Manipur: Massive protest erupts in Kangpokpi over the arrest of Kuki-Zo volunteers

Manipur: Massive protest erupts in Kangpokpi over the arrest of Kuki-Zo volunteers

Three individuals were arrested around 4:00 a.m. today, July 9, by a combined team of state security forces in L. Hengjol village, Kangpokpi District. 

These individuals were accused of being Kuki militants involved in terror activities and were allegedly apprehended with sophisticated weapons and various items.

Meanwhile, Manipur police on its X handle wrote, "On 09.07.2024, joint security forces (SF) of Manipur Police and CRPF launched an operation in L. Hengjol village, New Keithelmanbi PS, Kangpokpi District at around 0330 hrs on the basis of intelligence shared by NIA. There was an exchange of firing between the SF and armed militants. 03 (three) persons who are cadres of an underground outfit, namely (1) Thangjoel Haokip @ Thangboi, (2) Jangjoulen Khongsai @ Goulen and (3) Jangminlun Singson @ Franky were apprehended. The arrested persons are suspected to be involved in various criminal incidents of the recent past. 02 (two) AK rifles, 01 (one) MA1 MK-3 rifle, 01 (one) SBBL and 1,382 (one thousand three hundred eighty-two) rounds of assorted ammunition were recovered in the operation. The arrested persons and seized arms and ammunition have been handed over to NIA for necessary legal action. "

However, the Committee on Tribal Unity Sadar Hills Kangpokpi District (CoTU) and the villagers denied these allegations, claiming that the arrested individuals were actually village volunteers who were guarding the village amid the ongoing violence in the state.

The committee also accused the security forces of launching an unwarranted attack on the residence of Tonghen Haokip, the village chief. 

They claim that this attack resulted in the destruction of property and furniture and injured several women due to what they describe as unprovoked and indiscriminate firing by the security forces.

Strongly responding to the alleged actions of the security forces, highlighting the gravity of the situation, CoTU described the attack on Tonghen Haokip's residence as a deliberate challenge to their existence as a community within a constitutional democracy.

CoTU then issued an ultimatum to the concerned administration, demanding the unconditional release of the three individuals by 5 p.m. on July 9 and cautioned that any negative consequences resulting from non-compliance with their demand would be the responsibility of the authorities, and CoTU should not be held accountable for any such incidents.

Following the expiry of CoTU's ultimatum without a response from the authorities, the Kuki-Zo community across Sadar Hills gathered at Kangpokpi District Headquarters and held a massive rally starting from Brig. M. Thomas Ground to the front of the SP Kangpokpi office, where they staged a significant demonstration in the form of a Sit-in-Protest.

The protestors chanted slogans, "Arrest Injustices Not The Kukis", "Justice Is To Be Serve Not To Deny", "We Are India Not A Terorrist", "We Demand Security Not Insecurity", "We Want Justice", etc. reflecting their frustration.

CoTU's spokesperson, Ng. Lun Kipgen, outlined the community's demands during the protest, emphasizing that the actions are driven by public sentiment.

The charters of demands include the immediate and unconditional release of the three individuals arrested; an official apology to Tonghen Haokip, the chief of L. Hengjol village, in accordance with Kuki customary law, and compensation for the women injured during the security forces' alleged indiscriminate firing, to be provided by the security forces.

He also said that the incident demonstrated the contradictory speech on returning normalcy in the state.

He further said that if their demands are not fulfilled, the protest will continue up to the extent of the highway blockade including economic blockade along the National Highway 2.

The protest continued till the filing of this report.