Imphal, May 31, 2023 (PPI-OT): Local residents in the violence-hit Manipur have refuted the claims of the state Chief Minister, Biren Singh, about the killing of about 40 Kuki ‘militants’ by security forces on May 29. Biren Singh apprised the media about the killing of about 40 Kuki ‘militants’ by security forces on May 29, on the eve of Indian Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state, which has been tormented by ethnic clashes. This was the first visit of the Indian Home Minister to Manipur since widespread clashes broke out, resulting in large displacement of people, arson, killings, curfew, internet suspension. At least 10 Kuki MLAs (of which seven belong to the ruling BJP) have demanded for a separate administration for Kuki-dominated districts.
Biren Singh claimed that the day’s clashes were not between communities, but between ‘armed Kuki militants ‘and security forces. The clashes, according to media reports, broke out on Sunday (May 29) in some districts like Churachandpur, Kakching, Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur and Kangpokpi surrounding the Imphal Valley. The Chief Minister also warned that the operation would continue to “bring normalcy and for saving civilians”. However, local residents, especially Kukis, including a local MLA, narrated their experiences to media over the phone, claiming that Singh’s version was not the ‘final truth’.
Usam Ngaihte, a resident of Churachandpur district, said, “Before the Union Home Minister’s visit to Manipur, what the CM wanted to tell the world was that it was only because of the Kuki militants that Manipur was unstable, which is a half-sided view.” Ngaihte added, “There are Meitei militant groups as well, like the Meitei Lipun and the Arambai Tenggol. Everyone knows about them and their activities. They are also armed, that too with sophisticated weaponry.” Alleging a two-way offensive, Ngaihte said, “What we came to know from the ground is that these Meitei groups, accompanied by Manipur Police commandos, attacked Kuki villages. At the Kangbai area (Churachandpur district) and Sugnu village (Kakching district), volunteers of the Meitei groups along with commandos attacked the villagers. The Village Defence Forces (VDF) of these areas then clashed with them. There could have been some killings in the process, but these were not done by the so-called Kuki militants”.
He also alleged that Kukis were being targeted and the Meitei groups were getting “undeclared support” from the State machinery. He added that even top officials belonging to the Kuki community face a “tough time” in Imphal, the state capital. “Clay Khongsai, a senior IPS officer, had to run away to an army camp for safety,” he claimed. Several political observers blame the BJP-led state government for initiating the crisis by withdrawing from the SoO (Suspension of Operation) agreement of 2008 in March, which ceased armed operations against Kuki militants. After that, its eviction drive led to tension and insecurity among the communities living there.
Another resident, D.S Mung, over the phone said, “An attempt is being made to portray that SoO groups are breaking the rules and by naming them, there is a bid to justify the violence against Kukis. This is nefarious.” He also claimed that volunteers of Meitei groups, accompanied by commandos, unleashed attacks on Kuki civilians at several villages and in retaliation, the VDF clashed with them. A local Kuki MLA, who is a signatory of the memorandum submitted to the Indian Home Ministry demanding a separate administration for Kuki-dominated districts, requesting anonymity, confirmed what Ngaithe and Mung claimed. “The media in Manipur is biased and air only the CM’s version. Our concerns are totally sidelined. What Biren Singh claimed about killing of Kuki militants is nothing but an exaggeration. What our sources say is that 30 or 40 killings did not happen, it should be much less,” said the Kuki MLA.
He said, what is happening in Manipur is that the killings are being used as an excuse to legitimise ethnic cleansing of Kukis. Biren Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Sanajaoba are leading in spreading lies to justify their nefarious actions, he added.
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