Five Kuki-Zo individuals were arrested by security forces in Manipur between Monday and Tuesday, with the police alleging that three of them were members of an underground outfit.

Following this, the Kuki Inpi Manipur, an apex body of Kuki tribes in Manipur, called for a 12-hour shutdown across all tribal-dominated districts on Wednesday.

On Monday, security forces arrested two persons named Lunjakap Guite and Kaplal Singson from Phaitol village in Tamenglong district.

In the early hours of Tuesday, a joint team of the Manipur Police and the Central Reserve Police Force arrested three more persons from the L Hengjol village in the Kangpokpi district. The three persons – Thangjoel Haokip, Jangjoulen Khongsai and Jangminlun Singson – were later handed over to the National Investigation Agency.

The police alleged that the three were “armed cadres of an underground outfit” who were “involved in various criminal incidents of the recent past”. The police, however, did not name the alleged underground outfit.

The Kuki Inpi Manipur, on its part, said that the three arrested men were village volunteers. The term “village volunteers” has been used for armed civilians guarding villages since an ethnic conflict broke out between the state’s Kuki and Meitei communities in May last year.

“While the Valley Based Militant Groups [VBIGs] are openly brandishing sophisticated arms and ammunitions in the valley, the indiscriminate terrorising of the Kuki-Zo people and subsequent arrest of five individuals is a threat that belies all hopes for safety and security for the minority Kuki-Zo people who have been fully cooperative with law enforcement efforts,” it said.

Some women’s groups from the Kuki-Zo community also alleged that security personnel had beaten local women who were protesting the detention of the three men on Tuesday, reported The Hindu.

The Kuki Inpi Manipur said that these arrests came as central and state forces were allegedly “turning a blind eye” to the movement and activities of the Meitei militants and Meitei armed group Arambai Tenggol in the Imphal area, reported The Hindu.

The tribal organisation’s unit in the Churachandpur district issued the call for a “total shutdown” on Wednesday and the outfit’s Sadar Hills office subsequently endorsed it.

“All Kuki-Zo regional organisations are urged to strictly abide by this resolve to express solidarity for the common cause of our people – the fight against the unlawful oppression, subjugation, and persecution of our people and our legitimate demand for union territory with Legislature for the Kuki-Zo people,” The Hindu quoted them as saying.