In a significant development, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), representing the Kuki-Zo people in Manipur, has declared a form of “self-rule” for districts predominantly inhabited by the community. This unprecedented move includes the establishment of a separate chief minister for the tribal community and the reinstatement of government officials from the community who were displaced during the ethnic violence on May 3.
Some pictures from today’s “Mass Rally Against Atrocities on Kuki-Zo Tribals” in Lamka district.
Thousands of protesters from every corner of the district marched from three locations – Kawnpui Public Ground, Muolvaiphei Public Ground and Pearsomun Public Ground – to Tuibuong… pic.twitter.com/N4DK2AxKZy
— ITLFMediaCell (A) (@ITLFMedia_Cell) November 15, 2023
Muan Tombing, ITLF’s General Secretary, revealed to The Hindu, that the decision to pursue self-rule was prompted by what the community perceives as “selective justice” by the Central government. Expressing their dissatisfaction, Tombing stated, “We do not care if the Centre doesn’t recognize us. The plan has been under discussion for the past month.”
There has been no response from the Union Home Ministry on the issue, however, he emphasized that the Kuki-Zo people in Tengnoupal, Kangpokpi, and Churachandpur districts are determined to proceed with self-rule. Disillusioned with the “Meitei Manipur government,” he said “We have no expectation.”
Tombing also highlighted that the Kuki-Zo people were referred as “outsiders” by Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament in August. He refused to meet the Minister in future.
He also expressed concerns about the dire situation of students affected by the ethnic violence, asserting that over 800 students, including 120 medical students and more than 600 nursing students, are unable to continue their education.
However, the Manipur government has strongly condemned the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum’s (ITLF) call for a “self-governed separate administration” in districts dominated by members of the Kuki-Zo community, and termed it illegal.
State government spokesperson Th Basantakumar Singh told reporters on Thursday night that “the irresponsible statements appear to be motivated and aimed at vitiating and disturbing the law and order situation in the state.”