Home INDIA Won’t Deposit Licenced Arms, Need For Defence: Kuki-Zo Group In Manipur Ahead Of Elections

Won’t Deposit Licenced Arms, Need For Defence: Kuki-Zo Group In Manipur Ahead Of Elections

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Won't deposit licensed weapons, need for defense: Kuki-Zo group in Manipur ahead of elections


Kuki-Zo group ITLF said in a statement that licensed weapons submitted last year have not been returned


A Kuki-Zo civil society organization spearheading the call for separate rule in Manipur has asked tribal members not to deposit their licensed weapons in police stations ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. the ethnic tensions with the Meiteis majority in the valley.

District magistrates in Manipur and other states had issued orders informing the public to hand over their licensed weapons to the police to be returned after the elections, as per the Election Commission’s model code, and to ensure compliance with the Representation of the People Act, which prohibits citizens from carrying weapons in and around voting booths.

The Kuki-Zo group’s Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) said in a statement that the licensed weapons submitted last year have not yet been returned. “We need every weapon available to defend our ‘right to life’ and our country…,” the ITLF said in the statement signed by Chairman Pagin Haokip and Secretary Muan Tombing.

“The attempt of the state government to base the present dispensation solely on election issues and thus issue the order for surrender of arms to arms license holders at the competent police station may not be appropriate considering the plight and uncertainty we are facing . This will only invite more controversy and uncertainty that will rightly offend the Kuki-Zo people,” the ITLF said.

Sources said the order is not state-specific and has not been initiated by the state authorities themselves but is part of the Election Commission code followed before the Lok Sabha elections.

The ITLF in the statement asked members of the Kuki-Zo tribes “not to comply” with the order to hand over licensed weapons to the police. The Kuki-Zo tribes have often alleged that armed Meitei groups, such as the Arambai Tenggol, have crossed sensitive areas guarded by central forces to attack their villages.

The Meiteis have leveled counter accusations, pointing out that Kuki-Zo insurgents are attacking civilians using the Suspension of Operations Agreement (SoO), a kind of ceasefire signed with the Center and the state government. Both sides call their armed groups ‘village defense volunteers’.

The ITLF’s call to defy the order to deposit licensed weapons at police stations violated the strict code of the Election Commission (EC), police sources said, adding that the EC will be informed of the Kuki-Zo Group Statement for Action.

More than 4,000 types of weapons were looted during the violence in Manipur. Many police stations in and around the Imphal Valley were raided by mobs, and many were shot as they overran the guards. On May 3, 2023, the day the violence broke out, a gun shop in Kuki-Zo-dominated Churachandpur was attacked by gangs. N Ibomcha, the shop owner, later told local media that it was the first looting of an arms depot when clashes broke out.

One similarity between the “village defense volunteers” from both sides is that they appear to be well armed and well equipped with modern combat equipment. Security forces have regularly recovered Russian AK and American M-series assault rifles, as well as weapon models commonly used by both the junta’s military and pro-democracy insurgents in neighboring Myanmar.

Ethnic violence in Manipur erupted due to cataclysmic disagreements over land sharing, resources, political representation and affirmative action policies between the Kuki-Zo tribes and the Meiteis. The clashes have left more than 200 people dead and thousands internally displaced.

The Kuki-Zo tribes form the majority in the hill areas of southern Manipur and some other districts. The Meiteis form a majority in the valley areas.

Manipur has two Lok Sabha seats: Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur. The entire Inner Manipur constituency and some areas under Outer Manipur will vote on April 19. The remaining areas under Outer Manipur will vote on April 26. The votes will be counted on June 4.

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