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New dimension to Manipur violence: Nagas move to keep armed Meiteis and Kukis out of their district

Manipur violence

GUWAHATI, FEBRUARY 16: Caught between the ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and Kukis, the Nagas in Manipur’s Chandel district have decided to take matters into their own hands.
As fierce gunfights continued on Thursday in Sugnu – where Imphal East meets the hills of Naga-dominated Chandel – the district’s apex Naga body decided to deploy its own “volunteers” on highways to “guard their area”.
Sugnu, a multi-ethnic town that had seen violence during the conflict in May and June last year, witnessed gunfights again on Wednesday. Exchange of fire and explosions continued on Thursday, with sources saying a BSF jawan sustained injuries.
Amidst this, the Chandel Naga Peoples Organisation (CNPO) – the apex body of Naga tribes in Chandel and Tengnoupal districts – ordered the deployment of volunteers on “strategic points” along the highway. While these districts have Kuki-Zomi populations, the Nagas are the largest ethnic group there.
David Boyes, the president of the CNPO, told The Indian Express that they have decided to station women, along with village chiefs, along the highways leading from both Pallel and Sugnu to the district headquarters to check vehicles and prevent movement of armed Kukis or Meiteis into the area. He claimed that these would be unarmed civilians located only along the highway at “main entries” to Naga areas.
“Chandel is boiling right now because there are two communities fighting on our land. And both sides accuse us of supporting the other, which can lead to further agitation. We don’t want them to move in our district and we want to guard our area. If Kukis run to our place, the Meiteis will accuse us of favouring them, and vice-versa. This is to protect ourselves and to keep everything neutral”, he said.
Earlier this month, the United Naga Council, based in Senapati district, had stated that “Nagas have become victims of its neutrality”, citing incidents of assaults on Nagas since the start of the conflict and of being subjected to frisking, extortion and blockades on highways by both communities. The UNC had threatened that if “targeting” of Nagas persists by Meiteis, they would call for Nagas to vacate the valley, and if it continues by Kuki-Zomis, they would cut off free access to Naga towns and passage through Naga areas.
(Courtesy: IE)