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Remove State Forces From Hills, Re-Impose AFSPA: Key Kuki-Zo Group To Centre

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January 04, 2024

Strong Kuki-Zo factions in Manipur, a state plagued by violence, have pushed the central government to withdraw state police forces from the hills and reinstate the strict Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, in valley regions. The Committee on Tribal Unity (CoTU) and the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) had called for a 24-hour shutdown until Wednesday midnight in areas where the Kuki tribes predominate. They have since urged Home Minister Amit Shah to withdraw state forces from the border town of Moreh and impose the divisive AFSPA in the valley region.

In the wee hours of this morning, the CoTU Sadar Hills and ITLF Churachandpur declared a 24-hour complete shutdown. In order to express disapproval of the claimed crimes committed by the state forces and to demand their expulsion from all of Manipur’s Kuki-Zo districts, a shutdown was put in place.

The Center was urged by the two leading Kuki-Zo tribal bodies to evacuate all state forces—especially commandos—from Moreh and the neighboring tribal majority settlements. “No peace” could exist, they declared, as long as state troops were stationed nearby.

In order to enable the Indian army to address the situation, the Committee also urged Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister, to promptly reinstate the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) throughout the entire valley.

Following several violent incidents, Manipur, which gained national attention in 2023 for ethnic violence, is currently experiencing new tensions. The violence in Manipur has “highly upset” Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who said those who inflame tensions will face consequences from the government, including the reintroduction of AFSPA.

We are at the point where this situation cannot continue. Furthermore, the federal government will not watch helplessly,” Mr. Singh continued, hinting at the potential reimposition of the AFSPA.

Following the organization of a “Tribal Solidarity March” in the state’s hill districts to express opposition to the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, ethnic violence erupted in Manipur on May 3.

The majority of Meiteis, who make up roughly 53% of Manipur’s population, reside in the Imphal valley. The Naga and Kuki tribes make up little over 40% of the population and are primarily found in the hilly areas.