Home » A Separate Administration for Kuki-Zomi Tribes in Manipur was already formulated before the eruption of violent conflict on May 3

A Separate Administration for Kuki-Zomi Tribes in Manipur was already formulated before the eruption of violent conflict on May 3

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 5 minutes read

By: Rajkumar Bobichand
The violent conflict that erupted on May 3, 2023 in Manipur’s Churachandpur district and its adjoining areas of Bishnupur district from where thousands of people belonging to Meitei community fled for their lives with just the clothes they were wearing has passed 95 days.
Burning of hundreds of Meitei houses began almost simultaneously on May 3, 2023 in other places too many kilometers apart like Pukhao, Dolaithabi and Moreh besides Churachandpur and Bishnupur districts to claim the areas as homeland exclusively for Kuki-Zomi tribes. People belonging to Meitei community fled from their towns and villages for their lives to safer places. Few hundreds of Meitei people from Moreh town fled to Myanmar.
Meiteis were completely taken by surprise. During late hours on May 3, Meteis began retaliation against the Kuki-Zomi tribes viciously and violently. Almost all Kuki villages in the valley were attacked and destroyed or burnt down. Many were also killed. They also fled for their lives.
Kuki-Zomi tribes continued attacks on Meiteis from hill ranges surrounding the valley on all sides. They burnt down hundreds of Meitei houses near the foothills, killing many people and looting properties. Taking advantage of being under the Suspension of Operation (SoO) where Indian Security Forces has ceasefire with them, the Kuki-Zomi militants still continue to attack on Meitei settlements to dominate the areas as thier exclusive homeland.
The violent conflict between Kuki-Zomi and Meitei has witnessed close to 180 deaths and displacement of about 60,000 people who are now taking shelter in 361 relief camps across the state and at their relative’s homes. About 4500 houses and at least 17 temples and 250 churches were burnt down and destroyed.
Subsequently, a political development had surfaced when the violent conflict entered tenth day. ALL 10 MLAs from the Kuki-Zomi tribes in Manipur-including two ministers in the BJP’s Nongthombam government – on May 12, 2023 demanded a separate administration, stating that the state of Manipur “miserably failed to protect” the Chin-Kuki-Zomi tribal people.
Among those who signed the statement is BJP MLA Vunzagin Valte, who was critically injured after an attack on his vehicle in Imphal on May 4. The signatories also include BJP ministers Letpao Haokip and Nemcha Kipgen. The other signatories are Haokholet Kipgen, LM Khaute, Ngursanglur Sanate, Letzamang Haokip and Paolienlal Haokip from the BJP; and Kimneo Haokip Hangshing and Chinlunthang Haokip from the Kuki People’s Alliance, which extended support to the BJP government in Manipur.
“Our people can no longer exist under Manipur as the hatred against our tribal communities reached such a height that MLAs, ministers, pastors, police and civil officers, laymen, women and even children were not spared. Not to mention the destruction of places of worship, homes and properties. To live amidst the Meiteis again is as good as a death for our people,” the MLAs said in the statement demanding separate administration from Manipur.
Claiming that they are representing the sentiments of their people and endorsing their political aspiration of “separation from the state of Manipur”, they said: “As the state of Manipur has miserably failed to protect us, we seek of the Union of India, a separate administration under the Constitution of India and to live peacefully as neighbours with the state of Manipur.”
The demand for separate administration of the Kuki-Zomi tribes in Manipur is also echoed by the Indigenous Tribals Leaders Forum (ITLF) and Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM).
Notably, the demand for a separate administration in the wake of the violent conflict that erupted on May 3 in Manipur’s Churachandpur district and its adjoining areas of Bishnupur district turned out to be not a new one.
According to a report published on May 22 by The Indian Express in the third week of the violent conflict said the demand officially resurfaced with 10 Kuki-Zomi MLAs in Manipur submitting a memorandum to Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Now, the SOO groups are poised to begin talks with the Centre once again, but with a changed position.
Before violent conflict broke out between the Kuki-Zomi tribes and the Meiteis in Manipur, peace talks between the 24 Kuki-Zomi militant groups, under SOO, were headed toward a conclusion, the report said.
Further, the report said the Kuki-Zomi militant groups after having agreed to a political settlement within the state of Manipur now digging their heels in and demanding a separate administration.
The report quoted a government source as saying: “Still we are hopeful of reaching a deal with the Kukis. They have been more accommodating of Centre’s vision for Manipur compared to Nagas. Thankfully, the words used by agitating Kuki leaders are still ‘separate administration’ and not ‘separate state’. We are sure once peace is established in Manipur and Kukis begin to feel more secure, they will come around to accepting the solution. It may take some time now, but it will happen.”
Notably, a formula for political settlement with the Kuki-Zomi militant groups had been worked out by the end of April this year. The peace talks had settled upon the module of providing ‘territorial councils’ to the tribes of Manipur, the report said.
The Kuki-Zomi groups had asked that the 10 hill districts, dominated by Kuki-Zomi and Naga tribes – be divided into two territorial councils – one for the Nagas and the other for the Kuki-Zomi groups. Nongthombam Biren-led government had proposed that there be 10 territorial councils – one for every district. The Centre had proposed a division of 2-2-1 (two each for Kuki-Zomi tribes and Naga tribes and one for the Meiteis), a proposition that was backed by the Zomi militant groups.
However, the report quoted a KNO leader as saying: “But that is no longer what we are seeking. It is not possible for us to live with the Meiteis any longer, so we want a separate administration.’’
Given the context, it can be concluded that a separate administration in the form of Territorial Council of the Kuki-Zomi tribes in Manipur was already formulated before the eruption of the violent conflict on May 3 that still continues unabated.
(The author is Senior Editor, Imphal Review of Arts and Politics)

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