Manipur groups to hold events on May 3 to mark one year of ethnic conflict

Kuki-Zo organisation calls for shutdown in Churachandpur

May 01, 2024 09:25 pm | Updated May 02, 2024 12:17 am IST - New Delhi

Kuki people look at photographs of those who they say have died in ethnic violence at a wall of remembrance memorial, in Churachandpur, Manipur, on April 8, 2024.

Kuki people look at photographs of those who they say have died in ethnic violence at a wall of remembrance memorial, in Churachandpur, Manipur, on April 8, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Kuki-Zo and Meitei civil society organisations in Manipur have planned to hold events on May 3 to mark one year of the ethnic conflict in the State, albeit in completely different terms.  

While the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) in Churachandpur and the Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), apex body of Kuki tribes in the State, are marking the day as one of “remembrance” for their fallen and “awakening” of their people, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), a valley-based civil society organisation, is observing it as “the day illegal immigrants backed by narco-terrorists began their aggression”, making an appeal to track down over 35 of their people who are still missing. 

The ethnic conflict between the valley-based Meitei people and the hills-based Kuki-Zo tribal communities began on May 3, 2023 amid rising tensions over an order of the Manipur High Court, which directed the State government to consider the inclusion of the Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribes list. 

In the one year since, over 220 people have been killed in the conflict, thousands of people injured, and tens of thousands displaced, many of them living in relief camps within the State and outside.  

The ITLF Churachandpur on Wednesday issued a public appeal calling for a district-wide shutdown on May 3. 

The ITLF Committee, which issued the appeal, said, “As part of this solemn occasion, we urge all members of the Kuki-Zo community to hoist a black flag on every household as a mark of remembrance and solidarity. Additionally all business establishments, institution, and market are requested to remain closed on this day as a sign of respect and homage to our fallen heroes.”

“Let us come together as one community to reflect on our journey, reaffirm our oneness, and strengthen our resolve towards a brighter future for the Kuki-Zo people,” it added.

Leaders of Kuki-Zo civil society organisations in Kangpokpi district also told The Hindu that a similar shutdown might be observed across the district on Friday. “There will be an event to honour our fallen at the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Phaijang and later in the evening we will be lighting candles for them as well,” Janghoulun Haokip, of the KIM in Kangpokpi, said.

In Churachandpur too, the ITLF has planned a remembrance event to be held at the “Wall of Remembrance” near the DC Office in the district, where prayer sessions will be held and speeches will be delivered on the one year since the beginning of the conflict. 

The KIM has also passed a resolution to mark May 3 as the “Kuki-Zo Awakening Day”. “It will be remembered as a day of great awakening for the Kuki-Zo people from the ruins of the systemic persecution and oppression of our people under the Manipur State Government towards revolutionary transformation of our land and our society,” the KIM in Churachandpur had said in a public appeal issued last week. 

Missing Meitei people

Dhananjay Singh, assistant media coordinator for the COCOMI in the Imphal Valley, said that an event would be held at Shumang Lila Sanglen in Imphal East, where an appeal will be made to track down the over 35 Meitei people who are reported to have gone missing in the course of the conflict. 

“We are not calling for a general strike as of now. We just want to appeal on behalf of the families of the missing that their remains be found and returned,” Mr. Singh said.

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