IMPHAL: After months of harping on the demand for separate administration in the tribal-dominated hill regions of Manipur, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) has issued an ultimatum to the Centre.
The forum, representing the Kuki-Zo tribes in the state, declared their intent to establish a “self-governed separate administration” in areas where these tribes form the majority.
“If our demand is not heard within a couple of weeks, we will set up our self-government irrespective of whether the Centre recognises it or not,” Muan Tombing, the general secretary of ITLF, told a national news agency on Wednesday.
The declaration came on the heels of protests organised by the forum in Churachandpur, demanding a CBI or NIA probe into the killings of Kuki-Zo tribals during the ethnic strife.
Protesters at the rally decried the “failure” of the state government and other investigating agencies to initiate a prompt probe into the killings, raising slogans demanding justice for the tribals.
ITLF spokesperson Ginza Vualzong, while stressing on the need for justice, said that many Kuki-Zo tribals have been killed during the ethnic strife, “but none of the central probe agencies has taken it up for investigation”.
In a parallel development in Imphal, locals, predominantly women and children, took to the streets to protest against the perceived inability of the Manipur government to restore normalcy.
The demonstrators also voiced their concerns about sporadic attacks by gunmen in villages, preventing thousands from returning home.
Ningol Chakouba, Manipur’s biggest festival, was marred by the unrest, with many residents, including those living in relief camps, expressing their sorrow.
Protests were also held at Keisampat, Uripok, and Singjamei areas in Imphal West district where demonstrators raised their voices against the influx of illegal immigrants from Myanmar.
They demanded the deportation of illegal immigrants, holding them responsible for the unrest in the state.
The day witnessed widespread closures of major markets and commercial establishments across the five districts of Imphal valley, aligning with the Ningol Chakouba festival.
In Bishnupur district, locals staged sit-ins, urging authorities to allow their return to their original homes amidst the escalating ethnic tensions.