Thousands of members from the Kuki-Zo tribes in ethnic violence-hit Manipur organised a rally on Wednesday reiterating their demand for a separate administration for their community.
The rally, called by Zo United, an umbrella body of Kuki-Zo tribes in Manipur was held at several Kuki-dominated areas in the state like Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Pherzawl, Tengnoupal, Saikul, Zampui and outside at New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Agartala.
Manipur has been roiled by ethnic clashes between Meitei, which are in majority in Imphal Valley, and tribal Kuki communities, who are dominant in a few hill districts, since May 3. The violence has claimed at least 182 lives and displaced over 50,000.
“There is no longer any hope for Kuki-Zo kindred tribes to live a dignified life in a state controlled by the Meitei community. A separate administration is the only option for us,” said a press release issued by Zo United.
On Wednesday, members of the Kuki-Zo tribes, most of them clad in black, took out large rallies carrying placards which read, ‘no solution-no rest’, ‘tribal area-tribal government’.
The largest rally was held in Churachandpur, where there was a meeting at the main football stadium and at the ‘wall of remembrance’ for victims of the violence on the outskirts of the town.
Office-bearers of Zo United later submitted a memorandum of their demands addressed to Union home minister Amit Shah to deputy commissioner of Churachandpur district, Dharun Kumar.
Citing reasons needed for a separate administration, the memorandum alleged that members of the community have been chased out of Imphal Valley with no prospect of returning. It added that important government offices, the state’s lone airport and important educational institutions, all of which are located in Imphal, have become inaccessible for the Kuki people.
“The Meitei controlled state government and police have openly sided with the majority community (Meitei), with commandos leading attacks on tribal villages. There is no hope for us to be fairly treated in government recruitment, job postings and other government-related work,” the release stated.
The memorandum, which HT has seen, alleged that thousands of government-issued arms have “been disseminated among the Meitei populace residing in Imphal”, which in turn have been used to target Kukis. It added that resource allocation in the past four years to the hill areas, where tribals reside, has been very low in comparison to the Imphal Valley.
“This unequivocally serves as a compelling indicator that cohabitation between the two communities is no longer viable, and the prospect of tribal individuals being accorded equal status as citizens within Manipur, as enshrined by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, appears bleak,” the memorandum stated.
This is not the first time that the demand for a separate administration has been made. It was first raised by all 10 Kuki-Zo MLAs in Manipur (including seven from ruling Bharatiya Janata Party) on May 12. It was later supported by Kuki-Zo civill society groups and NGOs.
Calls to Manipur government spokesperson Sapam Ranjan Singh and office bearers of Meitei organisations to get reactions on the Kuki-Zo demand and Wednesday’s rally went unanswered.