Kuki-Zomi outfits take out silent march in Manipur; civil society groups protest in Delhi

Amit Shah holds all-party meeting to find a solution; protesters in Jantar Mantar seek Centre’s authoritative intervention

Updated - June 25, 2023 01:59 am IST

Published - June 24, 2023 08:29 pm IST - New Delhi

Members of civil society groups staging a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi  on June 24, 2023, seeking peace in Manipur.

Members of civil society groups staging a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on June 24, 2023, seeking peace in Manipur. | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Nearly two months after ethnic clashes broke out between the dominant Meitei and Scheduled Tribe Kuki-Zomi people in Manipur, tribal student outfits on June 24 held a silent ‘coffin march’ in the State’s Churachandpur district to honour those killed in the violence. 

Thousands of protesters in the Kuki-Zomi dominated district marched a distance of about three km along the highway from the district hospital in the town to the Peace Ground in Tuibong, where the district’s mini-secretariat is housed.

Dressed in black, the protesters carried 100 empty black coffins throughout the march, symbolic of the tribals who died in the violence. Villagers lined the highway to pay their respects. 

Members of Kuki-Zomi student outfits take out silent march with coffins in Manipur’s Churachandpur district on June 24, 2023.

Members of Kuki-Zomi student outfits take out silent march with coffins in Manipur’s Churachandpur district on June 24, 2023. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

After reaching the temporary protest site created near the mini-secretariat, the coffins were laid down and families of those killed placed wreaths on them. 

Tensions began in Manipur after a High Court order directed the State to recommend Meiteis for inclusion on the ST list. Protests from existing STs - both Kukis and Nagas - grew and after one such protest in Churachandpur district on May 3, the violence broke out. 

It was quick to spread to the rest of the State, in the process, stoking old ethnic tensions between the Kuki-Zomi and Meitei peoples.

A peace committee formed by Home Minister Amit Shah in the end of May after his visit, failed immediately with the chosen members refusing to participate in the process. 

So far, at least 1,00 people have been killed in the violence, hundreds more injured and tens of thousands internally displaced. 

Amid the continuing tensions, Mr. Shah chaired an all-party meeting at his Delhi residence on Saturday to find a solution to the crisis. 

Jantar Mantar protest

Meanwhile, about 40 different civil society organisations, including bodies representing Kuki-Zomi people of Manipur in the Capital, held a demonstration at Jantar Mantar, insisting on the Centre’s authoritative intervention in Manipur. 

While nearly a thousand people were present at Jantar Mantar, a representative of the Unao Women’s Tribal Forum of Delhi NCR alleged that the police prevented a lot more of their people from showing up at the protest site. 

Glady Vaiphei of the UWTF said that more than five buses, which were supposed to depart with protesters from Munirka and Kishangarh were intercepted by the police.  “They kept telling the protesters that the permit was cancelled and there was no protest, when, in fact, we had the permit. We have videos of the police trying to prevent us,” Ms. Vaiphei said, adding that despite this, many had managed to reach Jantar Mantar. 

The police denied having prevented anyone from attending the protest, with senior officers saying that the presence of their personnel in the buses, if at all, was likely for “routine checking”.

The protesters submitted a memorandum to the Home Minister’s Office through the police. They demanded that the Judicial Commission, earlier announced by the Centre, probe all cases of violence comprehensively and fairly. They also called for strict action against all perpetrators of violence and sought that the compensation announced for victims be revised in light of the scale of loss faced by the people. 

The civil society groups also asked that adequate supplies be sent to the rehabilitation camps where internally displaced people are living. Steps should be taken to send these people back to their villages and homes, they said.

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