PUCL Pune - Public meeting ‘Manipur : Bitter Reality’

Aug 06, 2023
Relevant State Maharashtra, Manipur

“ None of us are safe when hatred gets immunity from a majoritarian state !”

Public meeting ‘Manipur : Bitter Reality’ organised by PUCL, Pune on Aug 6, 2023

Over 300 persons attended the public meeting on Manipur.  Speakers included political analyst Dr. Suhas Palshikar, senior journalist and author Rupa Chinai and the President of the Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO), Pune Seitinlen  Sithlou.

A report by Milind Champanerkar, along with Aghala Lele & Kaleem Ajhim of PUCL, Pune


The meeting began with the sharing of first-hand accounts and heart-rending experiences of the violence in Manipur, gathered by Seitinlen Sithlou, President of Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO), Pune and Lucey Hopkoi, a research person who had first hand information about the incidents in Manipur.

Sitlhou said that provisions of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights were blatantly violated by dominant extremist outfits of the Meitei community, who targeted the Kukis with impunity, in cohorts with the Manipur government. 

Sitlhou drew attention to five major incidents which took place between  May 4 and July 21, 2023, including the brutal attack on a 45 year old Kuki widow and a mother of two from Pheitaiching village of the Kangpokpi district on May 6; the burning of a seven-year-old boy, Tonsing Hangshing, his mother and her kin from the Kuki-Zo tribe inside the Ambulance in which they were travelling by Meira Paibis, the ‘torchbearers’ of the Maitei community; the arson and killing of  residents and their houses in Langza Village in Lamka (previously known as Churachandpur) and the beheading of David Thiek, a 23 years old Hmar who volunteered to protect his village but was captured alive.

Sitlhou reiterated, “I wish to bring to your attention to Article 3 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.” This is in complete contrast to what has happened to the Kuki-Zo community in Manipur.


Political analyst Prof. Suhas Palshikar said that the “horrifying scene we saw in Manipur was just a snapshot of how a Frankenstein of majoritarianism can play havoc…and could come upon you tomorrow. You cannot rely on the government when there is a wave of majoritarianism everywhere in the country. 


He also felt that this majoritarianism needed introspection on the part of citizens. “We must question whether we are majoritarian in linguistic, casteist, ethnic or religious terms and how we can shed that. And we must question what is feeding that majoritarianism  in our life,” he asked.


Drawing attention to the hate crime in the killing of four persons by an RPF constable in the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Super fast Express on 31 July, Prof. Palshikar emphatically said “none of us are safe when hatred gets immunity from a majoritarian state.”

Journalist Rupa Chinai, the author of the book “Understanding India’s Northeast”, provided a brief history of the region, its warring communities  and the fault lines in the region. She recalled that, during the 1980s, the walls of Imphal were ablaze with the slogan ‘Indian dogs go home’.  Then, intense urban guerrilla warfare was being waged by Meitei groups against the Indian Army and there were mass protests against the draconian ASFPA and atrocities against women.  In large  parts of the North East (NE), people were engaged in a struggle for land, identity, political and cultural rights, survival in the face of government neglect and even demand for independence from India.

What went wrong after the decade of peace since 2011? Ms. Chinai asserted that the land grab, the plans for mining of minerals and plantations for palm oil and the othering of the Kuki community people by terming them as immigrants, illegal infiltrators, narco terrorists and poppy growers are the major reasons behind the worsening situation now.

The deep rooted fault lines between the Kukis and Meiteis, aided by indoctrinated youth connected to the Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepon, both close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),  has been nurtured by political forces, she said.

Rupa Chinai feared that the recent Forest Conservation Amendment Act could be one of the major steps by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to realize his ‘five trillion dollar economy’.  The central government probably thinks the  ‘Look East Policy’ would work through mining of the mineral rich tribal lands across India and cash crop plantations managed by corporates, she said, adding that for the NE and the rest of India, this is a wake up call. “We, in the rest of India, need to reach out to NE communities and support them in protecting their Constitutional rights and in developing their own Master Plan for Development. We need to learn from their traditional cultures and wisdom that has protected our forests and biodiversity, and choose development pathways that are good for the earth and ensure the survival of future generations,” she stressed.

Earlier,  in his introductory remarks, Milind Champanerkar of PUCL, Pune laid out a ‘framework’ – a set of 15 relevant questions formulated to know the reality in Manipur and to understand the causes behind it. Some of the major questions included :

determining the fault lines in Manipur prior to the crisis in April 2023; the reasons for the failure of the state and the central governments to arrest the escalation; the silence of the central government on the crisis; whether there were plans to excavate the mountainous area in the state for mining and if that was the reason for the “war on the Kukis; whether the state police was partisan towards the majority Meitei outfits and the Assam Rifles was partisan towards the Kuki community; whether relief measures were adequate and what could be the ways to restore normalcy and peace?

Milind Champarnerker also said the country’s conscience was shaken by visuals of the parading and molestation of Kuki women on May 4 an incident which went viral only after two months on July 19, more than two months later, and pointed out that this was not an  isolated incident, as the state Chief Minister Biren Singh himself admitted. The manner in which the mainstream media kept people in the dark, the violence and arson of the last three months and the build up of extreme hatred could not happen without the role of the state, he said.

George Chira, a senior member of PUCL, Pune, provided a timeline of the major events between  May 3 and August 3, 2023. Anwar Rajan, the secretary of PUCL Pune, who presided over the symposium, summed up the discussion and lamented that the scenario in the Manipur state reminded one of what happened in Gujarat in 2002.

The PUCL condemned the use of women for sexual violence as an instrument of control and appealed for an end to the violence and the  adoption of peaceful measures to reconcile differences he said, reiterating  PUCL’s demands to restore peace in the state. 

The programme, which concluded with a video of a Peace song, was conducted by Nitin Brahme.