North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA) Canada chief Lien Gangte in Surrey
A speech by the leader of a Canada-based Kuki-Zo tribes group from Manipur over the ethnic violence back home has sparked a massive controversy. The event in early August was held at the same gurdwara in Canada's Surrey, whose chief and Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead by unidentified people in June.
Lien Gangte, the Canada chapter chief of the North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA), in his address condemned what he called "attacks on minorities in India" and asked Canada for "all possible help".
NAMTA had posted a video of the event on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) on August 7. It deleted the videos much later when the row between India and Canada surfaced following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's claim last week that "Indian government agents" were involved in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Nijjar.
Mr Gangte, on behalf of the Kuki-Zo tribes to which he belongs, spoke at length about the ethnic violence between the hill-majority tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis.
"On May 4, a mob attacked our house and tried to kill my father. He is 80 years old... They looted our house and set it on fire. My elder brother and his family ran with only the clothes they were wearing. Manipur has been burning since May 3. Over 120 of our people have died, over 7,000 homes looted and burnt, hundreds of churches burnt and 200 villages in the valley razed," Mr Gangte said.
"The authorities did not do anything to control the violence. The Manipur Police instead encouraged the rioters. We were removed from Imphal valley viciously, so we consider this ethnic cleansing. They burnt alive a seven-year-old boy, his mother and a relative in an ambulance... And they say we should talk about peace and normalcy," Mr Gangte alleged.
"... When all this was happening in India, where was Prime Minister Narendra Modi... He went to the US, France, Egypt, except the place that needed his attention the most," the NAMTA Canada leader said. "No minority is safe in India. Whether Muslim, Sikh, Christians. We condemn attacks on minorities in India. We request all possible help from Canada," Mr Gangte said.
India's intelligence agencies are keeping an eye on NAMTA's activities and the Kuki-Zo group's alleged links with Khalistanis, The Times of India reported on Thursday, quoting unnamed officials.
After Mr Gangte's speech, NAMTA members and supporters of the Khalistani terrorist Nijjar also sat for a meeting, First Post reported on Thursday, quoting unnamed intelligence sources. The development has alarmed intelligence agencies, it said.
Sources in the Manipur government told NDTV they have seen the social media posts on NAMTA's activities in Canada. "We have seen the NAMTA video. It's worrying, but we are confident the intelligence agencies are tracking them, considering the situation in Manipur. We are at the moment working hard to bring normalcy and peace," a senior officer in the Manipur Home Department told NDTV, requesting anonymity.
A Kuki-Zo communications professional who has been tracking the Manipur crisis told NDTV that the NAMTA video has been blown out of proportion, and its critics are forcing a conspiracy where none exists. The video came out in early August and no one had any problem with it until the Canada-India row over Nijjar's killing started.
"This talk of NAMTA's association with Khalistanis is a big lie. It has no credibility whatsoever except for troll handles posting this. Tomorrow, if trolls start calling you a terrorist, you will have to give a statement?" the communications professional said, requesting anonymity.
Over 180 have died in the ethnic violence in Manipur that began on May 3 between the Kuki tribes and the Meiteis over the Meiteis' demand for Scheduled Tribes category status. Thousands have been displaced and are living in relief camps and prefabricated houses.