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Top Kuki-Zo Body WKZIC Trashes Move To Ban It, Manipur Government Pushes For Anti-Terror Law UAPA

The World Kuki-Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) head office is in Manipur’s Churachandpur district

Imphal/Guwahati/New Delhi:

Two senior members of a top civil society group of the Kuki-Zo tribes have refuted allegations made by the Manipur government that the “intellectual” group called for taking up arms in the state affected by ethnic violence.

The BJP state government led by Chief Minister N Biren Singh in October 2023 had announced a police case against the World Kuki-Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) had been filed, with charges under the stringent anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, for allegedly publishing a statement asking “volunteers” in the Kuki-Zo tribes to take up arms as Kuki-Zo insurgent groups cannot “join the war” due to the tripartite suspension of operations (SoO) agreement with the centre and the state government.

Now, seven months later, the state government is pursuing the matter with the Home Ministry to ban the WKZIC, citing information about the group given by state intelligence operatives, people in the state government with direct knowledge of the matter told NDTV.

Before the latest push to ban the WKZIC under the anti-terror law, Manipur government and police officials in February – four months after the Biren Singh government announced its intention to ban the group under the UAPA – worked in speed to send a request to the Home Ministry with ground reports collated by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) special branch operatives, asking to declare the WKZIC an “unlawful association/organisation”, documents accessed by NDTV show.

The WKZIC on October 25, 2023 had already trashed the statement attributed to it as “fake”, and questioned the state government’s effort to ban the group under the UAPA, which, the WKZIC had said, was all on the basis of the “unofficial” and “fake” statement circulated on social media.

“We are a global group. We do not hide any of our activity. We would like to see peace, but so many rights violations are happening. The state government cannot be trusted, so we appeal to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to intervene and solve the Manipur problem,” one of the two senior members of the WKZIC told NDTV on phone from Mumbai, requesting anonymity.

The other senior WKZIC member, who is in Delhi, told NDTV the state government is intimidated by the WKZIC as many highly qualified people from several sectors and professions are part of it, and they have been gaining ground with documentary evidence against “state-sponsored propaganda”.

“The government trying to ban us after seeing a fake statement attributed to us is one of the most ridiculous things to come out of Manipur since last year. Have they checked the source of the statement? Have they found the unknown miscreants behind it?” the Delhi-based member told NDTV. “We had said there and then [October 25, 2023] the statement was fake. The government is only looking for mileage,” the senior member said, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Headed by Dr TS Haokip, the WKZIC (formerly Kuki-Zo Intellectual Forum) was formed on May 14, 2023, with its head office in Churachandpur, according to police records. Dr Thathang Hangsing is its vice-president.

State’s Latest Move To Ban WKZIC Under UAPA

After the purported statement attributed to the WKZIC came out on October 24, 2023, the Manipur Police on their own (suo moto) filed a first information report (FIR) on October 30 with the police station in Churachandpur, a district categorised as a hill area and dominated by the Kuki-Zo tribes.

Documents accessed by NDTV including the first information report (FIR), the CID special branch reports, and communication between police and state officials show that after the purported WKZIC statement came out, the state government was alarmed by alleged “movement of armed Kuki militants in large numbers in Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal districts”.

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“… Their deployment [is] for carrying out attacks on security forces especially the Manipur Police commando teams stationed in Moreh… There are also inputs regarding increase in strength of village volunteers of the Kuki community in the jungle areas of Moreh and movement of consignments of weapons to Moreh from Churachandpur via jungle route,” a senior intelligence officer of the Manipur Police wrote in a letter to the state Home Department on February 7, a day after the Home Department sought information from the police on the proposal to ban the WKZIC as an “unlawful organisation” under the UAPA.

The senior police officer enclosed intelligence reports collected over three months on the movement of suspected Kuki insurgents towards the border trading town Moreh, where two Manipur Police commandos were killed in action in January.

Enclosing the Manipur Police’s reports, the state Home Department then wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on February 11, reminding about the Manipur government’s request to ban the WKZIC under the UAPA.

“… I am directed to request the Ministry to kindly consider and take up necessary action for declaration of World Kuki-Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) as an unlawful association/organisation under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in the larger interest of the general public,” the Manipur Home Department Joint Secretary said in the letter to the Union Home Ministry.

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The state police concluded in the report sent to the state Home Department that the “activities of the WKZIC… has encouraged or aided persons under its influence including various civil society organisations, militant groups, miscreants and other persons in the Kuki-Zo community to commit acts of violence, intimidation, or intimidation against other communities and state security forces.”

“The various violent activities encouraged/incited by the WKZIC has led to the escalation of violence in the current situation [sic] the state,” the police report alleged.

The Home Department then enclosed this report in its letter to the MHA on February 11.

An email sent to the WKZIC went unanswered. The group does not mention a phone number in its statements posted on social media.

The ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo tribes began over cataclysmic disagreements on sharing land, resources, affirmative action policies, and political representation, mainly with the ‘general’ category Meiteis seeking to be included under the Scheduled Tribes category.

Over 220 have been killed, and more than 50,000 have been internally displaced since the violence began on May 3, 2023.