Demand for Union Territory status gains momentum with Kuki-Zo-Hmar groups aiming to continue their struggle

The call for a Union Territory in Manipur's hill districts, home to the Kuki-Zo-Hmar people, gains traction with leaders planning to raise the issue in New Delhi amid...

The call for a Union Territory carved out of Manipur’s hill districts, predominantly inhabited by the Kuki-Zo-Hmar people, is gaining momentum. Tribal leaders are planning to highlight this issue in New Delhi during the ongoing Parliament session.

Following the recent Lok Sabha elections, the demand for a Union Territory (UT) and justice for victims of violence, which erupted on May 3, 2023, has intensified. The Jiribam incident remains tense but is gradually returning to normalcy. Security agencies are under immense pressure, particularly after Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s review meeting following the Jiribam violence. The highway blockade has been lifted, allowing the movement of goods and regular transport.

A young Kuki-Zo boy
A young Kuki-Zo boy with a banner during the rally on June 24 calling for justice for his father who was killed during the 2023 Manipur violence. Photo credit: Through special arrangements.

The Indigenous Tribes Advocacy Committee (ITAC) submitted a memorandum to Home Minister Shah on June 24, emphasizing the urgent political demand of the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar tribals. They are seeking UT status with a legislature under Article 239A of the Indian Constitution, as proposed by the United Peoples’ Front (UPF) and Kuki National Organisation (KNO) in August 2023.

The ITAC’s memorandum cites persistent marginalization and deprivation faced by the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar tribes, despite the safeguards provided by Article 371C. The current political structure in Manipur has failed to address their aspirations and rights adequately. Historically, the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar communities have endured neglect and deprivation, from the colonial era to post-independence policies like the Manipur State Constitution Act of 1947 and the Merger Agreement of 1949. The memorandum highlights ongoing disparities in political representation and economic exploitation under the state government led by N Biren Singh.

The ITAC also detailed decades of violence and atrocities against the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar tribals. It alleged that in 2006, “Meitei militant groups UNLF and KCP perpetrated mass rape and sexual assault on Hmar women in Pherzawl district, causing lasting trauma.” It further said that since May 2023, multiple rapes, the naked parading of two Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women, and the beheading of David Ṭhiek Hmar by “Meitei militants Arambai Tengol” have further fueled tensions.

ITAC asserts that establishing a UT with a Legislature is a constitutional necessity to safeguard the rights and interests of the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar tribals. They urge Home Minister Amit Shah to expedite their request.

In support of their demand, the tribal populace of Jiribam and Pherzawl districts rallied under the aegis of ITAC, gathering thousands of people at Parbung and Tuisuolien. The mass rally emphasized the need for a separate administration in the form of a UT with a legislature.

The Indigenous Tribal Leader Forum (ITLF) also expressed gratitude to Home Minister Shah for his efforts to curb violence and restore peace in Manipur. They reiterated the same demand for a UT. The ITLF cited ongoing violence, displacement, and daily threats to tribal lives, as well as blocked essential supplies and halted development activities in tribal regions. They called for a separate secretariat for hill districts to manage their affairs until a political solution is achieved.

The ITLF urged the Home Minister to expedite their demand, ensuring the safety and dignity of the Kuki-Zo community in Manipur. The ILFT also organised a peaceful rally in Lamka on June 24 to demand for a political solution to Manipur.

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