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The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), a foremost Kuki-Zo organization in Manipur, has expressed its strong disapproval towards the compensation offer made by the Manipur government for the victims of the ethnic violence which broke out in May 2023. The ITLF criticized the compensation as insufficient and rejected the offer, indicating that the declaration clause included in the offer is unacceptable in its current formulation.
The violent ethnic conflict that engulfed Manipur since May 2023 has left a deep scar on the state, with more than 180 lives lost and several hundreds injured. The ITLF, established on June 9, 2022, by recognized tribes within Churachandpur district, has been at the forefront, addressing the challenges faced by the tribal communities amidst this ongoing strife. The forum encompasses notable tribal organizations like the Paite Tribe Council, Kuki Inpi, Simte Tribe Council, Vaiphei People’s Council, Mizo People’s Convention, Hmar Inpui, United Zou Organisation, and Gangte Tribe Union.
The rejection of the compensation offer sends a strong message regarding the discontent among the tribal communities towards the state government’s approach in alleviating the sufferings of the ethnic violence victims. The ITLF pointed out that some individuals have independently applied for the ex-gratia or compensation from the state government, emphasizing that these individuals have done so at their own risk and will not seek any support or relief from the ITLF. Instead, the ITLF has advised the eligible victims to approach the District Legal Service Authority for compensation from NALSA or other statutory bodies, showcasing a pathway for the victims to seek legal redress.
Adding to the tension is the arrest of four Kuki-Zo individuals by the CBI concerning the tragic deaths of two young students, Phijam Hemanjit and Hijam Linthoingambi, who went missing on July 6 and were found dead on September 25. This incident led the ITLF to call for an indefinite shutdown in the Churachandpur district from October 2, a move that was withdrawn after two days owing to appeals from various civil society groups. The ITLF has conveyed its intent to closely monitor the situation and has not ruled out the possibility of orchestrating another intense agitation if deemed necessary.
The stand taken by the ITLF reflects a broader discontent and a plea for a more comprehensive and empathetic approach by the state government towards addressing the grievances of the tribal communities. The inadequate compensation offer is viewed as a superficial attempt that falls significantly short of addressing the deep-rooted issues and the extensive human and material losses encountered by the victims of the ethnic violence.
Moreover, the ongoing legal and social confrontations signify a turbulent phase in Manipur’s socio-political landscape, demanding a more nuanced and inclusive approach to restore peace and justice in the region. The ethnic discord has not only claimed lives but has also seeded mistrust and resentment among the tribal communities, which if unaddressed, could fester and derail the efforts towards achieving long-term peace and reconciliation.
The ITLF’s rejection of the compensation offer and its continuous advocacy for the rights and welfare of the tribal communities underscore the pressing need for a dialogue and a more substantial action plan from the state government. The path towards healing the wounds of ethnic strife requires a holistic approach, encompassing not only adequate compensation but also justice for the victims, and a robust framework to prevent the recurrence of such violent conflicts in the future.
In conclusion, the unfolding scenario in Manipur beckons a thorough re-evaluation of the state’s policies and a more engaged dialogue with the tribal communities. The actions and stance of the ITLF highlight the deep-seated issues and the aspirations of the tribal communities for justice, adequate compensation, and a conducive environment to coexist harmoniously. The state government’s response to these pressing concerns will significantly impact the socio-political stability and the path towards reconciliation in Manipur.