The Zomi Council Steering Committee (ZCSC) sent a memorandum to the Union Home Minister today highlighting how the partisan mindset and discriminatory policies of the majoritarian Manipur Government again lifted their ugly heads in the form of Notification No. 2/8(6)/2022-H(AFSPA) dated Imphal, September 27, 2023, issued by the Home Department, Government of Manipur wherein the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was extended only to ancestral tribal territories of Manipur by declaring these areas as “Disturbed Areas.”
The memorandum listed how the exclusion of Meitei territories and Meitei-dominated areas from the Notification only once again exemplified the Meitei Government’s deep-seated discrimination against the Scheduled Tribes of the State.
The newly excluded areas in the said Notification, such as Moirang and Leimakhong, are areas where armed radicals combined forces with the alleged proscribed Meitei insurgent groups set up their bases every time they undertook offensive attacks on Zo villages with the aid and direct involvement of Manipur State Force personnel.
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The memorandum also highlighted how it has only been the Meitei territories that have witnessed violence after violence since May 2023 leading to the imposition of curfews in these areas; the few areas in the Zo tribal territories that have witnessed violence were only due to the radical groups trying to attack and cause mayhem in these Zo settlements on the Zo-Meitei territorial boundary areas. Despite the reality of prevailing peace in the tribal territories vis-a-vis the continuing law and order lapses in the Meitei territories, the memorandum noted how the said Notification is no surprise in as much as it established the hatred towards the minority tribal communities by those in power.
It may be noted here that the Notification’s exempt areas fall in Meitei territories and Meitei-dominated areas which actually recorded more than 80 per cent of the 175-odd killings since May 3, 2023. AFSPA, which covered most of the State since 1980, was withdrawn from the Imphal Municipality area in 2004, and fully withdrawn from all Meitei-dominated territories on April 1, 2023. The memorandum also mentioned how multiple sources in the security establishment have blamed this earlier decision (of full withdrawal of AFSPA in the Meitei territories) for the unprecedented conflict that began in the State the very next month.
The memorandum also brought to light how AFSPA could be the only way to ensure timely recovery of the thousands of arms and ammunitions looted from State armouries and avert any impending National Security crisis in the process. Instances of the arrests of proscribed armed Meitei militants in the Valley Area and their subsequent release due to apparent public pressure by Meira Paibis – the radical Meitei women group, and the arrest of Moirangthem Anand Singh by the National Investigation Agency in a case related to a transnational conspiracy by Myanmar-based leadership of Meitei terror outfits to wage a war against the Government of India by exploiting the current ethnic unrest in the State of Manipur is of serious concern. The fact that the Naga and Zo insurgent groups have signed ceasefire or suspension of operations agreements and are actively engaged in dialogue with the Indian Government while the Meitei insurgent groups still harbour and nurture their secessionist ideals only magnifies the need for AFSPA in the Valley Area more than those of the tribal territories.
While mentioning the ZCSC’s strong disapproval of such discriminatory Notification, the memorandum also reiterated how the actual Disturbed Areas of Manipur should rather come under the Armed Forces Special Power Act and not vice versa.
The memorandum concluded with an appeal for the extension of AFSPA throughout the State of Manipur and hastening of the ongoing Political Talks with the UPF and KNO so that an administrative setup for the Zo people in the form of a Union Territory with a Legislature totally separate from Manipur be created at the earliest to prevent further loss of lives and property before the impact of the ethnic cleansing spreads like wildfire across the region.
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