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Unrest in Manipur: Kuki-Zo Tribe's Scheduled Tribe Status Sparks Conflict

  • Published
    11th Jan, 2024
Context

The state of Manipur in India is currently grappling with ethnic tensions, particularly surrounding the proposed reconsideration of the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status of the Kuki-Zo community.

Background
  • The Manipur conflict, which commenced in early May, stemmed from a High Court order suggesting the consideration of ST status for the Meitei community.
  • This proposition faced opposition from the Kuki-Zo tribe, who perceive it as a potential dilution of their privileges due to the political and numerical dominance of the Meiteis in the state.
  • Chief Minister's suggestion to review ST status has triggered strong reactions from Kuki-Zomi organizations, intensifying the ongoing ethnic conflict in the region.

Need for Review:

  • The controversy emerged when Maheshwar Thounaojam, a Meitei leader of the Republican Party of India (Athawale), submitted a representation to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, urging the exclusion of Kukis from Manipur's ST list.
  • The Ministry forwarded the representation to the state government, emphasizing the need for the state's recommendation before any further action.

Government's Response:

  • Possibility of forming a committee to discuss the ST status of Kukis in Manipur.
  • This move, however, has been met with strong opposition from Kuki-Zomi organizations, accusing the state government of supporting Meiteis and exacerbating the existing ethnic conflict.

Kuki-Zo Tribe's Perspective:

  • The Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF) and Kuki Inpi, the apex body of Kuki tribes in Manipur, condemned any attempt to alter the ST status of the Kuki-Zo community.
  • The ITLF accused the government of a coordinated effort with Meitei groups, asserting that removing the community from the ST list violates constitutional safeguards and perpetuates injustice and discrimination.

Zomi Council Steering Committee's Opposition:

  • The Zomi Council Steering Committee (ZCSC) joined the condemnation, considering the move a blatant attempt to rewrite history and widen existing divides.
  • The ZCSC also opposed Chief Minister request to remove the Free Movement Regime along the Myanmar border, viewing it as a diversion from addressing the root cause of ethnic violence – the Meitei community's hunger for ancestral tribal lands and privileges.

Kuki-Zo Tribe:

  • The Kuki-Zo tribe, primarily residing in Churachandpur district, has a rich cultural heritage.
  • Comprising various tribal bodies, the ITLF serves as a significant voice for the Kuki-Zo community.
  • Their demand for preservation of ST status aligns with their commitment to upholding constitutional safeguards and protecting their rights and land.
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