Aizawl: The ripples of the continuing unrest in Manipur reached the streets of Aizawl, the capital of neighbouring Mizoram, Tuesday with hundreds of people and political leaders, led by Chief Minister Zoramthanga, taking to the streets to express their solidarity with the Kuki community, which shares deep ethnic ties with the Mizos.
Among the issues highlighted by them was the Kukis’ demand for a separate state.
The Kukis, including legislators from the community in Manipur, have been demanding a separate administration for them under Article 3 of the Indian Constitution, which deals with the “formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing states” through an Act of the Parliament.
Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) MLA Vanlalthlana, who represents the Aizawl North 2 constituency, told ThePrint that the Mizoram-based parties and organisations are justified in demanding a separate territory for the Kukis as the matter has reached a “tipping point”.
“We find it very unfortunate that N. Biren Singh, the CM of Manipur, and even our prime minister, are very insensitive towards the plight, the sufferings of the tribals in Manipur. The parading of the naked women like animals, that was the tipping point, and I hope that the world will come to know what has happened to the tribals there,” Vanlathlana said.
Organised by the NGO Coordination Committee — a joint forum of several non-governmental organisations and student associations — the march Tuesday saw an outpouring of anger against the central and Manipur governments, particularly over the instances of sexual violence against Kuki women.
However, while CM Zoramthanga, who leads the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), backed the movement, he told reporters that his party has not yet taken any decision on exiting the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party in Manipur.
“Well, so far, the party (Mizo National Front) has not made a consideration for this (quitting NDA). It depends upon the political necessity…,” he said. He was, however, quick to add that the MNF’s support to the NDA was “issue based”. On the Manipur question, he said, “We are totally opposed”.
The CM also deflected questions on the continuation of Biren Singh as chief minister of Manipur, saying, “In politics, there is no hard and fast rule”.
The march saw parties coming together from across the political divide, with the MNF, Congress and the ZPM sharing the dais.
“Certainly, we are all united. Irrespective of parties, organisations, different communities, we are all united for this purpose,” Zoramthanga told media persons after the march.
The Mizo-Kuki-Chin group essentially share a similar ethnicity — the Zo.
The Zo community is spread across Northeast India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Earlier this month, Zoramthanga had said that Kukis are “my kin…my own blood”.
Meanwhile, people across Aizawl installed black flags at their houses to express their solidarity with the Kuki-Zo people in Manipur, where at least 150 people have died in clashes that broke out in early May after a tribal solidarity march against the inclusion of the dominant Meitei community in the ST category acted as a trigger.
ThePrint reached BJP’s only MLA in Mizoram, Buddha Dhan Chakma, via calls. This article will be updated if and when a response is received.
‘We feel their pain’
The NGO Coordination Committee also managed to raise Rs 10.17 lakh from the march in Aizawl alone. Smaller marches held in Champai, Kolasib and Serchhip districts raised around Rs 5 lakh separately, said Prof Malsawmliana, assistant secretary of the Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA), one of the organisations under the umbrella of the committee.
“The funds will be spent in assisting the thousands of our people who have been displaced from Manipur and have taken shelter here,” Malsawmliana, who teaches history at a government college here, said. According to Mizoram government records, of the 12,301 displaced, 2,920 are in 35 relief camps set up in Aizawl, Kolasib and Saitual districts, while the rest have taken shelter with relatives and friends in the state.
The Mizoram government has also sought immediate financial assistance of Rs 10 crore from the central government to support their relief efforts, but New Delhi is yet to respond, said a state government official to ThePrint. As of now, the state finance department has released Rs 5 crore to run the relief camps.
Among those who turned up for the march, which culminated at the North Gate of the Mizoram Governor’s House, were a large number of women. “We strongly condemn the horrific and barbaric act of these Manipuris…we feel their pain. We are hurt and we want to stand with them in every possible way. We want the central government to stand with us and give (Kukis) a separate state as demanded,” said Mimi (who only goes by her first name), a representative of the All Mizoram Women Federation.
The NGO Coordination Committee — which, apart from the CYMA, has Mizoram Upa Pawl (MUP), Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP), Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) and Mizo Students’ Union (MSU) as members — also submitted a memorandum to Governor Kambhampati Hari Babu after the march. ThePrint has accessed the memorandum.
“While our nation has always been considered as the world’s largest democracy, it is unfortunate that the ongoing strife in Manipur is exposing a bleak image of a chaotic and undemocratic India, and a collapsing government before the entire world, creating opportunities for our rivals to ridicule us. This is not what India wants, and certainly not what our Constitution stands for,” stated the memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister’s Office.
“The inhumane acts of atrocities committed upon tribal women violating their dignity are numerous and unrecorded. The recent viral videos of two Zo ethnic women being paraded naked and brutally molested and then gang raped by an unruly Meitei mob not only indicate the failure of constitutional machinery in the state, but also reveals that humanity as being severely torn to pieces in the state of Manipur, which has depicted India in bad light before the entire world,” it added.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)