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Kuki-Zo Group In US Calls For Justice; “Propaganda,” Says Chief Minister

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Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh has strongly condemned activities by what he called “homegrown groups based out of western countries” for giving a “communal tone” to the state government’s efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

The Chief Minister’s comments come amid a massive pushback by the Kuki-Zo tribes with allegations that the state government is bent on branding them in Manipur as “illegal immigrants” from Myanmar, with the goal of taking over tribal lands.

Mr Singh in a post on X announced his government found 5,457 “illegal immigrants” in Manipur, and took the biometric data of at least 5,173 of them.

“In this crucial juncture, we have noticed certain homegrown groups, based out of western countries, criticising the steps taken up against illegal immigration by giving a communal tone and propagating it as violations of religious freedom,” Mr Singh said, without giving details about the groups.

* 5457 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DETECTED IN MANIPUR, INDIA
* BIOMETRIC DATA OF 5173 OF THEM RECORDED
* DEPORTATION PROCESS UNDERWAY

In this crucial juncture, we have noticed certain home grown groups, based out of western countries, criticising the steps taken up against illegal… pic.twitter.com/eZBGEx7drP

— N.Biren Singh (Modi Ka Parivar) (@NBirenSingh) May 8, 2024

“This is a situation where the survival of indigenous people are at stake, and we will not allow it to continue,” said the Chief Minister, who belongs to the BJP. “Ironically, this lobby is quiet about western countries’ stance against illegal immigration but raise objections to the actions taken in Manipur, India. This selective outrage raises concerns about the agendas and propaganda pursued by these groups with secessionist tendencies,” he said.

The Chief Minister said his government has been giving humanitarian aid to the illegal immigrants. “Despite being an alarming situation, we have been handling it with utmost sensitivity,” he added.

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The Government has detected a total of 5457 illegal immigrants in Kamjong District, Manipur as on May 7th, 2024. Out of…

— N.Biren Singh (Modi Ka Parivar) (@NBirenSingh) May 8, 2024

Rights activists have, however, questioned why the Manipur government is labelling as “illegal immigrants” thousands and thousands of people including children who, left with no choice, fled as refugees from Myanmar, where the junta forces are at war with many pro-democracy insurgents.

The Chief Minister also did not mention the period during which these 5,457 people entered Manipur. Neighbouring Mizoram has taken in nearly 40,000 refugees from Myanmar, with whom they share close ethnic ties.

Kuki-Zo Group’s Charge

Though Mr Singh did not name any group, his allegations that homegrown groups in the west have been “propagating it (issue of illegal immigrants) as violations of religious freedom” came two days after the Kuki-Zo outreach group North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA) organised a congressional hearing on the Manipur crisis.

NAMTA in the congressional hearing strongly condemned the Manipur government’s alleged complicity in the violence between the valley-dominant Meitei community and the Kuki-Zo tribes, who are dominant in southern Manipur’s hill districts and a few other areas.

NAMTA Canada chapter head Lien Gangte recalled how mobs went on a rampage in the state capital Imphal when violence broke out on May 3, 2023. Meiteis who had been living in the hill areas, too, had to flee to the valley.

“… Today over a year after my family lost everything, we still have no idea if or when our issues will ever be resolved. Will we ever get justice… My people have been subjected to ethnic cleansing… It had become an existential crisis, and we had to fight for survival,” Mr Gangte said in the congressional hearing.

“We were caught in a conflict where the odds were stacked against us because the state had decided to take sides with the majority Hindu Meiteis… Despite being thrown to the wolves, we had no choice but to call on the government of India to fulfil its constitutional duties. We called on them to provide basic security and justice for our people, citizens of India,” Mr Gangte said.

The North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA) on Monday organised a congressional hearing on the Manipur crisis

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commissioner David Curry also attended the congressional hearing, apart from other NAMTA members.

NAMTA and Kuki-Zo intellectuals have refuted allegations the group worked with Khalistani separatists in Canada, after Mr Gangte was seen in August 2023 giving a speech at the same gurdwara in Surrey, whose chief and Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in June that year. The X handles of NAMTA’s chapters in India, the US, and Canada are withheld in India due to legal demands.

It’s not only NAMTA, but also the Association of Meiteis in the Americas (AMA) that has organised congressional hearings to inform US leaders about the situation in Manipur.

The ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo tribes began over cataclysmic disagreements on sharing land, resources, affirmative action policies, and political representation, mainly with the ‘general’ category Meiteis seeking to be included under the Scheduled Tribes category.

Following the violence last year, 10 Kuki-Zo MLAs have demanded a separate administration carved out of Manipur. Manipur has a 60-member assembly.

The Kuki-Zo tribes have also alleged the Manipur Police of bias in how the force operated amid the violence. The Manipur government’s attempt to send police personnel in the hill districts where the Kuki-Zo tribes are settled faced strong resistance, especially in the border town Moreh near Myanmar, Churachandpur, and Kangpokpi.

Over 220 people have died in the clashes, and nearly 50,000 have been internally displaced.

​Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh has strongly condemned activities by what he called “homegrown groups based out of western countries” for giving a “communal tone” to the state government’s efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants. 

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