Amid heavy rain, hundreds of women representing the Hmar, Kuki, Mizo, and Zomi tribes gathered at Jantar Mantar on Monday to demand a fair intervention by the central government in order to address the ongoing tensions in Manipur. The protesters, holding posters and national flags, raised their voices for justice and continued their demonstration despite the adverse weather conditions.
The current protests are rooted in a series of ethnic clashes that have plagued Manipur, resulting in the loss of over 75 lives. The tensions began after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organized in the hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. This demand by the Meiteis, who comprise approximately 53 percent of Manipur's population and predominantly reside in the Imphal Valley, has sparked discontent among the tribal Nagas and Kukis, who constitute another 40 percent and reside in the hill districts.
Adding to the simmering tensions, the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land became a flashpoint, triggering a series of smaller agitations. The situation escalated further when the chief minister made controversial remarks labeling Kukis as terrorists, exacerbating the sense of displacement and marginalization felt by the indigenous communities.
The protest at Jantar Mantar serves as a platform for the indigenous women to express their frustrations and demand a fair resolution to the prevailing tensions. Their passionate calls for justice and assertion of their Indian identity resonate with the historical significance of their tribes' contributions to the freedom struggle. The protesters firmly assert that they are not illegal immigrants but rightful citizens of India who have been uprooted within their own homeland.
The gravity of the situation prompted the deployment of significant security forces, including over 10,000 personnel from the Indian Army, Assam Rifles, and other paramilitary forces, to restore normalcy in Manipur. The large-scale presence of security forces underscores the urgent need for a peaceful and inclusive resolution to the tensions that have disrupted the lives of countless individuals in the strife-torn state.
(With PTI Inputs)