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September 30, 2023: A speech by Lien Gangte, a leader from the North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA) Canada Chapter, has recently come under scrutiny and stirred controversy, with Meitei critics launching a character assassination campaign on social media. The speech, delivered in early August at a Gurudwara in Surrey, Canada, discussed the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur.
In his speech, Gangte condemned what he termed “attacks on minorities in India” and appealed to Canada for “all possible help,” particularly highlighting concerns related to human rights violations. He focused on the ethnic conflict between the minority Zo Hill tribes and the majority Valley Meiteis, recounting the horrifying atrocities that occurred in Imphal during the first week of May, leaving many, including his own family, devastated. Gangte also addressed the role of the police and state authorities in allowing the violence to persist and criticized the Prime Minister for not giving adequate attention to Manipur.
However, this speech has been misinterpreted and twisted negatively by propagandists and critics within and beyond the state. Some have even drawn outlandish conspiracy theories connecting NAMTA and the Zo community to the Khalistan movement. A Zo communications professional, responding to these allegations, refuted the claims, emphasizing that critics are fabricating a conspiracy where none exists. The professional pointed out that the video of the speech had been public since early August, and no issues were raised until the Canada-India dispute regarding Nijjar’s killing emerged. The professional stated that the accusations of NAMTA’s association with Khalistanis lack credibility and are promoted mainly by troll accounts. They cautioned against the dangers of such unfounded allegations.
In an interview with Major Mohammad Ali Shah, Gangte addressed the allegations circulating on social media. He asserted that the undue attention given to his speech is meant to divert focus from the genuine issues confronting Manipur. As a human rights advocate, Gangte felt a responsibility to speak about the plight of the Zo people who suffered during the violence, emphasizing that their humanity was not respected. He clarified that his concerns center around the suffering of the Zo people and the widespread violations of basic human rights in Manipur, completely unrelated to the Khalistan issue.
Gangte emphasized his respect for all places of worship and reiterated the historical association of the Zo people with Indian nationalism. He clarified that he delivered the speech not as a representative of the Zo community but as a member of the diaspora who cares deeply for the Zo tribals.
Highlighting the urgent need to address gross human rights violations, which are a matter of international concern, Gangte attributed the festering wounds to the current government’s inaction. He called for the recognition of the humanity in all individuals and urged an end to the dehumanization and sweeping stereotyping of communities.
The controversy surrounding Lien Gangte’s speech underscores the importance of responsible discourse and a nuanced understanding of complex issues. It also serves as a reminder of the need to focus on addressing the legitimate concerns related to human rights violations in Manipur.
Source: ZSF’s FIELDNOTES