Amid fresh clashes in Manipur, ITLF leaders to meet Amit Shah

The Union Home Minister asked Mizoram CM to facilitate ‘one-to-one’ talks amid fresh violence; 10 CAPF companies have been airlifted to Manipur to augment 36,000 Central forces in State; Kuki People’s Alliance withdraws support to Biren Singh government

August 06, 2023 08:19 pm | Updated August 07, 2023 07:23 am IST

Smoke billows from an abandoned house set on fire by miscreants in Imphal on August 5, 2023.

Smoke billows from an abandoned house set on fire by miscreants in Imphal on August 5, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP

Union Home Minister Amit Shah will hold talks with the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) in New Delhi on August 7 or 8. Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga said on August 6 that he had facilitated the meeting, on Mr. Shah’s request for “one-to-one” talks with Manipur’s Kuki-Zo tribal leaders.

The development comes amid a fresh cycle of the ethnic violence in Manipur that has claimed more than 150 lives since May 3. On August 5, Mr. Shah reached out to Mr. Zoramthanga, as five people were killed, several houses were torched, and intense gunfights were reported from the neighbouring districts of Kuki-dominated Churachandpur and Meitei-dominated Bishhnupur. On the same day, there was also a fresh attempt to snatch weapons from a police team in Imphal West, which was thwarted, police said. On August 3, a police armoury was looted in Bishnupur.

Ten companies of central armed police forces (CAPF) — accounting for around 1,000 personnel — were airlifted to the State on August 5 night. About 36,000 personnel from Central forces, including the army, have already been deployed in the violence-hit State.

Kuki People’s Alliance withdraws support to Biren govt

Meanwhile, the Kuki People’s Alliance (KPA), a political party formed ahead of the 2022 Manipur elections, has withdrawn support to the BJP-led government in the State. In a letter to Manipur Governor Anusuiya Uikey on August 6, party president Tongmang Haokip said aligning with the government headed by Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh was “no longer fructuous” in view of the “current conflagration”. He wrote, “Accordingly, the support of the KPA to the government of Manipur is hereby withdrawn and can be considered null and void.”

Also Read | Belated outrage: On the Manipur violence and the top political response

The KPA has two MLAs in the 60-member Manipur Assembly. They are Kimneo Hangshing and Chinlunthang representing the Saikul and Singat constituencies respectively. The withdrawal of their outside support is unlikely to impact the BJP, which has 32 seats. But it is said to have given a message to the remaining eight Kuki MLAs — seven of BJP and one independent — for taking a stand over the ethnic clashes in Manipur. All the Kuki MLAs have been seeking the removal of Mr. Singh, holding him responsible for the conflict between the majority Meitei and the Kuki-Zomi people that broke out on May 3.

Despite a clear majority, the BJP formed an alliance government with the Naga People’s Front, which has four MLAs. The BJP, party insiders said, has the option of rekindling its friendship with the National People’s Party (NPP) in case the former’s Kuki MLAs quit.

The NPP won seven seats in the 2022 State polls.

The day also saw the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity, an umbrella organisation of the Meitei community, declaring a social boycott of the Manipur government for “not respecting the people’s resolution” on July 29 to hold a special session of the Assembly on August 5 against “Chin-Kuki narco-terrorism”.

Zoramthanga’s request

Mr. Zoramthanga said, in an Instagram post, that he had requested the ITLF to attend the meeting with Mr. Shah, adding that “it won’t be good” if they do not go. Since the ethnic violence erupted in Manipur on May 3, more than 20,000 tribals have taken refuge in neighbouring Mizoram. The Chin-Kuki-Zo-Hmar tribes in Mizoram and Manipur share ethnic ties.

Mr. Zoramthanga’s party, the Mizo National Front, is a constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. On July 25, he participated in a rally in Aizawl to support the tribal people and demand restoration of normalcy in Manipur. It was on Mr. Zoramthanga’s intervention, at the instance of the Union Home Ministry, that the mass burial of 35 Kuki-Zo people at N Boljang villlage in Churachandpur-Bishnupur boundary was deferred. The mass burial was vehemently opposed by Meitei groups on the grounds that the proposed site is a government-notified land; they saw it as an attempt by Kukis to grab the land.

The ITLF leaders met Mr. Shah during his visit to Manipur between May 29 and June 1. They also held one round of discussions with the Intelligence Bureau on July 7.    

Arms recovery contradictions

Meanwhile, Manipur Police said on Saturday that 1,195 arms looted from police armouries since May 3 have been recovered so far. As The Hindu has reported, such police figures contradict and are significantly higher than the 197 stolen arms that the Manipur government said had been recovered, in a status report filed in the Supreme Court on August 1.

“1,057 arms and 14,201 ammunitions have been recovered in the valley districts and 138 arms and 121 ammunitions have been recovered in the hill districts,” the police said in a post on the X platform (formerly Twitter) late on Saturday night, adding that on August 3, security forces were able to recover 15 arms. More than 4,000 weapons and lakhs of rounds of ammunition are said to have been looted from police armouries.


Responding to an ITLF press release, the police said: “There is report vide a press release dated August 5 highlighting looting of arms and ammunition from different police stations and armouries in the valley districts only. The information is misleading to the extent that arms and ammunitions were looted from different police stations and armouries of both hill and valley districts. Security forces have been continuously raiding in the hill and valley areas to recover the looted arms and ammunition.”

The police added that there was an attempt to snatch weapons from a police team at Toupokpi Police Outpost in Lilong Chajing, Imphal-West district, on Saturday. “However, police were alerted and they could chase and recover all the four weapons. One person was arrested and the car used by the miscreants was also recovered. Raids continue to arrest other culprits,” police said.

(With inputs from Rahul Karmakar in Guwahati)

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