An influential Meitei civil society group on Tuesday alleged that the Army influenced the Editors Guild of India to publish a biased report on the ethnic violence in Manipur.
The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity alleged the report released by the journalists’ body on September 2 was “most biased and baseless”.
The report by a fact-finding team of the Editors Guild had stated that journalists in Manipur wrote “one-sided reports” on the clashes between the Kukis and the Meiteis that started out in early May.
The guild flagged several instances of the media spreading disinformation and suggested that the state leadership has been partisan during the conflict. “Meitei media became a party to the vilification of the security forces, especially the Assam Rifles,” it added.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity, an umbrella organisation of six groups representing Meitei interests, alleged that the report “clearly indicates that there is a deep nexus between the Indian Army influencing the press media’s cheapest editor’s body in the world to work beyond their ethical practices”.
Somorendro Thokchom, media coordinator of the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity, claimed that the Editors Guild trip had been sponsored by Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, an organisation of the Kuki-Zo community.
“Such collusion among the India Army, Editors Guild and Chin-Kuki Narco-Terrorist Groups like ITLF is beyond doubt now and it must be dealt with firm hands,” the statement read. “COCOMI cannot remain silent on these conspiracies and all the three parties must be held equally responsible for all the fake reports and biased attitude towards the Meitei and the crime committed towards the innocent indigenous Meitei people.”
The outfit also claimed that the violence in Manipur is being carried out by “Chin-Kuki Narco-Terrorist groups in collusion with various security agencies” and is sponsored by narco-terror funds of agencies such as the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum.
“Their money bag has reached several agencies and personalities including Editor’s Guild of India,” the statement alleged. “The EGI visiting on Indian Army’s request/invitation being sponsored by ITLF Media Cell fund means the real ghost could be certain corrupt Indian Army officials and EGI becomes a propaganda wing of narco-terrorist aggression with fund generated from the New Golden Triangle in Manipur.”
The Golden Triangle refers to a region where the jungle borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. It has long been a lucrative hub for the illegal drug trade.
The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity warned that if the Central government fails to take action against the Army and others involved in the alleged crime, then it would “use all its might empowered by the people of Manipur to fight till justice is delivered to the people very soon”.
Two first information reports have already been filed against the authors of the report – Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor – and the president of the Editors Guild of India, Seema Mustafa. The complainants had alleged that the report was false, fabricated and sponsored by narco-terrorists.
The Indian Army and the Editors Guild are yet to respond to the allegations of the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity.
In July, reports said that the Assam Rifles had registered a case of sedition and defamation against Jitendra Ningomba, convener of the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity. The action was reportedly taken after the group urged people “not to surrender weapons”.
Before this, in a memorandum to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on July 4, the group demanded that the Assam Rifles be replaced with any other central armed police force.
On August 5, hostilities escalated as the Manipur Police registered a first information report against Assam Rifles personnel for allegedly obstructing the police from pursuing suspected Kuki militants.
The Assam Rifles have vehemently contested the charges. The paramilitary force has been “working relentlessly towards saving lives and restoration of peace in Manipur May 3 onwards”, said a statement by the Army, which holds operational command of the Assam Rifles. Administratively, the paramilitary force is controlled by the Union ministry of home affairs.