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Manipur’s Cry For Peace And Justice Amidst One Year Of Violence

On Friday, the northeastern state of Manipur commemorated one year since the beginning of ethnic violence between the two communities. Prayer meetings, protests, and shutdowns were organised in various locations of the Kuki-Zo-dominated hills districts and the Imphal Valley, which is home to the Meitei community.

throughout an effort to avert any untoward incident, security precautions throughout the state were stepped up prior to the first anniversary of the tragedy. Gunfights between armed village volunteers from both sides have restarted in recent days, resulting in casualties and fatalities.

“Personnel from state police and central armed police forces (CAPF) have been posted in strategic locations and a check of vehicles is underway to ensure that there is no breach of peace,” said a senior police official refusing to be named.

Manipur has seen fighting between the two communities since May 3 of last year. The fighting has resulted in at least 225 deaths to date and the displacement of almost 50,000 people, the majority of whom are still living in relief shelters.

Seven Meitei women marked the anniversary by shaving their heads in an open space in Sekmai, Imphal West district, and organising a bicycle rally to the Kangla Fort in Imphal, which is about 20 km distant, at an event hosted by the Koujengleima Youth Development Organisation (KYDO) on Friday.

Then, they put on black robes and offered prayers for the community members who had passed away in the previous year before starting their bicycle procession to Kangla Fort.

At a memorial service at Moirang College in the Imphal Valley’s Bishnupur district, hundreds of people turned out to honour the people who had passed away, suffered injuries, or vanished from view in the previous year.

The state-level convention was held at the Yangoi Nighthou community hall in the Bishnupur district by the Federation of Civil Society Organisations (FOCS), an Imphal-based coalition of civil society groups, to discuss the ongoing violence and strategies for aiding those impacted. The group requested that in the evening, people light a lit torch in front of their houses.

A number of distinguished speakers discussed the ongoing war during an event called “365 Days of Chin Kuki Nacro Terrorist Aggression in Manipur” sponsored by the Meitei NGO COCOMI in Imphal at the Palace Ground.

A nonviolent demonstration was conducted by displaced Meiteis from Moreh and Churachandpur, who are staying in a camp in the Akampat neighbourhood of Imphal East district, towards Singjamei Bazar.

They held a sit-in demonstration in support of the state’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the revocation of the suspension of operations (SoO) agreement with Kuki terror organisations.

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) and the Committee on Tribal Unity (COTU) respectively declared a total closure in Churachandpur and Kangpokpi districts on Friday, in the Kuki-dominated areas of the state.

The organisations observed the day as a day of remembering the deceased. The day was marked as “Kuki-Zo Awakening Day” by Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), the highest authority representing all Kuki tribes in the state.

ITLF requested in a statement released on Wednesday that everyone fly a black flag at their houses in remembrance of the “fallen heroes” and to keep all establishments, marketplaces, and businesses closed.

The group hosted a memorial service at the graveyard for those slain in the ethnic conflicts, where the relatives of the deceased placed floral tributes, as well as an event at the Wall of Remembrance, which is next to the district commissioner’s office in Churachandpur.

On this day, the district observed mass prayers, lit candles in each home, and conducted a candlelight vigil at the Wall of Remembrance.

A memorial service for the deceased from the previous year was conducted in the Phaijang cemetery in the Kangpokpi area of COTU. Speeches, prayers and floral tributes to those killed marked the event.

On Friday, Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), an apex body of the Kuki tribe in the state, submitted a four-point memorandum to Prime Narendra Modi reiterating the demand for a “permanent political solution” by creating a separate administration for the Kuki-Zo people, measures to ensure the safety of Kuki-Zo people, recovery of bodies of those missing etc.

“The memorandum is submitted as an ultimate appeal to the Government of India urging a shift in focus and attention towards the plight of the Kuki-Zo people who have endured systemic oppression and persecution under the Manipur state government,” a statement issued by KIM, read.

In a separate memorandum to President of India Droupadi Murmu, the Zomi Council Steering Committee (ZCSC) and sought creation of a separate administration for the Zo-ethnic tribes under the Constitution in the form of Union Territory with legislature.

According to the ZCSC memorandum, the only practical and long-term solution for peace currently appears to be independent governance for both the communities—Meitei and Zo.

Since the beginning of the ethnic unrest, Manipur has seen police stations and government armouries plundered of their weapons and ammunition.

Only 2,003 guns and 25,168 rounds of ammunition have been found after around 6,500 weapons and 650,000 rounds of ammunition were stolen from government armouries in the last year.

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