Tribal safety concerns lead to many ‘zero FIRs’ in Manipur; Kukis allege police bias

Almost 30% of arson, violence FIRs in Manipur over last two months have been zero FIRs; tribal leaders say this is partly because they could not safely travel to the valley to file cases

June 28, 2023 09:20 pm | Updated June 29, 2023 10:12 am IST

Members of the All Assam Students’ Union and the North East Students’ Organisation take part in a candle light vigil in Guwahati on June 28, 2023 for restoration of peace in Manipur.

Members of the All Assam Students’ Union and the North East Students’ Organisation take part in a candle light vigil in Guwahati on June 28, 2023 for restoration of peace in Manipur. | Photo Credit: AFP

Almost a third of the 5,960 cases of arson and violence registered in Manipur over the past 56 days were filed by police irrespective of jurisdiction, according to data available with The Hindu. On average, more than 100 cases were filed every day.

Out of the total such cases, 1,771 cases or nearly 30% First Information Reports (FIRs) were ‘zero FIRs’, filed suo-motu by the police irrespective of jurisdiction.

Also Read | Manipur HC panel to check if internet can be restored by blocking VPNs, social media

Of these, 2,226 FIRs have been filed since June 3, after Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the violence-hit State between May 29 and June 1. As many as 71 cases were registered after the all-party meeting chaired by Mr. Shah in Delhi on June 24.

The FIRs are not restricted to arson and violence but also include dacoity, murder, looting of weapons and other criminal cases, an official said.

In Imphal West, there were 1516 FIRs registered from May 3-June 28, out of which 220 were zero FIRs .

‘Zero’ FIRs

Imphal East recorded 723 FIRs including 35 zero FIRs, Bishnupur district saw 1318 FIRs including 543 zero FIRs, Kakching had 234 FIRs which includes 59 zero FIRs, Thoubal had 395 cases with 245 zero FIRs, Churachandpur 637 cases with 56 zero FIRs; and Kangpokpi had 1115 FIRs including 611 zero FIRs, while Tengnoupal had witnessed 11 FIRs. Manipur has a total of 16 districts; two FIRs each were registered in Pherzawl, Senapati, Tamenglong and Noney districts while one case was registered in Kamjong.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, in 2021, the total number of all cases registered in Manipur stood at 3,204 with an estimated population of 32 lakh.

Also Read | Rahul Gandhi to visit violence-hit Manipur on June 29, 30

Ethnic violence erupted between the tribal Kuki and the Meitei community in Manipur on May 3, the immediate trigger being a tribal solidarity march organised in Churachandpur and other hill districts. The Kuki tribals were protesting against a March 27 Manipur High Court order directing the State government to submit a recommendation for inclusion of Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list.

The Manipur Tribal Forum, Delhi, in a petition filed in the Supreme Court in June, said that the Manipur Police had filed standard FIRs, mostly against the Kukis, “most of them on behalf of the Meitei.”

Kukis stay out of Valley

Muan Tombing, general secretary of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) said since the members of the community cannot travel to the valley areas to file their cases, they have been pursuing zero FIRs in Delhi, Aizawl in Mizoram and Guwahati in Assam.

Also Read | Manipur unrest | The embers of Meitei-Kuki conflict still glow 

“We were able to file cases in Churachandpur but we are also registering zero FIRs for crimes committed against the Kuki community in other areas where we cannot go so that the crimes are recorded and investigated,” Mr. Tombing said.

The valley, with 10% of Manipur’s landmass, is dominated by the non-tribal Meiteis, most of whom are Hindus, and who account for more than 64% of the population of the State, The hills comprise 90% of the State’s area, but only 30% of the State’s population.

After the May 3 violence, around 60,000 people have been displaced. The violence forced Kukis out of the valley and Meitei from the hills.

Bias allegations

Since there have been strong allegations of bias against the Manipur police, the tribal Kuki-Zo have refused to travel to into the Imphal valley to register cases. The violence largely continues in the foothills, in areas with adjacent Kuki and Meitei villages.

Also Read | Data | Kuki-Meitei ethnic violence: The sharp hill-valley divide that is Manipur’s burden 

One of the FIRs registered by A. Ghanashyam Sharma, superintendent of police of Pherzawl district, says that a 500-strong mob including women attacked him when he was coming out of the camp office in Tuibong Churachandpur on May 4.

The FIR has been registered under various section of unlawful assembly, rioting, obstructing public servant and possession of prohibited weapons, said the mob was armed with nail-studded wooden logs, daos (machetes) and double-barrelled guns.

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