Tribal body threatens to shut government offices in Manipur’s Churachandpur

Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum ultimatum comes a day after two people were killed in protests; Internet suspended across Churachandpur district

Updated - February 17, 2024 09:08 am IST

Published - February 16, 2024 10:11 pm IST - New Delhi

Members of Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) take part in a protest rally. File.

Members of Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) take part in a protest rally. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

A day after two people were killed in Manipur’s Churachandpur district during protests against the suspension of a Kuki-Zo head constable, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) on February 16 issued an ultimatum to the district Superintendent of Police, Shivanand Surve, and District Collector S. Dharun Kumar to “leave the district within 24 hours”.

The ITLF, representing tribal associations in Churachandpur district, threatened to shut all government offices if these officials did not move out. The duo would be responsible if anything untoward were to happen to them, the forum said. 

Also read | Situation in Manipur tense, internet suspended after violence in Churachandpur

Internet suspended

This came even as the Manipur government on Friday issued orders to suspend Internet services (including through VPNs) throughout Churachandpur district for five days. Security forces also conducted a flag march in the area.

The protests on Thursday night were triggered by the suspension of head constable Siamlalpaul, whom the Superintendent of Police (SP) accused of “grave misconduct” for appearing with “village [defence] volunteers” in pictures on social media.

The Manipur Police said in a post on X on Thursday night that security forces were “responding appropriately by firing tear gas shells” at the mob of 300-400 but the ITLF said the response had left two dead, including a school student, and 25 others injured. 

ITLF spokesperson Ginza Vualzong said, “The officers are not tribal-friendly. They know the situation yet they suspended a police official for merely posting videos with village volunteers. No such action is taken against security forces from the Meitei community who are seen with Arambai Tenggol [armed Meitei group]. This hurt the sentiments of the people and when they gathered at the SP’s office seeking an explanation against the suspension, tear gas was thrown to disperse the crowd. This further aggravated the mob. Soon, the situation went out of control and people torched the DC bungalow and office.”

Sources in the administration denied these allegations and pointed out that just two days earlier, seven police officials from the Meitei community were also suspended in the incident related to the looting of the police armoury in Imphal East on February 13. 

“The mob at Churachandpur was leaderless and armed. Civil society members were not present. We still negotiated with them for around 45 minutes but things got heated up and the mob started firing near the mini-secretariat and breached the office. One Assam Rifles jawan was injured in the process. Non-lethal force was used in the beginning to control the situation and lethal force was used only as a last resort,” the source said.  

Mr. Vualzong said that while the District Collector’s residence was fully gutted, his office was partially damaged after they were set on fire by an angry crowd on Thursday. The SP’s office did not sustain much damage as it was heavily fortified, he said.

The ITLF on Friday also demanded that the suspension of the head constable be revoked immediately, and the the SP and DC of Churachandpur district be replaced by officers of the Union Territory cadre “preferably from the Kuki-Zo community”. 

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