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

  • Published
    11th Jan, 2024

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.

  • 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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