Manipur: Kuki women threaten to stay away from Lok Sabha elections

The decision was conveyed to chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Wednesday in a joint petition signed by 18 women representatives, including social activists, human rights defenders and academics

Guwahati, March 28, dmanewsdesk: Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women living in and outside strife-hit Manipur have “decided” to boycott the Lok Sabha elections.

The decision was conveyed to chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Wednesday in a joint petition signed by 18 women representatives, including social activists, human rights defenders and academics. “This decision does not come lightly, but as a culmination of their disillusionment and lack of trust in the current administrations, both at the national and state levels,” the petition said, listing eight reasons that prompted them to take the step. Topping the list of reasons is the “absence of justice for the ethnic cleansing” that has resulted in the displacement of over 41,425 Kuki-Zomi-Hmar people from Imphal, along with the “lack of prosecution” for the rape and murder of more than 20 Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women and 167 confirmed deaths in total thus far has “perpetuated an environment where impunity prevails”.

Mary Grace Zou, convener of Kuki-Zo Women’s Forum Delhi and one of the signatories to the petition, told The Telegraph: “We the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women community think boycotting the upcoming polls is the only way to remind the world about our sufferings since May 3, 2023.”

Mary said: We have a reason to make noise that the world’s largest democratic country has failed the minority Kuki-Zo tribals of Manipur.”

She added: “The demographic separation with the Meiteis is complete and the way forward for peace is total separate administration for the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar tribals under Article 3 of the Constitution. The decision to boycott the polls within and outside Manipur was taken on March 25.”

The ongoing conflict between the Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo people has left at least 219 dead and over 67,000 displaced. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to visit the state.

Manipur has two Lok Sabha seats with Inner Manipur having single-phase polling on April 19 while voting in Outer Manipur is spread over two phases on April 19 and 26 for security reasons.

The other reasons include the “extensive” destruction and vandalisation of Kuki-Zo houses, villages, churches, synagogues and vehicles, the “lack” of effective remedial action and the “failure” of the Centre to address the looting of arms from police armouries by the radical Arambai Tenggols. These arms are “wielded against innocent” Kuki-Zos “perpetuating” a climate of fear and violence that “undermines” any sense of security.

The “lack” of rebuilding, rehabilitation and humanitarian aid for the 41,425-plus displaced community members, the “irredeemable disruption” of education for Kuki-Zo students and “absence” of political dialogue with Kuki-Zomi-Hmar leaders for conflict resolution and the “continued negligence” of the community’s demand for a separate administration under the Indian Constitution also figured among the reasons.

“The ground reality clearly suggests that the separation of the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar people from the Meitei community is total and complete. We only need the administrative mechanism to follow suit to enable us to live in peace with our neighbours,” the petition said.

The petition also flagged the lack of special arrangements for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) living outside the state to exercise their right to vote. “This discriminatory treatment is a denial of their constitutional rights that are tantamount to their disenfranchisement which will be a blot on the credibility of the democratic process in India,” the women representative said.

“These points of concern highlight a pattern of neglect and unwillingness on the part of the Government of India to engage with the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar people constructively. Participating in the upcoming elections, under these circumstances, would only serve to legitimise and normalise the continued marginalisation and suffering of our community. We cannot idly stand by while our most basic human rights remain violated with no hope for any redressal,” the petition said.

“Therefore, we, the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women, solemnly declare to boycott the Lok Sabha election 2024. This decision is a call for urgent and sincere engagement from the government with our community to address grievances and work towards a just and equitable solution,” the petition appealed.

Source: The Telegraph online