The Manipur Police on Thursday filed a case against Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum General Secretary Muan Tombing after he warned the Centre that the organisation will establish “self rule” in areas dominated by Kuki-Zos if its demands for a separate administration are not met in two weeks.
The police have booked Tombig under Indian Penal Code Section 124A (sedition), among other provisions. But last year, the Supreme Court had put the sedition law in abeyance and told the Central and state governments to not file any new cases until it was reexamined.
The police have not responded to Scroll’s query on why Section 124A was invoked.
Apart from sedition, the police on Thursday accused the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum’s general secretary of “attempting to wage war” against the Centre and “wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot”.
At a protest rally held in Churachandpur on Wednesday, Tombig had said that the “self-government” would look after the administration of all Kuki-Zo areas.
“We have been through hard times for six months now, but the Centre whom we rely on doesn’t care about us,” he told Scroll later over a phone call. “The only option is to set up a transitional government and go ahead with our demands.”
But Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum spokesperson Ginza Vualzong told The Quint that the group was “mulling on adopting a local governing body” to govern tribal areas in the districts of Tengnoupal, Kangpokpi and Churachandpur. This, he said, was in line with the Constitution of India.
“It is just a proposal at this stage as there are a lot of things to consider, including legal aspects and funds,” the spokesperson added. “Any form of self-governance will require support from the Centre.”
The Manipur government said on Thursday evening that it would initiate legal proceedings against the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum since its “self-rule” declaration had no legal or constitutional basis.
The government said that the ultimatum was “aimed at vitiating and disturbing the law and order situation in the state”.
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum, however, accused the police, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency of “cherry-picking” cases to appease the Meitei community.
“While cases blamed on Kuki-Zo tribals are swiftly taken up and arrests promptly made, cases involving tribal victims are either not taken up or are stalled indefinitely,” the statement added.
Manipur has been wracked by deadly ethnic clashes between the majority Meiteis and the tribal Kukis since May 3. The violence has left over 200 people dead and nearly 60,000 persons have been forced to flee their homes.