The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), an umbrella group of tribals in Manipur, on Saturday wrote a letter to opposition alliance INDIA, seeking its support for their demand of a separate administration and implementation of President’s rule in the violence-hit state.
“We fervently appeal to the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) to take up our cause and apprise the nation about our plight.
“We implore you to help us survive this onslaught by supporting our demand for a separate administration from Manipur and to urge the central government to introduce President rule immediately in Manipur to end the violence,” the ITLF said in its two-page letter to the opposition parties.
The letter, signed by ITLF chairman Pagin Haokip and secretary Muan Tombing, said almost three months into the sectarian conflict, peace remains a distant dream in the northeast state.
“While all sides have suffered, the minority Kuki-Zo tribals have borne the brunt of the violence, making up over two-thirds of the deaths in the conflict,” it claimed.
The ITLF alleged that thousands of weapons looted from state armouries in capital Imphal are being used in the “ethnic cleansing campaign”.
“To add to our plight, state police commandos with sophisticated guns and mortars have been openly joining armed Meitei gunmen in raiding tribal villages and attacking the frontlines… Gaps in military buffer zones are being constantly exploited, and the army and other security forces are handicapped because President’s rule has still not been implemented,” it said.
It said blockade of the only national highway leading to the hills of Churachandpur, the state’s largest district, also means that lakhs of tribals are facing shortage of essential commodities and medicine.
“Those that are available are ferried from Mizoram through mountainous roads, leading to a huge increase in the prices of goods,” the ITLF said.
Since the start of the violence on May 3, the ITLF said it has recorded 119 confirmed deaths, mostly innocent civilians, among the tribals with over 7,000 homes burnt, 359 churches destroyed and more than 40,000 tribals displaced.
“Tribals and Meiteis are now separated physically. After so much blood and trauma, there is no possibility of them living together again. We refuse to entertain the thought of going back to living under the communal Manipur government controlled by the Meitei community,” the letter read.
It said “the next logical step is to separate us politically. For the Kuki-Zo tribals to survive in our own land we are asking the central government to give us the right to govern ourselves under the Indian constitution.” PTI