Manipur’s Transgender Activist Malem Thongam On Hunger Strike In Delhi, Seeks End To Ethnic Violence

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Manipur's Transgender Activist On Hunger Strike In Delhi, Seeks End To Ethnic Violence

Manipur’s transgender activist Malem Thongam on a protest fast in Delhi

New Delhi:

A transgender activist from Manipur who has been fasting for the past four days in Delhi, seeking an end to the ethnic violence in the state, was taken to a hospital after her health condition deteriorated on Monday. Following a check-up, she resumed her hunger strike at a gurdwara near central Delhi’s Connaught Place, the civil society group that she heads said in a statement on Monday.

Malem Thongam, the chief of Lamyamba Irabot Memorial Integrated Trust, started her fast on February 22. She was, however, detained by the police and along with members of the civil society group Delhi Meetei Coordinating Committee (DMCC).

After she was released, she continued her fast in front of the home of Manipur MP Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, from where she was again detained by the police.

The police have asked her to stay at the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in central Delhi, where she has resumed her fast to demand the scrapping of a tripartite agreement between Kuki-Zo insurgents and the centre and the state government, which Manipur’s valley-majority Meiteis say is one of the root causes of the ethnic violence with the hill-majority Kuki-Zo tribes.

“We request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come to Manipur and stop the violence. To bring peace and normalcy to the state, the Centre and the Manipur government should end the suspension of operations (SoO) agreement with Kuki-Zo insurgents,” Ms Thongam’s civil society group and the DMCC said in a statement on Monday.

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The authorities should speak to her as soon as possible and give assurances, Imphal-based rights activists have said, and pointed at how Manipur’s iconic activist Irom Sharmila didn’t eat for 16 years and had to be force-fed, bringing the nation’s attention to a problem that should have been addressed much earlier.

Every year, a joint monitoring group (JMG) reviews the SoO agreement and decides whether to end or renew it. The next review is on February 29. Broadly, the SoO agreement says the insurgents are to stay at designated camps and their weapons kept in locked storage, to be monitored regularly.

There have been allegations that full attendance at many of the SoO camps has not been observed.

Over two dozen Kuki-Zo insurgent groups come under two umbrella groups – the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), and the United People’s Front (UPF). These two representing the others have signed the SoO agreement.

The ethnic violence in Manipur over disagreements on land, resources, political representation, and affirmative action policies has dragged on for nine months now.

Both sides accuse each other of atrocities. The Kuki-Zo tribes say their “village defence volunteers” have been repelling attacks by armed groups from the valley, who come to the hills across the “buffer zone” with obvious intentions. Both call themselves “village defence volunteers”, a definition of the belligerents in Manipur that has become the most controversial since nothing stops these “volunteers” from killing people under the insurance provided by “in self-defence”.

Over 180 have died in the violence, and thousands have been internally displaced.

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