A day after the Centre constituted a peace committee in Manipur, most Kuki representatives said they will boycott the panel as it included Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and his supporters. Pointing out that their consent was not taken for including them on the panel, they demanded that the Centre make the situation conducive for talks.
On June 10, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) constituted a committee in Manipur to facilitate a peace-making process among various ethnic groups. Governor Anusuiya Uikey will chair the 51-member committee that included Mr. Singh.
Several people who were made members of the panel revealed that they had been added without their consent. One such member, Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) president Ajang Khongsai said he would not be able to sit with the Manipur government for peace talks.
“The panel includes COCOMI (Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity, a civil society group in Imphal) that has declared war against the Kukis. We want peace but at this critical junction, when violence continues, we cannot hold talks with the Manipur government,” Mr. Khongsai told The Hindu.
A retired Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS), J. Lhungdim too said his name was included on the panel without his consent.
“In 2016, I was sent to Russia to finalise an arms deal. After serving the government for 37 years, we are being referred to as foreigners by the Chief Minister. The panel should be led by Central government officials, else it is not going to be fruitful. It is a shame this issue has lingered on for more than a month,” Mr. Lhungdim, who retired in 2020, said.
The panel included former Manipur Director General of Police P. Doungel, who was transferred as Officer on Special Duty (OSD), Home — a post created overnight on June 1. Mr. Doungel, a Kuki set to retire this month, has been sidelined since the ethnic violence erupted in the State on May 3.
Nemcha Kipgen, a tribal Minister in Manipur, is also a member of the panel. She could not be reached for comments.
All Manipur United Clubs Organisation (AMUCO) president Nando Luwang, who was based in Imphal, said he was unaware of his name being included in the panel but saw it as a positive step. “Will take a final decision on attending the meeting after discussing it with other members of the group,” he said.
Eminent theatre artiste Ratan Thiyam, who staged a protest in Imphal on June 10 questioning the Centre’s initiatives, was another name on the peace panel. At the protest organised by Coordinating Committee on Cultural Fraternity, Mr. Thiyam questioned why the Prime Minister was silent when there was complete disorder in the State.
Over 100 people have been killed in the ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities since May 3. Around 50,000 people have been displaced and more than 4,000 weapons from police armouries have been looted and snatched.
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MHA said the mandate of the committee will be to facilitate the peace-making process among various ethnic groups of the State, including peaceful dialogue and negotiations between conflicting parties/groups.
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum said it strongly reiterated the need for normalcy to prevail before the constitution of any such peace committee in the region. “Reiterating the urgent need for peace, ITLF strongly condemns the inclusion of CM N. Biren Singh, the very perpetrator of the current violence in the Peace Committee,” it said.