the brief question and answer session provided to the participants, Athouba intervened and presented the true facts, helping those in attendance gain a more accurate understanding of the actual intentions behind these narratives.

However, he was interrupted by the moderator of the session as he began to counter those false narratives, citing time limitation.

He firmly rejected the false narratives propagated by the Kuki panellist and others, all within a limited timeframe, offering concise and irrefutable points.

IPSA and its collective of eight Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are actively collaborating with Athouba to maximise the impact of his presence at the United Nations in Geneva.

Representatives of the two warring communities also presented their views at the ongoing 54th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The session began on September 11 and will conclude on October 13 at the Palais des Nations.

Athouba representing the Meiteis, informed the parliament session that the ongoing communal violence in Manipur state was not based on religious issues as projected by Western countries, following the highlights presented by the Kukis-Zo communities in the international scenario.

He stated that the real cause of the violence is narco-terrorism and that the Churachandpur district of Manipur has become a new hub of the "notorious Golden Triangle" .

The Meiteis have a population of around 800,000, while the Christian communities in the state have a population of around 1.2 million.

A representative of the Ku-ki-Zo communities, L Haokip told the parliament that the Indian government is apparently turning a "blind eye" to the communal clashes, which entered the 139th day on September 19, 2023.She said that around 650 cases have been filed so far with the police and 300 people have been killed.

Over 60,000 people have been displaced by the violence.

Several guns were looted by miscreants during the clashes and several women were allegedly raped in the violence.

Over 360 houses in Churachandpur district were burned down.

However, the government is still inactive in this matter, she stated.

Khuraijam Athouba later speaking to newsmen over the phone alleged that he was given only 2 minutes to deliver his speech, while L Haokip was given around 7 minutes.

He further added that more time would be available for him to highlight the Manipur issues in the upcoming session, as the session is ongoing.

Mention may be made that the violence in Manipur figured in the United Nations (UN) its human rights commissioner Volker Turk raised the issue at the 54th session of UN Human Rights Council on September 11 .

"In Manipur, other communities have also been facing violence and insecurity since May.

More than 200 people have died and over 70,000 people have been displaced," Turk had said.

The statement from the UN human rights chief came just days after India raised strong objection to observations made by the United Nations human rights experts' panel on Manipur.

Notably, the Manipur government has been maintaining that the situation in the Northeast state is improving.

Not only Manipur, the UN human rights chief also highlighted the recent violent communal clashes in parts of Haryana, including Nuh, which claimed at least seven lives last month.

Volker Turk urged India to 'redouble' its efforts to protect and uphold the rights of the minorities in the country.

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