More Kuki bodies announce poll boycott in Manipur following fresh violence-3

Gunjan Sharma
CHURACHANDPUR, 15 Apr: More civil society organisations and bodies from the Kuki-Zo community have announced that they will boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, saying “no justice, no vote,” following fresh incidents of violence in the conflict-hit state.
While two people were killed in a gunfight that broke out between two armed groups in Imphal East district on Saturday, three people were injured in a gunbattle between armed village volunteers and unidentified people in Tengnoupal district on Friday.
The Kukis have already declared that they are not fielding any candidate in the parliamentary polls as an act of boycott.
The Global Kuki-Zomi-Hmar Women community, a group of Kuki-Zo women, including journalists, social workers, former Outer Manipur MP Kim Gangte and leaders of the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women’s forums in Delhi, had earlier written to Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, informing him of its decision to boycott the polls.
Following suit, two more bodies – Kuki National Assembly and Kuki Inpi – have joined the chorus against the parliamentary election.
“We express our dissatisfaction with our leaders. It is disheartening that Indian forces, which are capable of preventing and countering threats from China and Pakistan, have failed to protect innocent citizens from terrorists. This has led to a loss of faith in the Indian Constitution and the country’s claim that it is the world’s largest democracy,” said Mangboi Haokip, a spokesperson of the Kuki National Assembly.
“We feel compelled to abstain from voting in the Lok Sabha election to express our anguish towards the Indian leadership. If suffering is deemed our right in India, then we choose not to participate in the election. This boycott serves as a means to convey our pain and suffering to India and the world,” Haokip added.
The Kuki Inpi also passed a resolution on Sunday to abstain from voting in the election.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, which emerged as a conglomerate of tribal bodies in Churachandpur after ethnic violence broke out in the state in May last year, said, “Central security forces are deployed to maintain peace and remain neutral, but their actions today have raised many questions ahead of the Lok Sabha election.”
The state has witnessed sporadic, sometimes intense, ethnic clashes since 3 May last year between the majority Meitei community and the Kukis, resulting in the loss of more than 200 lives. While the Meiteis are now concentrated in Imphal city, the Kukis have moved to the hills.
Polling for the two Lok Sabha seats in Manipur will be held in two phases. While Inner Manipur and some segments of Outer Manipur will vote in the first phase on 19 April, the remaining segments of Outer Manipur will vote in the second phase on 26 April.
While the poll campaign in the state has been muted so far with posters, banners and mega rallies missing from the scene, union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to address a rally in Imphal on Monday.
The state has traditionally seen a high voter turnout, with more than 82 percent polling recorded in the 2019 general election.
However, the ethnic violence has cast a shadow on the election this time, with several civil society groups and affected people questioning its relevance under the current circumstances.
A radical Meitei group, Arambai Tenggol, which recently compelled legislators to take an oath at Kangla Fort, had also issued directives against campaign activities like the use of banners and flags.
The Outer Manipur constituency, reserved for the scheduled tribes, has been represented in the Lok Sabha by six Naga and five Kuki leaders so far. This time, all the candidates in the fray are Nagas, with no Kuki throwing their hat in the ring following the call of influential pressure groups to abstain from contesting the polls.
Of Outer Manipur’s eight-lakh-strong electorate, Nagas are the largest cohort with 4.61 lakh voters, followed by Kuki-Zomi (3.21 lakhs).
The Election Commission (EC) has announced that the displaced population will have the opportunity to cast their votes from relief camps.
According to EC officials, more than 24,000 people living in the relief camps have been found eligible to vote and 94 special polling stations are being set up for them.
No voting arrangements have been made for those who left the state following the clashes to take shelter outside. (PTI)