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'N Biren Singh': Manipur tribal body's reply to Mohan Bhagwat's question on who fueled ethnic strife in state

Impha: The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), an organisation of the Kuki-Zo community, on Tuesday alleged that Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh has “instigated” the ethnic strife in the northeastern state which began in early May.

Commenting on RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remark that Meiteis and Kukis, the two warring communities in the state, were living together for a long time, the ITLF asked why no clashes had taken place between the two sides before the present government started ruling the state in March 2017.

Addressing the RSS Dussehra rally at Nagpur earlier in the day, Bhagwat said, “Who actually fuelled the conflict? It (violence) is not happening, it is being made to happen.”

In a statement, the ITLF alleged that the answer to his question is Chief Minister N Biren Singh.

The tribal organisation also raised a series of questions on the Manipur situation such as why AFSPA was recently removed only in valley areas and not in hill districts.

While the Meitis live mainly in the Imphal Valley, Kukis are in majority in hills districts.

Another question raised by the ITLF is: “Why was the government notification of 1966 regarding ‘reserved’ and ‘protected’ forests under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 suddenly implemented in 2023…?”

The strife in Manipur was preceded by protests by tribals against a drive by the state government to evict them from reserve forest areas.

“What Manipur witnessed in the past few years was a highly coordinated assault on the rights and protections that tribals enjoyed under the constitution,” The ITLF statement read.

More than 180 people have been killed and several hundreds injured since ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May 3 when a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts.

(Published 24 October 2023, 16:37 IST)

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