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Lamka, Manipur — October 2, 2023: The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), representing a conglomerate of recognized tribes in Lamka, Outer Manipur, has issued a scathing condemnation of recent arrests and abductions in the state.
The organization raises questions about selective justice, the differential treatment of citizens based on ethnicity, and the unusual haste in arrests carried out by central investigating agencies.
Selective Arrests and Abductions
In a press release dated October 2, 2023, the ITLF expressed its strong disapproval of the arrests of four Kuki-Zo tribals, including two women, and the abduction of two children. These arrests and abductions were made by central investigating agencies without the knowledge of local authorities, raising concerns about due process and transparency.
The arrests occurred in connection with a case related to the disappearance of two Meitei students. Shockingly, there were no women police officers or juvenile police units present during the operation, as required by law when dealing with cases involving women and children. This has raised serious questions about the legality and ethics of the operation.
Swift Action and Delayed Justice
The ITLF has drawn attention to the swiftness with which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) acted in these arrests, juxtaposing it with the delayed response in more heinous cases. Cases involving the rape and murder of two tribal girls in Imphal, the burning of a 7-year-old tribal boy along with his mother and aunt, the torture and beheading of a tribal youth, and numerous other atrocities against tribals have not seen similar expeditious action.
Furthermore, the ITLF has questioned the lack of progress in recovering thousands of weapons and lakhs of ammunition looted or distributed in the Imphal valley. It highlights the danger posed by these weapons and ammunition, which remain unaccounted for and continue to threaten the region’s security.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
The ITLF expressed its incredulity at the Chief Minister’s public statement that the “main culprits” in the students’ case have already been arrested and that he is committed to ensuring “capital punishment for the heinous crime they have committed.” This presumption of guilt before any questioning or trial has taken place is deeply concerning and reflects a skewed approach to justice.
The protests against the BJP government in Imphal over the past week have been massive, with many attributing the central government’s actions to protect the Chief Minister from the Meitei community’s anger by taking a hardline stance against tribal individuals, including women.
Arrest of Teacher in “Transnational Conspiracy”
The ITLF also criticized the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for the arrest of Seiminlun Gangte, a teacher accused of involvement in a “transnational conspiracy” with “terror groups” from Myanmar and Bangladesh. Gangte, who worked as a private teacher in Kwakta, a border area between tribal and Meitei settlements, had no prior criminal record. The ITLF questioned how a teacher with no history of criminal activity could suddenly be linked to international terror networks without ever traveling abroad.
Demands for Immediate Release
In its press release, the ITLF made several demands:
- The immediate release of the tribal individuals who were arrested and abducted, emphasizing that these actions breach legal norms and constitutional principles.
- A call for the return of tribal individuals within 48 hours. Failure to do so will lead to more intense agitations in the hill areas.
The ITLF’s press release underscores its commitment to upholding justice, equality, and the rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity. It calls for a reevaluation of the selective approach to arrests and investigations and urges the authorities to prioritize transparency, due process, and the rule of law.
In a situation marked by tension and unrest, the ITLF’s stance seeks to address not only the immediate concerns surrounding recent arrests but also the broader issues of justice, equality, and the protection of human rights in Manipur.
For authentic ITLF press releases, please refer to their official website: ITLF Media Cell