Manipur violence: Amit Shah meets Kuki group, assures them of their demands

On a day coinciding with Union Home Minister Amit Shah\’s call for a \”unified resolution of Parliament\” while addressing the Opposition\’s no-confidence motion on the Manipur violence, he also engaged with a five-member delegation of Kuki tribal leaders to discuss measures for peace in the strife-torn state.

After their meeting with Amit Shah, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) representatives told India Today that Kuki \”defenders\” were striving to safeguard villages from recurring attacks by Meitei groups. They further asserted that Amit Shah provided assurances of deploying additional units of central armed forces to defend \”buffer zones\” and curb further instigation of violence.

Ginza Vaulzong, ITLF spokesperson, clarified, \”The Suspension of Operation (SoO) groups are in their designated camps, and those involved in this crisis are village defenders protecting land with licensed firearms. On our side, they aren\’t militants but volunteers safeguarding our land.\”

Vaulzong also noted, \”We\’ve learned that over 4000 arms and five lakh ammunition were looted from the state\’s armory. These stolen weapons are being used to attack our villages. We believe that the communities perpetrating these attacks are terrorizing us and our villages; they should be labeled terrorists, not us.\”

The meeting between Amit Shah and the ITLF delegation occurred a week after the tribal community requested permission to bury 35 \”martyrs\” on government-owned land in Manipur\’s Churachandpur district.

During the discussion, Amit Shah urged the tribal leaders to postpone the proposed burial and suggested changing the burial site, expressing concerns that it could escalate violence. The selected site is contested by Meitei groups due to its \”sacred\” significance for them. Additionally, it\’s situated on land owned by the Industry department.

Following the meeting, ITLF leaders conveyed their intention to \”consult with the people\” regarding Amit Shah\’s request. Muan Tombing, General Secretary of the ITLF, shared, \”We haven\’t made any promises or commitments yet. We need the people\’s consent.\”

Vualzong highlighted, \”The government fears that a mass burial could incite violence. We don\’t share that view. We\’re prepared to face consequences. However, considering our political demand, we must also heed the home minister. We\’ll convey his request to our people and, if they agree, change the location.\”

Union Home Ministry sources mentioned that the meeting between Amit Shah and tribal leaders was \”positive,\” and the \”Kuki group agreed to consider an alternate burial site.\”

Within the discussion, the ITLF delegation raised ten issues, including Manipur Police\’s access to tribal areas. Amit Shah \”assured\” them that state police forces would be accompanied by central forces to maintain a \”check and balance\” when entering hill areas.

Tombing emphasized, \”We distrust state police commandos, believing our safety is compromised if they enter. Women have blocked roads to prevent their access. Our demand was to bar Manipur commandos from hill districts. Amit Shah explained the state police can\’t be entirely restricted constitutionally. However, he guaranteed Manipur police commandos won\’t enter tribal areas without Central Police forces.\”

Responding to Shah\’s parliamentary speech, ITLF leaders expressed openness to measures for restoring peace. They urged the government to investigate allegations of Meiteis looting arms and ammunition.

Regarding unclaimed bodies in morgues, the tribal leaders rejected the government\’s assertion of their illegal entry, arguing that many were Indian citizens, including government employees and students.

The Kuki leaders also highlighted discussions about transferring certificates for Manipuri University students, relief and rehabilitation camps, school restoration, and helicopter services during their talks with Amit Shah. The Home Minister assured the Central Government would address these concerns.

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