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Imphal, November 17: The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), representing the Kuki-Zo community in Manipur, recently clarified its stance amidst reports of declaring “self-rule” in tribal-dominated districts. Ginza Vualzong, the spokesperson for ITLF, dismissed such claims, emphasizing their intention to adopt a local governing body in line with the Indian Constitution.
Refuting “Self-Rule” Reports
On November 15, certain media outlets inaccurately reported that ITLF declared “self-rule” in Tengnoupal, Kangpokpi, and Churachandpur, suggesting a separate chief minister and government officials from the community. However, Vualzong clarified to The Quint that their plan is in a nascent stage and aims to establish local governance, particularly in the hill areas.
The Context Behind the Proposal
Vualzong highlighted that since the outbreak of violence on May 3, Kuki MLAs in the Biren Singh-led Manipur government have been unable to travel to the state capital, Imphal, for legislative sessions due to safety concerns. This impasse has hampered their ability to serve their constituencies. The proposal for local governance emerges as a solution to this deadlock, driven by the perceived indifference of the state government towards the Kuki community’s welfare.
The Directorate of Information & Public Relations, Government of Manipur, condemned ITLF’s statement as legally and constitutionally baseless. They accused the statement of potentially disrupting state peace and law order, announcing legal actions against ITLF and associated individuals.
ITLF’s Long-Standing Demands
Muan Tombing, ITLF’s general secretary, explained that the demand for a separate administration to govern tribal districts in Manipur is not new but a long-term goal. He expressed frustration over what he perceives as “selective justice” by central agencies, alleging biased and uneven law enforcement against the Kuki-Zo community.
Chief Minister’s Stance
In response, Chief Minister Biren Singh denied allegations of investigative negligence involving Kuki victims in October 2023. He affirmed the state’s progression towards normalcy, urging skeptics to witness the situation firsthand.
Educational Content Controversy
Adding to the community’s grievances, Vualzong mentioned the state Education Minister’s promise to review and potentially ban a school history book containing controversial content about the Kuki community. This incident was brought to light by social activist Maheshwar Thounaojam, who criticized the book for its alleged distorted representation of Kuki history.
The Demand for a Separate Secretariat
Vualzong proposed establishing a separate secretariat in the hill districts, enabling Kuki MLAs to resume their developmental work. He also refuted recent media claims about the implementation of “self-rule” within two weeks.
Historical Context of the Demand
Following the May violence, the 10 Kuki MLAs in the Manipur government demanded a separate administration, citing the state’s failure to protect Chin-Kuki-Zomi tribals. They equated coexistence with the Meitei community post-clashes to endangering their lives.
Central Government’s Position
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has consistently dismissed the possibility of a separate administration in the violence-affected state, maintaining this stance over the past six months.
The situation in Manipur remains complex, with ITLF’s clarification bringing some clarity to the recent media reports. However, the underlying issues of governance, representation, and community safety continue to pose significant challenges in the state.