New Delhi: Thousands of protesters from the Kuki community on Saturday (June 24) gathered outside Churachandpur’s Lamka Medical College, holding empty coffins, for a march from the college to the DC office.
The march was held in honour of those who were killed in the Manipur violence and in solidarity with the survivors and their families.
Gracy, a member of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), said, “We hope to draw the Union government’s attention through this march and demand total separation from Manipur.”
The march commenced at 11 am and continued till 3 pm. According to her, approximately 9,000 people participated in this march.
The protesters set up a “Wall of Remembrance” outside the DC office, located 4 kilometers from the college. As part of the protest, they placed pictures of those who lost their lives during the two-month period.
Ginza Vualzong, who is maintaining data on the death toll, said, “I am not aware of the government’s data, but our data indicates that 106 people have died, 201 villages of our community have been burnt, 262 churches have been burnt, 93 church administrative buildings and quarters have been burnt, and 41,425 people are displaced, currently residing in 204 relief camps.”
According to government data as on June 3, at least 98 people lost their lives and 310 were injured in the ethnic violence that broke out a month ago in Manipur.
The Jantar Mantar protest
While the march was taking place in Churachandpur, another protest was held simultaneously at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
At the Delhi protest, the protesters were holding banners, demanding peace and President’s rule. The banners were painted with ‘no to violence’ slogans.
The protesters also demanded a ban on Meitei Leepum and Arambai Tenggol – the two radical Meitei groups suspected of being involved in the Manipur violence that started on May 3.
Ngamkothang Mate, told The Wire, “I was in Imphal when the violence began in May. I have many Meitei friends, and they don’t support the state-sponsored ethnic cleansing that the Government of Manipur is carrying out in the state. They still stand with me and my community.”
Another protester named Vulnam, who is among the protesters demanding a separate administration and President’s rule in the state, said, “We can no longer live with the Meiteis. They have taken our land, they possess weapons, and we can’t fight against them. They receive arms supplies from the Government of Manipur.”
Many people from Manipur who live in Delhi wish to return to their hometown but they fear landing in Imphal might get them killed.
Several people from Churachandpur raised concerns over their Reliance Jio SIM cards not working since June 22. The Wire reached out to Reliance Jio for an update on this matter but has not yet received any response.
What politicians have said
The government on Sunday, June 25, said “there has been no report of casualties due to the violence since the 13th of June.”
Both the Kuki and Meitei communities do not agree with the government’s claim on the toll of causalities since June 13.
Earlier this month, home minister Amit Shah had assured the supply of essential items and helicopter services from Imphal to the hill areas.
However, people do not want to land in the Imphal valley.
“We are going via Mizoram to our homeland, as Imphal is no longer safe for the tribes as it is dominated by the Meitei community,” said another protester, Rahul*.
He further said, “We are demanding President’s rule because it has been almost two months [since the violence erupted on May 3], and we have witnessed that the Biren Singh government has been unable to control the crisis.”
An all-party meeting was chaired by the home minister regarding the Manipur crisis, where all opposition parties demanded a visit to Manipur and the resignation of chief minister Singh.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said in a statement to The Wire: “To boost the confidence of the people of Manipur and provide a healing touch, the All India Trinamool Congress demands that an all-party delegation be sent to Manipur within the next one week. The message from the Union government so far has been one of ignorance, and that needs to change to healing, caring, restoring peace, and harmony.”
Former chief minister of Manipur, O. Ibobi Singh, said in a press conference that he did not get the opportunity to speak much about his homeland during the meeting, despite the fact that he was the only one from the state present in the meeting.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, and CPI leader D. Raja were also present in the meeting.
At the all-party meeting, home minister Amit Shah said that “36,000 security personnel have been deployed in Manipur, with 40 IPS officers being sent. The supply of essential items, including medicines, has been ensured.”
Meanwhile, internet services will remain shut for another five days, until June 30.
This article was first published by TheWire and written by Yaqut Ali