Meitei Leepun, a Meitei organisation, has been in the thick of allegations by Kuki organisations of being involved in attacks on Kuki villages and areas in the ongoing clashes between Meiteis and Kukis in Manipur. Pramot Singh, the chief of Meitei Leepun, denies this but says his organisation has a chain of command which is activated in times of crisis.
In a conversation with Frontline, Singh said: “We are evacuating the injured, the elderly, women, and children to safer places while we are trying to save Meitei houses that were set on fire by Kuki militants. If for doing those activities they say we should be outlawed, the same question can be asked about Kuki organsations. So we are not bothered by their accusation.”
About the activities of his organisation, Singh said: “We train children how to be disciplined, show respect to gurus. We also train people in the time of fire or flood, how our people can be evacuated, how the fire should be stopped, whom we should talk to in such a crisis, and how our chain of command works, in such a drill. We train so that at the time of crisis the system can be activated through a chain of command.”
He alleged that the current conflict “is all about illegal immigration in Manipur” and “external aggression against India” by armed Kuki groups from Myanmar. He alleged that armed Kuki groups in India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh share a common vision of having their own homeland.
He accused Kukis in Manipur, the “permanent residents and those brought by British”, of “harbouring illegal infiltrators” from Myanmar. “It is our right to defend our land from being encroached upon by illegal infiltrators. By killing our people they are declaring war on Meiteis,” he said.
Singh alleged that armed Kuki groups took advantage of a ceasefire in Myanmar to start poppy cultivation. He claimed that after being neutralised by the neighbouring country these groups have shifted to Manipur. “They are finding new places where government does not reach, administration does not reach in hill areas of Manipur. The same thing is happening in Bangladesh and Myanmar,” he said.
“In Manipur they are coming as if they are persecuted for a democratic movement, No. It is wrong. They fight with the military,they fight with democratic government. In the name of this pro-democracy fight, they are coming as refugees in Manipur and they are sheltered by those Kukis who are permanent citizens of Manipur and brought by British. That is where the problem starts. In Myanmar they are fighting, in Bangladesh they are fighting, in Manipur they are fighting, It is a global war; thinkers in Delhi are trying to see it as a localised Kuki versus Meitei riot. No, it is a global war,” he said.
- Meitei Leepun, a Meitei organisation, has been in the thick of allegations by Kuki organisations of being involved in attacks on Kuki villages and areas in the ongoing clashes between Meiteis and Kukis in Manipur.
- Pramot Singh, the chief of Meitei Leepun, says that Kukis are bringing in people from their tribe from across the border in Myanmar and Bangladesh in order to realise their vision of a Kuki homeland.
- He claims that poppy cultivation in an important part of this project of establishing a Kuki homeland.
Asked how the conflict can be resolved, the Meitei Leepun chief demanded the National Register of Citizens should be compiled in Manipur at the earliest with 1961 as the cut-off year. He asserted that the hills in Manipur had been given to the Meiteis by the kings and “protected by our forefathers”. He claimed that the Nagas and Meiteis are indigenous people of the State while Kukis are “permanent citizens of India and bought by the British”.
Singh emphasised that displaced people should be able to return to their villages but said Kuki people displaced from the valley can be allowed back only after their credentials are reviewed.
“Security should be given to the Meiteis who were driven out from Churachandpur and Kangpokpi. Because their houses were burnt down, their families and friends were killed in front of security forces, and they don’t feel safe. Their confidence should be nurtured and these Meiteis should go back,” he said. “Then they (Kukis in the valley) can come and we can talk about peace. Otherwise, just calling for peace, without a mechanism, is not going to work. Peace is a very beautiful word. When you keep saying peace without putting in place a mechanism on the ground, people whose houses were burnt down and who are living in the relief camp as refugees in their own land, people whose brothers were killed: to such people the word peace sounds like a mockery.”
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“These illegal immigrants have a collective vision called ‘homeland’. We also should have a collective vision of not letting this homeland happen in Manipur,” the Meitei Leepun chief added.
Singh described Manipur as the “last outpost of the purest form of sanatana dharma of Hinduism”. He said this pure form of Hinduism survived in Dwaraka, Mathura, Nabadwip, and Manipur. “If we are overcome by illegal immigrants, the last outpost of Sanatana dharma in the easternmost corner of India will be lost. This is something the people of India should look into.” he said.