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Tribal Affairs Minister ‘Mistaken’ in Calling Manipur Strife a ‘Law and Order’ Issue: Tribal Body

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum said that after the deaths of 200 people and the displacement of tens of thousands of others, “it should be clear to everyone that the conflict is not a simple law and order issue”.
Jual Oram. Credit: Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

New Delhi: After Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram referred to the Manipur ethnic strife as a “law and order situation”, a tribal organisation from the state said on Thursday (June 20) he was “misinformed” and that the conflict has comprised an “ethnic cleansing”.

“The conflict was a law-and-order issue for the first 24 hours, during which an impartial government could have stamped out the violence,” said the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), an umbrella pro-Kuki-Zo group based in Manipur’s Churachandpur district.

“But it is well documented that state police forces from the majority Meitei community made no effort to stop the attacks on minority Kuki-Zo tribals but actively participated in the violence,” the ITLF continued to say.

Oram, who was given the tribal affairs portfolio earlier this month, had said during an interview published on Thursday that the conflict was a law and order situation the Union home ministry was helping tackle.

“This problem is actually one of the home ministry. Law and order situation is a state subject. In this, you are asking about this only because one of the parties involved is a tribal community … Who will not want a solution?” Oram said while speaking to The Hindu.

He added: “But this is being handled by the home ministry, in coordination with the state government and the governor there.”

But the ITLF called the violence the “worst and most prolonged ethnic conflict after India’s partition” and blamed it on Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh and his “patronage of militant Meitei organisations”.

“After more than a year of hostilities, the deaths of more than 200 people and the displacement of more than 60,000, it should be clear to everyone that the conflict is not a simple law and order issue,” it also said.

The ITLF alleged the state and Union governments had stood by while sections of the Meitei community, including militant bodies, had raped, tortured and killed tribals, saying “if this is not ethnic cleansing, then what is?”

Manipur has been beleaguered by an armed ethnic conflict between the Meiteis and the tribal Kukis since May last year.

The two communities became almost completely segregated – with the Meiteis living in the Imphal valley and the Kukis living in the state’s hilly districts – and separated by ‘buffer zones’ patrolled by security forces.

Violence continues to occur in the state. Recently, the Jiribam district, which was reportedly one of the state’s calmer districts during the period of strife, saw a spate of ethnic violence.

According to The Hindu, Oram’s remarks on the conflict were the first to made by a Union tribal minister, as his predecessor Arjun Munda had “maintained a silence, refusing to answer questions on the issue”.

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