After Manipur government order, Kukis and Meiteis stick to their regions while rejoining work

Since most of the government offices are in the Meitei-dominated valley districts, the Kuki-Zo employees have refused to comply with the conditions fearing for their safety

July 15, 2023 10:27 pm | Updated July 16, 2023 10:49 am IST - New Delhi

People from Manipur stage a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on July 10, 2023 over the ongoing violence in the State.

People from Manipur stage a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on July 10, 2023 over the ongoing violence in the State. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Manipur government on June 26 invoked a “No work, No pay” order for all government employees who remained away from work without “authorised leave” due to the “prevailing situation in the State”.

On May 3, ethnic violence between the tribal Kuki-Zo and non-tribal Meitei communities erupted in Manipur which has claimed more than 140 lives and displaced more than 54,000 people so far.

The order, though issued to nudge government and police officials to report for duty, has led to members of the Kuki community joining work in the hill districts, while those from the Meitei community have joined in the valley districts. 

Since most of the government offices are in the Meitei-dominated valley districts, the Kuki-Zo employees have refused to comply with the conditions fearing for their safety. This has also led to the exclusion of the tribal community from decision-making in governance issues.

The Kuki-Zo MLAs, including seven from the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), have demanded separate administration. None of them were present when Chief Minister N. Biren Singh held a meeting on July 13 with “Ministers and MLAs to deliberate the way forward to bring normalcy in the State”.

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A senior government official said to tide over the crisis, they are encouraging the Kuki-Zo employees to register their attendance at the government offices in the hills. Another official said that following several petitions, the State government tweaked the order allowing the communities to work per their preference.

For instance, when the violence began, around 1,400 policemen went missing from duty. “There were a few who applied for long leave, but there were others who were missing without any intimation. With much persuasion and warning, all policemen, barring 30 to 40, have joined work per convenience of jurisdiction,” a police source said.

Another official admitted that this has led to a “so-called separate administration” for the two communities. The Meitei officials posted in the hills before the violence have not returned.

In the hill district of Churachandpur, as many as 327 Kuki-Zo employees have reported for work since the June 26 order. The employees are joining work irrespective of hierarchy and work profile. 

“There are many government officials who are in Delhi or taken shelter in the neighbouring States of Mizoram and Assam since the violence began. They have no option but to come back. They are reporting at district magistrate offices in the hill districts,” a Kuki-Zo community leader said.

A senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer belonging to the Kuki community is working from Churachandpur, a hill district, the community leader said.

“It is just not safe to go to the valley for work. We are requesting the government to rescind its no work no pay order. This has placed the Kuki-Zo community at a disadvantage. Though there is an order to reopen schools, many schools in hills have been turned into relief camps,” he added.

Out of 4,617 schools, 96 schools could not be opened due to occupation for the relief measures, a July 5 government press release said.

On July 14, Manipur Governor Anusuiya Uikey reconstituted the teams of Ministers and MLAs for supervision and management of relief camps to include Kuki-Zo MLAs Relief camp. This coincided with the Zomi Students Federation (ZSF) moving the Supreme Court.

According to a Manipur government report on fiscal policy management, there were 69,957 government employees as on February 7 against the sanctioned strength of 1,17,640. The Manipur Police, which includes Manipur Rifles, have around 30,000 personnel.

Manipur has 16 districts: Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal, Bishnupur, Senapati, Ukhrul, Churachandpur, Chandel, Tamenglong, Jiribam, Kamjong, Kakching, Tengnoupal, Noney, Pherzawl and Kangpokpi.

The valley districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Bishnupur comprise 10% of the landmass in the State and is dominated by the non-tribal Meiteis, most of whom are Hindus. They account for more than 64% of the population of the State and also contribute 40 MLAs to the 60-member Assembly.

The hills comprise 90% of the State’s area, but send only 20 members to the Assembly. There are 34 tribes in Manipur, including the Nagas in six hill districts. Manipur’s population, according to 2011 Census, stood at 27.21 lakh.

A group of Kuki community members, who met the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director on July 7 in Delhi as part of back-channel negotiations, had requested the Centre to assess the “No work, No pay” order issued by the Manipur government.

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