Biren Singh opposes peace talks that compromise on territorial integrity of Manipur

Any Kuki-Meitei peace talks must protect “indigenous people”, says CM; reiterates that there have been deliberate attempts to disrupt the State’s demographic balance; praises decision to lift AFSPA from valley areas

Updated - April 17, 2024 11:58 pm IST

Published - April 17, 2024 03:11 pm IST - NEW DELHI

 Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. File

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. File | Photo Credit: ANI

Chief Minister N. Biren Singh on Wednesday insisted that peace talks between the Kuki-Zo people and Meitei people that compromise on Manipur’s territorial integrity would not be accepted, echoing what what Union Home Minister Amit Shah said days ago while campaigning for his party’s candidate at the Inner Manipur seat.

Mr. Singh asserted that any such peace talks between the two communities that have been in conflict with each other since May 3 last year must ensure the protection of the “indigenous people”. Mr. Singh was launching the BJP’s Lok Sabha poll manifesto for Manipur.

Also read | In Manipur, campaign void in buffer zone Kwakta as parties find quieter ways to make inroads

Manipur has been seeing an ethnic conflict between the Scheduled Tribe Kuki-Zo people and the valley-based Meitei people, in which over 220 people had been killed so far, thousands injured, and tens of thousands internally displaced. The conflict was sparked by a High Court order on giving ST status to the Meitei community.

One of the arguments the Meitei community’s demand for ST status rests on is that they have been indigenous to the land and that their community should qualify to be called a tribe.

Speaking at the BJP’s party office in Imphal, Mr. Singh said, “The peace talks should not compromise the territorial integrity of the State and the wellbeing of our indigenous people. We will not accept peace negotiations that dilute these fundamental issues.”

He added that the Home Minister had acknowledged deliberate attempts to disrupt the demographic balance of the State, and “this fact” was apparently unknown to the Opposition.

Meanwhile, days after the State saw renewed violence resulting in the killing of two Kuki-Zo village defence volunteers, more civil society organisations representing these tribes issued statements, asking the community to either vote against Mr. Biren Singh’s party, abstain from voting, or vote decisively as a community.

On Wednesday, the Committee on Tribal Unity in Sadar Hills followed the Kuki Inpi Manipur Sadar Hills’ statement asking Kuki-Zo people in Kangpokpi district to abstain from voting. Previously, Kuki-Zomi-Hmar womens’ groups in Delhi and Manipur sent a statement informing the Chief Election Commissioner of their decision to boycott the upcoming polls.

While campaigning for the BJP’s Th. Basantakumar Singh for Inner Manipur seat, Mr. Shah on April 15 had said that the Narendra Modi-led government had removed the Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar to thwart a conspiracy to change the demography of Manipur.

These remarks came after a string of consistent statements by Mr. Singh throughout the conflict, holding the porous border and the FMR responsible for the ethnic conflict in the State.

On Wednesday, Mr. Singh added, “Modi’s compassion was evident when the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA] was lifted from 19 police station areas in the State, considering its impact on the youth and sections of society.”

Ever since the conflict began in Manipur, the Kuki-Zo people have increasingly accused the Union government of discriminatory treatment for retaining the AFSPA in the hill districts where they live while lifting it from police stations in the Imphal Valley areas. Calls for re-imposition of AFSPA in the valley area have grown stronger from the Kuki-Zo people in the last one year.

Mr. Singh appealed to people to ensure the victory of the BJP’s Inner Manipur candidate Mr. Basantakumar Singh, who is also a member of the Cabinet sub-committee set up by the State government to identify illegal immigrants. As for the BJP’s manifesto, he said it presented “our comprehensive vision and commitments for a stronger, more prosperous Manipur and developed India”.

Formal peace talks between apex civil bodies of the Meiteis and Kukis to ensure an amicable solution are yet to begin.

(With inputs from PTI in Imphal)

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