Manipur Government Warns Kuki-Zo Group ITLF Over Threat To State Employees To Stop Work In Churachandpur

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Manipur Government Warns Kuki-Zo Group Over Threat To State Employees To Stop Work In Churachandpur

Violent protests broke out in Manipur’s Churachandpur over the suspension of a cop last week

Imphal:

The Manipur government has called a statement by the Kuki-Zo group Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) to shut down all state government offices in the hill district Churachandpur on Monday “illegal”, and warned of legal action over forcing people to follow the ITLF diktat.

The state government in a statement on Sunday said many internally displaced people are living in relief camps; financial aid for them to buy clothing and personal belongings will be disbursed soon, and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) exams have started, so will the state board exams soon.

Amid all this, any government employee who doesn’t come to work won’t get paid, per the “no work, no pay” policy, the statement said.

Warning the ITLF, the government said it “views the matter very seriously with outmost sensitivity as the same act is illegal and the notice so issued is without any authority.”

“… The Governor of Manipur is pleased to order that no one shall or attempt to make any deliberate effort to enforce or follow the above notice (ITLF’s) at any cost. In case of any violation of the above orders (government’s), the person(s) concerned without any exception shall be booked and prosecuted…” the government said in the statement.

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The ITLF on Sunday had warned that all state government employees shouldn’t come to work on Monday, following the end of its 24-hour ultimatum to the N Biren Singh government to reinstate head constable Siamlalpaul, who was suspended over allegations that he had been training an armed group, who call themselves “village defence volunteers”.

Siamlalpaul’s selfie and a video at a hill bunker, which had gone viral on social media, also contained visuals of young people armed with military-grade assault rifles, some with attachments like silencers and scopes; sniper rifles, and even submachine guns like the German-origin MP5.

The ITLF had demanded the replacement of Churachandpur police chief Shivanand Surve, and the Deputy Commissioner S Dharun Kumar, holding them “entirely responsible” for the violent protest in the Kuki-Zo-dominated district, where two protesters were killed in firing by central forces after huge crowds threatened to overrun their positions last week. There are no state forces in Churachandpur.

“24 hours have passed since ITLF have given an ultimatum to cancel the suspension order of the head constable Siamlalpaul and the replacement of Superintendent of Police, Shivanand Surve and the Deputy Commissioner S. Dharun Kumar. So far, no cancellation or replacement has been carried out as of yet… If someone is seen at the office, they will be held accountable if something unfortunate were to happen to them. Financial, medical, and educational institutions will be exempt,” the ITLF said in the statement on Sunday.

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The ITLF has alleged videos have been doing the rounds on social media in the past few months showing Manipur Police personnel fighting alongside armed groups and attacking Kuki-Zo areas, but no action has been taken against them.

The protesters have said the head constable was suspended unfairly, and should be reinstated. Churachandpur was one of the areas most affected by the ethnic clashes that began in May 2023.

The Chief Minister told reporters on Saturday that a police case will also be filed against “an elected leader” whose “fake post” on social media incited people in Churachandpur to turn violent. Mr Singh pointed to the suspension of seven cops and how forces guarding an armoury in Imphal valley had opened fire on protesters who tried to loot the facility, killing two of them.

“An elected leader, who I will not name, posted fake news that no cop was suspended in armoury loot cases in the valley, while a cop was suspended in Churachandpur over a case. This incited people in Churachandpur. This is wrong information. We have also suspended seven cops and the forces guarding the armoury had opened fired to stop the protesters. Two were killed. We condemn such leaders spreading hate to confuse and incite people,” the Chief Minister had said, and warned the ITLF against misleading the public.

Tensions between the hill-majority Kuki-Zo tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis have been lingering on nine months since clashes broke out between the two communities over disagreements on land, resources, political representation, and affirmative action policies.

Over 180 people have died in the violence, and thousands have been internally displaced. The two communities are sharply divided now, with people from either community not going to areas where those from the other community live.

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