New Delhi/Imphal: A delegation of Manipur tribals under the banner of ‘Zo United’ held a meeting in New Delhi with officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) led by AK Mishra, Adviser to MHA on northeast affairs. In the meeting held late on Wednesday, the tribal leaders reiterated the demand for the creation of a separate administration for tribals and promulgation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in remaining parts of Manipur.
The tribal leaders, while talking to the media on Thursday said that the delegation also urged the Centre not to scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar. They told the media on Thursday that the situation in Manipur, instead of getting better, was getting worse each day.
“The mistrust between the two communities involved in the conflict has deepened because of the continuing false propaganda and the continued attacks and counter-attacks,” they said. The tribal leaders’ delegation comprised leaders of Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), Committee on Tribal Unity, Kuki Inpi Manipur, Zomi Council, Hill Tribal Council and all tribe councils. Senior ‘Zo United’ leader Ginza Vualzong alleged that the “state government is no longer a government of the people of Manipur but a ‘Taliban government’ run by ‘Arambai Tenggol’, a radical group which works for the Meiteis and whose stated purpose is to conduct genocide on tribals.”
“We cannot continue to be under an administration which is controlled by a community which declared war on us and openly says that it will kill all of us. There is no other option but for the central government to arrange a separate administration (Union Territory with legislature) for tribals so that they can live a dignified life under the constitution of India,” said Vualzong, who is also one of the key leaders of the ITLF. He said that Chief Minister, N Biren Singh and a majority of MLAs in the state are from the Meitei community.
“The state government’s anti-minority policies and its support of radical groups from the Meitei community led to a build-up of tension and mistrust in the past few years, which eventually culminated in the ethnic violence,” he alleged. Vualzong said that Moreh along Myanmar is a key border town which is also an important business hub and strategically and commercially important for the state and the country.
Because of the exchange of population due to the violence, Kuki-Zo tribals remained in Moreh while the Meiteis fled, he said, adding that in all other parts of the state, tribal policemen are stationed in tribal majority areas and vice versa, he said.
This is apart from central security forces, which can be deployed in all areas. But in Moreh, the state government deployed Meitei commandos to patrol the area despite knowing well that tensions would arise, he alleged.
The tribal leader claimed that ‘Arambai Tenggol’ is so secure in its ties with the government that “it openly flaunts automatic guns including AKs, SLRs and LMGs on the streets of the capital and posts them on social media without any fear of getting in trouble with the law.” Claiming that because of the ethnic conflict, tribal students were now at the mercy of Meitei officials, the ‘Zo United’ leader said that the state education board, medical directorate and head offices of all technical institutes were based in Imphal and were controlled by the Meitei community. For any office-related work, tribals can no longer go to Imphal. The careers of thousands and thousands of students now depend on the whims of officials in Imphal, he stated.
Vualzong said that on November 27, displaced MBBS students from the tribal community were not allowed to take their exams despite filling their examination forms and depositing their examination fees, while on the other hand, displaced Meitei MBBS students who fled to Imphal, were allowed to give their exams and continue their studies. “It may be mentioned that since the central government had not deemed Manipur to be ‘disturbed,’ the authorities had refused migration of our displaced students to other colleges.
“There has been a flurry of government job recruitment notices advertised recently despite the current atmosphere. Notably, there are no exam centres in Kuki-Zo areas. This shows the mindset of the government and the people running the state,” he said.
The leader said that too much blood had been shed and there was too much enmity and mistrust for the tribals to consider being under the Manipur government again.
“The situation is very dire for the Kuki-Zo tribals, who will be openly discriminated against if we return to being ruled by the majority Meitei community. We have no option but to ask for a separate administration (Union Territory with legislature). Once that happens, we prefer to be good neighbours,” he said. (IANS)