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Manipur Violence: Meiteis, Kukis Urge Centre To Control Situation As Ethnic Clashes Continue

Amid the ongoing ethnic unrest, Members from the Kuki-Hmar-Zomi-Mizo tribes held a protest at Delhi's Jantar Mantar demanding that Chief Minister Biren Singh be sacked and President's rule implemented in the state.  

Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Manipur
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As the ethnic unrest continues in Manipur, representatives of the Meitei and Kuki communities on Wednesday sought restoration of peace in the state even as differences remained stark. 

Home Minister Amit Shah is in Manipur, monitoring the situation. Shah, who reached Imphal Monday night, will visit the India-Myanmar border town of Moreh in Tengnoupal district on Thursday, where he will meet Kuki civil society groups.

What do the protesters say?

Amid the ongoing ethnic unrest, Members from the Kuki-Hmar-Zomi-Mizo tribes held a protest at Delhi's Jantar Mantar demanding that Chief Minister Biren Singh be sacked and President's rule implemented in the state.

A press conference was held by representatives of the Meitei community who demanded the Centre's intervention in restoring peace in the state. 

The Kuki community members said more than 115 tribal villages, 4000 houses and 222 churches have been desecrated and burnt. They claimed Kuki houses were burnt even when Home Minister Amit Shah was in the state on May 29-30. 

Timothy Chongthu, a representative of the Kuki Students Organisation Delhi, said the government should look at the long standing demand of the tribal communities to have separate administration.

"President's rule should be implemented in Manipur if the state government is unable to control the situation," he said.

A Meitei representative, however, said the violence in Imphal valley, which is dominated by the group, was a "reaction". 

"People are angry and helpless," said Bobby Meetei, a representative of People's Alliance for peace and Progress Manipur. 

"The Kukis want to push the Meiteis to the Imphal valley so that they can demand a separate state," he claimed. 

Kimi Soni, a Meitei community member who is from the worst affected Churachandpur district, said she was heartbroken. 

"The police did not do anything for us. We were told we had to manage on our own for two nights," she claimed. 

Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan's remark that the turmoil was due to "ethnic clashes" and not an anti-insurgency issue also drew sharp reactions from both the communities. 

While the Kuki representatives said it backed their claim that they are not "illegal immigrants" as being alleged, the Meitei community members felt the Army is being partisan. 

"The CDS said it is ethnic clashes and not insurgency, so why is the firing not stopping?" questioned Kimi. 

She, however, clarified that she was not claiming that the Army is taking any sides.

"We are not saying they are siding with anyone, but we do not know what is happening," she said. 

Meitei representatives have maintained that the clashes were linked to state government's recent action against poppy plantations in the forest area, and that a number of Kukis are "illegal immigrants" from Myanmar. 

They also demanded implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state to weed out "illegal immigrants", and cancelation of the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement signed with various Kuki militant groups any further. 

"NRC exercise should be carried out in Manipur, that would make things clear. Getting an Aadhaar card is very easy," said Ina Khunbi, a Meitei community member. 

Clashes broke out in Manipur after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' in all its 10 districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

The violence was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals -- Nagas and Kukis -- constitute another 40 percent of the population and reside in the hill districts.

So far, over 80 people have been killed in the violence, according to officials.

(With PTI Inpits)
 

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