Understanding the Violence in Manipur’s Churachandpur before CM N Biren Singh’s Visit

Violence in Manipur

After two days of chaos and violence, calm was restored to Manipur’s Churachandpur district on April 30. The disturbance began when a mob attacked an open gym that was to be inaugurated by the Chief Minister of the state, N Biren Singh, on Thursday night. Chairs were burned, and the mob disrupted a public rally scheduled to occur after the gym’s inauguration. To quell the unrest, the district administration imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Which prohibits the assembly of five or more people in a given area, and instituted a night curfew. These measures were implemented in Lamka town, which was the focal point of the violence. Mobile internet services were suspended for five days in Churachandpur and its neighboring district of Pherzawl. Both of which are predominantly inhabited by the Kuki tribe.

What Led to the Violence in Manipur’s Churachandpur?

The recent violence in Churachandpur, Manipur, was sparked by a call from the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF). To shut down the district for eight hours in protest against a government land survey. The forum also announced that it would not cooperate with any government program held in the district. The shutdown was scheduled to begin at 8 am on Friday, the same day that the Manipur Chief Minister, N Biren Singh, was due to visit the district.

Before the shutdown, videos and pictures surfaced on social media platforms in the state, showing a mob tearing down an open gym in the PT sports complex that was supposed to be inaugurated by the Chief Minister. The mob also set fire to chairs at the Sadhavana Bhawan, where the Chief Minister was due to address a public rally located nearby.

Despite the violence, Biren proceeded with his visit to the district. Demonstrators attempted to storm the event venues where officials and a large number of people were waiting for the Chief Minister. Police used tear gas to disperse the protestors who responded by pelting stones at them. In the ensuing clash, one policeman was injured, and two protestors were arrested.

Due to the tense situation, the Chief Minister canceled his visit. The confrontation between the police and the protestors continued until late Friday night. That same night, some individuals set fire to a forest range office located in the Tuibong area, causing damage worth lakhs of rupees. This arson attack prompted the authorities to impose a night curfew from 5 pm to 5 am across the entire Churachandpur district and section 144 from 5 am to 5 pm until further notice.

What Are Kuki Groups Saying?

Tribal bodies, particularly the Kuki tribes, have expressed their discontent with the land survey conducted by the Manipur state government. The Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest region spans an area of approximately 490 sq km and spreads across three districts. The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) has announced that they will continue to oppose the government until it revokes the 1966 order that declared tribal areas as protected/reserved forests.

According to Mon Tombing, the secretary of the tribal forum, the government surveyed without the consent of the people, and several lapses were observed in the procedure. He has called for the intervention of the Central government in this matter.

What was the trigger for the groups?

In February, the residents of K Songjan village in the Henglep sub-division of Churachandpur were forcibly evicted from their homes. As part of the government’s efforts to protect the Churachandpur Khoupum Protected Forest and other reserved forests. The villagers claimed that they were not given any prior notice before the eviction took place. This incident led to the formation of various groups and protests by local communities. Those who felt that their rights were being violated and their livelihoods threatened. These groups demanded that the government provide them with compensation for their lost homes and livelihoods. Also, they are given a say in any future decisions related to forest conservation and management.

What is the government of Manipur saying?

The Chief Minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh, has stated that the recent violence in Manipur’s Churachandpur is an internal matter of the district. He clarified that the open gym inauguration, which was marred by violence, was not organized by the state but was to mark the first anniversary of the election of local MLA LM Khaute. Singh mentioned that he was invited by the MLA for the inauguration. However, he warned that those who oppose development and the establishment will face stern action.

Meanwhile, Union Forest Minister Bhupendra Yadav spoke at an event in Imphal on Sunday. Stating that it is the constitutional responsibility of the state to protect and safeguard its protected and reserved forests. He highlighted that while forests were a state subject under the 1927 Forest Act, they came under the concurrent list after the amendment in 1976. Nevertheless, the ownership of the forests remains with the state. The Union Minister cited the strong opposition in Churachandpur. Also, emphasized that the state government is fulfilling its duties as per the law of the land.

Also read, the report from the economictimes.indiatimes.com stated that clash in the Manipur district.

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