No police operations without presence of Central forces, Amit Shah assures Kuki-Zo team

In the two-hour meeting, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum of Manipur raised ten demands with the Home Minister which included deployment of more central forces in buffer areas

August 09, 2023 10:53 pm | Updated August 10, 2023 07:54 am IST - New Delhi

Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the Parliament premises during the Monsoon Session, in New Delhi on August 9.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the Parliament premises during the Monsoon Session, in New Delhi on August 9. | Photo Credit: ANI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday asked a delegation of Kuki-Zo leaders from Manipur to restore peace in the region before political talks are held. The tribal community has been demanding a separate administration from the State of Manipur. 

Mr. Shah assured the members that Manipur Police commandos will not conduct operations in the hill areas without the presence of central security forces and all checkposts leading to the hills will be manned by Assam Rifles, Muan Tombing, general secretary of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), told The Hindu. 

In the two-hour meeting, ITLF raised ten demands with the Home Minister which included deployment of more central forces in the buffer zone and establishing an office of the Lamba Commission of Inquiry in Churachandpur. Union Home Secretary Kumar Bhalla and Intelligence Bureau Tapan Kumar Deka were also present in the meeting. 

Ginza Vualzong, ITLF’s spokesperson, said following the Home Minister’s request, they have deferred the mass burial of 35 members of the community at S. Boljang village that was initially planned on August 3. Meitei outfits have objected to the burial claiming it is a government-notified land.

“The Home Minister asked us to change the burial site as it falls in a conflict zone. We did not promise anything. We will speak to our people and then take a decision,” he said. 

The land of the Industry Department at Government Sericulture Farm will only be utilised for a common public purpose in consultation with ITLF and other stakeholders, the delegation was assured. 

Meanwhile, the Manipur High Court, which on August 3 had stayed the proposed burial as an interim direction, extended its stay, and posted the matter for next hearing on August 30. The area along the boundary of Churachandpur and Bishnupur districts has seen frequent clashes between the Meiteis and Kuki-Zomi people. 

Another community leader said on the condition of anonymity that the talks were inconclusive and nothing concrete was offered. “Whenever we brought up the demand for political solution, he insisted on bringing peace first. When he came to Manipur the last time too he asked for 15 days’ peace, but violence continued,” the leader said. 

Mr. Shah asked that weapons be surrendered. More than 4,000 weapons have been looted from police armouries in the valley and hills since May 3. 

Mr. Vualzong said the Centre has promised that “necessary arrangements will be made to facilitate transportation and identification of dead bodies of victims of ethnic strife lying in Imphal to their respective home towns”. He said 130 Kuki-Zo people have been killed since the violence began on May 3.

Mr. Shah informed the Parliament on Wednesday that 152 have been killed in the ethnic violence between the Kuki and the Meitei community so far.

“As many as 40 bodies are still lying unidentified in Imphal hospitals. Since we cannot travel to Imphal, we requested that photographs should be sent to us to help us identify the bodies,” he said. 

The Centre also assured to facilitate early initiation of helicopter services for the residents of Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Moreh areas to their preferred destinations. Considering the difficulties being faced by the student community of the hill areas, necessary steps will be taken to allow students to enrol in colleges in hill areas, transfer to universities outside the State and open student facilitation centres of Manipur University in Churachandpur and Kangpokpi.

The issue of the safety of tribal inmates in Imphal prisons was also raised.

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