Manipur Tribal Forum Moves Supreme Court With Plea Warning of Post-Election Violence Against Manipur's Kuki-Zo Tribe

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The plea highlights the imminent threat of violence against Kuki Tribe by armed assailant groups with the purpose to annihilate the Kuki population and seeks preventive measures including protection by armed forces

The Supreme Court has been approached by the Manipur Tribal Forum, raising apprehensions about potential violence directed at the Kuki-Zo tribal community in Manipur following the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The application highlights alarming reports of armed assailant groups, including the Arambai Tenggol, allegedly threatening the Kuki population with annihilation.

The forum, in its filing, expressed dissatisfaction with the cooperation of Dattatray Padsaligikar, the Maharashtra police officer appointed by the apex court to oversee previous probes into the violent incidents. Despite repeated communications, including five notes detailing recent cases of violence and arms seizures, the allegedly victimised community claims no substantive action has been taken, leaving them vulnerable while perpetrators remain at liberty.

"We approach this court with folded hands, seeking urgent measures that may need to be more extensive than previous interventions, considering the imminent threat. This application is filed seeking urgent relief concerning a series of brutal attacks on the Kuki-Zo community. Despite numerous appeals to the respected DGP (Dattatray) Padsaligikar and the passage of time, no actions seem to have been taken," the plea stated.

Of particular concern is the alleged beheading of a young Kuki boy named David Thiek, purportedly by the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of a sitting MLA, Shri S. Premchandra Singh. Shockingly, despite evidence, including videos circulating online depicting the gruesome act, no response or action has been forthcoming from the authorities.

In correspondence addressed to Dattatray Padsalgikar, it has been detailed: "...videos readily accessible on the internet depict the heinous act of beheading a young Kuki boy named David Thiek. Shockingly, the perpetrator identified in these videos is none other than the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the incumbent MLA of Kumbi Assembly constituency, Shri S. Premchandra Singh. The footage shows him parading down the street, clutching the severed head of the victim by the hair, before callously affixing it to a bamboo fence. We express our profound dismay that despite bringing this barbaric act to your attention, there has been no discernible response."

Notably, the Supreme Court is presently considering a series of petitions regarding the unrest in Manipur, which erupted on May 03, 2023, resulting in large scale deaths and displacement.

In July last year, the Supreme Court requested the Manipur government to furnish a detailed breakdown of approximately 6000 FIRs pertaining to the state's violence. During the hearing on August 01, 2023, the Supreme Court criticised the sluggish pace of police investigations, describing them as "tardy," and remarked that the state had experienced an "absolute breakdown of the constitutional machinery,"  expressing dismay upon discovering that it took 14 days for the police to even register a zero FIR in the case involving two women who were publicly assaulted and paraded naked by a mob.

On August 7th, 2023, the Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance and formed an all women committee comprising retired Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Gita Mittal (who would lead the committee), along with former Bombay High Court judge, Justice Shalini Phansaklar Joshi, and former Delhi High Court judge, Asha Menon, to address relief and rehabilitation.

In November 2023, the Court had instructed the Manipur government to ensure the decent burial of unidentified and unclaimed bodies of victims of the violence.

The latest plea, submitted by the Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi via Advocate Satya Mitra, requests access to reports from both Padsaligikar and the Justice Mittal Committee.

Additionally, a demand has been made to arrest of the leaders of the Arambai Tenggol and Meetei Leepun groups to prevent further acts of violence against the Kuki-Zo community.

Furthermore, specific directions include the apprehension of S. Premchandra Singh for his alleged involvement in the beheading incident and disclosure of comprehensive details regarding criminal complaints, investigations, arrests, court orders, and chargesheets related to the deaths of 170 Kukis and cases of violence against women.

Lastly, the application urges the Indian Army to promptly safeguard the lives and properties of the Kuki-Zo community, emphasising the immediate need for protective measures.