The allegation by 10 tribal MLAs that the Manipur Police “stripped” Kuki cops of all powers and “disarmed” them before violence broke out between the Meiteis and the Kukis is blatantly false, the Manipur Police chief said in a statement on Friday.
Over 70 people have died since May 3 in clashes between the Meiteis, who live in and around the state capital Imphal valley, and the Kuki tribe, who are settled in the hills, over the valley residents’ demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.
Following this, 10 tribal MLAs in BJP-ruled Manipur wrote a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, demanding a separate administration for tribals within the state, saying they “cannot live together anymore.”
They also alleged in the letter that “all Kuku police officers… were stripped of all powers, disarmed and rendered inactive much prior to May 3, while Meitei police were let loose upon Kuki residents… As a result of the backlash in the hill areas, all Meitei police staff have abandoned their posts in all the hill stations.”
Denying the allegation, Manipur Director General of Police P Doungel in the statement said, “No such action was taken by the government or from any quarter. All the Kuki/Meitei policemen right from DGP (Director General of Police) to the lowest rank, whether in khaki or in green, are all performing their duties to their best wherever they are assigned.”
The Manipur Police have asked people to guard against fake news on social media as the state works to bring normalcy. The use of “irresponsible” words like “Meitei police” and “Kuki police” by the 10 MLAs do not help anyone and could lead to fresh hostilities between the two communities, sources have said.
Of the 10 tribal MLAs who demanded a separate administration, seven are from the BJP and two from the Kuki People’s Alliance, an ally of the BJP.
The 10 tribal MLAs who wrote the letter demanding a separate administration are Haokholet Kipgen (Saitu), Ngursanglur Sanate (Tipaimukh), Kimneo Haokip Hangshing (Saikul), Letpao Haokip (Tengnoupal), LM Khaute (Churachandpur), Letzamang Haokip (Henglep), Chinlunthang (Singngat), Paolienlal Haokip (Saikot), Nemcha Kipgen (Kangpokpi) and Vungzagin Valte (Thanlon).
Meitei groups have alleged the protest by the Kuki tribals against the Meiteis’ demand to be included in the ST category was only an excuse to push for their main goal – the formation of a separate Kuki land.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who is from the BJP, has said the territorial integrity of Manipur will be protected. A section of the Meiteis have demanded the government to carry out the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Manipur to identify and deport “illegal immigrants”, who they say have come in very large numbers from Myanmar and settled in hill areas.
They have also asked the government to end all “suspension of operations” (SoO) agreements signed with insurgent groups. Purported visuals of some insurgents taking part in the protest by Kukis in the hills have appeared on social media.
Tribal groups have demanded an investigation into the alleged involvement of the “Arambai Tenggol” and “Meitei Leepun” – two youth organisations in Manipur – in the “pre-planned and systematic unleashing of a pogrom” against the Kukis.
Thousands of people from both the communities have been internally displaced. Civil society organisations, the army and the government have been helping out with food and basic necessities at relief camps in the valley and the hills.
The Assam Rifles and other security forces have been hosting peace meetings between the communities. They have been sending patrols of women soldiers to meet women and children and bring a feeling of safety.
The clashes broke out after tribals organised a solidarity march in the hill districts on May 3 to protest against the valley Meiteis’ demand for ST status. Tensions over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserved and protected forests, and over the destruction of large areas of poppy cultivation preceded the violence.