Last of 10 Kuki families in Imphal shifted to 'safe' zone, allege forcible eviction
While the state government claims the families were given safe passage and escorted to a Kuki-dominated district, the families say they were 'herded' out
The Manipur government has shifted the last of 10 Kuki families comprising 24 members from Imphal's New Lambulane area, where they had been living for decades, and did not move elsewhere even after ethnic violence between Kukis and Meiteis broke out in Manipur four months ago.
The families were taken to the Kuki-dominated Kangpokpi district on the northern side of Imphal Valley early on Saturday, 2 September, as they had become "vulnerable targets", an official said, adding that the families were provided safe passage to Motbung, in Kangpokpi district, some 25 km from Imphal.
But the Kuki families alleged that they were forcibly evicted from their residences in the New Lambulane area to Motbung.
S Prim Vaiphei, one of the volunteers guarding the Kuki locality in the heart of Imphal, said that a "team of uniformed armed personnel claiming to be acting under directions from the home department came to New Lambulane on the night and early morning of 1 and 2 September and forcibly evicted the last remaining residents of the Kuki locality from their homes".
Around 300 tribal families, who were living in the New Lambulane area, had earlier left in phases since ethnic violence erupted in the state on 3 May.
"Twenty-four of us were not given time to even pack our belongings and we were herded into vehicles with only the clothes we were wearing," Vaiphei said in a statement.
Expressing strong displeasure over the "forcible eviction", Kuki Inpi Manipur, the apex body of the Kuki tribes, in two statements said they stood "aghast at the dastardly attack against the last of the Kuki Zo volunteers (numbering about 24 men) who have been guarding the houses and properties of the Kukis at New Lambulane. The volunteers were later escorted by security personnel".
The Kuki body reiterated its demand for a separate administration. "There is now total separation of the Meiteis and Kukis..it is imperative that the central govt should constitutionally recognise this separation at the earliest," it said.
More than 160 people have lost their lives and several hundreds injured since ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur in early May, following a tribal solidarity march organised in the hill districts to protest the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute a little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts.