Supreme Court seeks fresh status report on Manipur violence 

3 July, 2023 | Bhavnish Tawar

PTI05 05 2023 000080A 1 National

The Supreme Court directed the Manipur government to submit an updated status report on the ethnic violence in the state

On Monday, the Supreme Court requested an up-to-date status report from the State of Manipur concerning the current situation and the actions taken to address the violence within the State. Presiding over the matter, a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra instructed the State to provide updates on issues such as rehabilitation camps, recovery of arms, and maintenance of law and order. The bench has scheduled the hearing for July 10 and has mandated the government to submit a comprehensive status report. The apex court was addressing a petition presented by the Manipur Tribal Forum in Delhi, which sought the safeguarding of the Kuki tribe by the Indian Army.

During the proceedings, Colin Gonsalves, a senior advocate representing the Manipur Tribal Forum, informed the bench that the situation in Manipur had deteriorated significantly. In response, the Solicitor General of India, representing the State, stated before the apex court that although progress is slow, there has been an improvement in the situation.

The Solicitor General highlighted that the curfew has now been reduced to five hours daily, signalling a positive development.
Additionally, he mentioned the presence of various law enforcement agencies, including the Civil police, Manipur Commandos, Indian reserve battalions, and 114 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) deployed in the violence-affected areas of Manipur. The Solicitor General respectfully urged advocate Gonsalves, counsel for the Manipur Tribal Forum, to refrain from introducing any communal sentiments such as religious affiliations, particularly on Christians or any other specific group, as the matter at hand concerns the fair treatment of individuals as fellow human beings.”My learned friend (Gonsalves) may not give this a communal angle- like Christians or something. Real human beings are being dealt with,” said Solicitor General.

He alleged that one leader from the Meitei group came to an interview hosted by Karan Thapar and gave open threats against Kukis.

The individual stated that three tribals were killed, with one even being beheaded, marking the first instance of such brutality towards tribals. Emphasizing the dominance of the Meities, the individual claimed that the Kukis were not the ones initiating the attacks; instead, they were defending themselves in their villages. The individual further contended that armed groups were crossing established boundaries.
Additionally, the individual mentioned that the army had released two press statements suggesting that women gathering in large numbers hindered their ability to protect the people. Counsel representing the Meities Organization has emphasized the need for a thorough investigation into the origin of assault weapons and the militant groups responsible for the ongoing violence. It is suspected that these militants have emerged from their hideouts and engaged in combat, as there is no other plausible explanation for the presence of such weapons. Furthermore, it is crucial to conduct a total headcount of these militants. The Union of India should undertake this responsibility and address this issue accordingly. In a separate development, the Manipur Tribal Forum has filed an interlocutory application stating that the assurances provided by the central and State governments to the highest court concerning the recent outbreak of violence in Manipur are insincere and lacking in substance. The forum vows not to rely on these “empty assurances” from the governments. The application submitted requested that the Indian Army be entrusted with safeguarding the tribe, as the State and its Police force lacked the tribe’s trust. It specifically sought the issuance of directives to the Indian Army, granting them complete control over the maintenance of law and order and public security in the districts of Churachanpur, Chandel, Kangpokpi, Imphal East, and Imphal West.

The forum expressed a lack of confidence in the commission of inquiry established by the Centre, led by former Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Ajai Lamba. It urged for the dismissal of the current commission and the establishment of a single-member commission consisting of the former Delhi High Court Chief Justice and Law Commission chairperson, AP Shah.

Furthermore, the application called for forming a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former Assam police chief Harekrishna Deka. Additionally, it requested ex-gratia payments of Rs two crore to the families of each individual who lost their lives within three months. The application also demanded a permanent government job for a bereaved family member. The Supreme Court has taken up the cases about the violence in Manipur and has requested status reports from the Central and State governments regarding the relief and rehabilitation efforts for those affected by the conflicts between the Meitei and Kuki communities. Highlighting its concerns over the loss of lives and properties in Manipur during the clashes between these two groups, the apex court stressed the necessity of implementing appropriate measures to restore normalcy in the region.
Additionally, on March 27, the High Court directed the State to consider including the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list. The unrest in Manipur originated from a demonstration organized by the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM) on May 3, which caused tensions between the Hindu Meiteis and the Christian tribal Kuki community. Violence has prevailed throughout the entire State for more than a month, which necessitated the deployment of paramilitary forces by the central government to restore order and stabilize the situation.