Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi on May 15 urged the Supreme Court to direct the Centre to “immediately” deploy the Army in 85 villages where attacks are “likely to happen imminently” and 124 other villages “razed to the ground” to allow tribals to return to their homes for rebuilding.
The forum, in a 28-page application, said the people’s hopes for peace had not been realised even though the Supreme Court had made its concern for them clear in a hearing on May 8. The court had termed the incidents in the State a “humanitarian problem”. It was assured by the Union and the Manipur governments that victims would be taken care of and provided medical care. The court had ordered the government to file a status report, listing the case on May 17.
But the application, filed by advocate Satya Mitra and represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, said the violence was misrepresented as “clashes” in the media.
“Though the Meiteis and the tribals have had differences, yet they have co-existed for decades. Local skirmishes have certainly taken place but the well-planned, organised armed attacks and the razing of villages as has happened is completely unprecedented... The unique situation presently existing is of a couple of armed communal groups linked to the party in power in the State, carrying out a predesigned communal attack on the tribals. The ‘clash’ narrative camouflages the presence of these two groups behind all the attacks and renders them immune from prosecution thereby emboldening them to carry on further attacks. Unless the members of these groups and their leaders are arrested and prosecuted, any semblance of peace will be fragile,” the application said.
It named “two armed anti-social groups encouraged by the State itself” as responsible for the attacks on the tribals.
The application listed areas where the tribals face “imminent assaults” and where the Army was urgently needed for protection. It has highlighted the need for reconstruction of entire villages and houses razed to the ground. The plea said the Manipur government had not started work yet.
It said the court should pass an order directing the State to ensure that medical treatment for the injured was done entirely free of cost and all the expenses, including funeral expenses, be provided free of cost with immediate effect.
The application has asked the court to direct the Manipur government to release information regarding the number of persons killed/injured and their identity together with the identity of persons in hospitals and the unidentified bodies in the mortuary.
The application has also sought an order for the constitution of a Special Investigation Team headed by Harekrishna Deka, former DGP Assam, and monitored by Chief Justice Tinlianthang Vaiphei (retired), to investigate and prosecute those behind the violence.