Meiteis protest in Delhi demanding NRC exercise in Manipur to identify illegal immigrants
The Meitei community of Manipur gathered in large numbers at Delhi's Jantar Mantar today to demand the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), an exercise to identify illegal immigrants and deport them.
The protest comes amid simmering tension in Manipur, where thousands of people from the Meitei and the tribal Kuki communities have been internally displaced after violence broke out earlier this month over the Meiteis' demand to be included in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.
The protesters said Meiteis who have been living in Kuki-majority hills have left their homes and they are unable to return, allegedly due to threats from Kuki insurgents who are hiding in the hills.
The NRC was last done in Assam, where many people alleged they have been misidentified as foreigners. They had to go to the foreigners' tribunals and the courts for relief.
"The entry of illegal migrants needs to be identified which is the need of the hour. This will help to safeguard all the indigenous communities in Manipur. The illegal immigrants with the support of their armed insurgent wings have raised atrocities to the indigenous community systematically since 1993 and this should be stopped at any cost," World Meitei Council chairman Heigrujam Nabashyam, who is one of the organisers of the protest, said in a statement.
"Meiteis have been demanding constitutional protection for their survival for the past 11 years. Only constitutional protection to Meiteis will allow them to survive against the rapid changing demography caused by the influx of illegal immigrants from neighbouring Myanmar," it said in the statement.
Manipur's Meiteis say the government should conduct the NRC to identify illegal immigrants from Myanmar
The Kukis have objected to the Meiteis' demand for inclusion under ST category citing the numerically larger and economically stronger Meiteis will grab all government benefits and take their lands.
Currently, the Meiteis - Hindus who are mostly settled in and around the state capital Imphal valley - can't buy land in the tribal-majority hills, while the tribals can buy land in the valley.
Tensions had been dormant for a while as the Meiteis continued to push for their ST demand. However, violence broke out during a protest by an umbrella group of all tribals in Manipur's Churachandpur district against the Meiteis' ST demand earlier this month, after which it spread in the following days.
The Meiteis have alleged Kuki insurgents, seen armed on visuals, openly participated in the Churachandpur protest. Some 60 people from both communities have died in the violence that followed. Kukis who lived in and around Imphal valley have fled, and Meiteis who lived in Kukis settlements in the hills have come to relief camps in the valley.
A protest by Manipur's Meiteis demanding the NRC amid simmering tension in the state after recent ethnic violence
The army has asked people to guard against fake news on social media about the situation in Manipur. "Numerous queries on content posted on social media and messaging apps related to Manipur were made to us and most of them were found untrue. Indian Army requests everyone to rely on information disseminated through verified handles only," the Spear Corps tweeted.
The Assam Rifles along with state government agencies and local groups have successfully helped 124 displaced people return to their homes in Manipur's Moreh, on the border with Myanmar, news agency ANI reported. Officials said the successful return of the displaced people is a positive sign of healing and progress.
Ten tribal MLAs in Manipur have asked the centre to create a separate administration for their community.
"As the state of Manipur has miserably failed to protect us, we seek from the Union of India a separate administration under the Constitution of India and live peacefully as neighbours with the state of Manipur," the MLAs said in a statement on Friday.