Zomi Chiefs’ Association condemns suppression of free speech by Manipur State machinery

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Photo: Cover of the book, The Inevitable Split- Documents on State sponsored ethnic cleansing in Manipur, 2023 published by Zomi Student's Federation.

Imphal: The Zomi Chiefs’ Association (ZCA) has strongly condemned the state government of Manipur for its arbitrary use of state machineries to curb freedom of speech and expression over the recent actions taken by the government against the Zomi Students’ Federation (ZSF), including the banning of their book The Inevitable Split- Documents on State sponsored ethnic cleansing in Manipur, 2023 and the initiation of legal proceedings against the author and organization, saying that the actions of the state are deeply concerning.

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A press release issued on July 10 by the Zomi Chief’s Association called upon all concerned citizens, human rights organizations, and members of the international community to stand in solidarity with the Zomi-Kuki community in their quest for a Separate Administration.

ZCA also acknowledged and greatly appreciated the efforts undertaken by the ZSF in publishing the book, which sheds light on the state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in Manipur. “We firmly believe in the importance of freedom of speech and expression as fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of India. The high-handedness displayed by the Manipur government poses a major threat to these fundamental rights and undermines the democratic values of our nation,” said ZCA.

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While accusing the government of Manipur that it has become a routine today to suppress and silence anyone who protests the horrors committed against the tribals based on complaints from people claiming to be social workers are plainly an attempt to suppress tribal leaders who advocate on behalf of their people, the release maintained —  pointing out the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal East issuing notices to Professor Kham Khan Suan Hausing, head of department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad, Pu Wilson L Hangsing, co-founder of Kuki People’s Alliance, and Pi Mary Grace Zou, convenor, Kuki Women’s Forum.

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Further, Zomi Chief’s Association said, “The accusations, which fall under several parts of the Indian Penal Code, Furthermore, the biased conduct of the state government clearly indicates that the Zomi-Kuki tribals have no future within the state of Manipur, making political separation an inevitable reality. In light of this, the ZCA urges the Government of India to expedite political dialogue with the Suspension of Operations (SoO) groups and grant a “separate administration” for the Zomi-Kukis of Manipur at the earliest. This will ensure the protection of their rights, preserve their unique cultural heritage, and enable them to thrive in a secure and inclusive environment.”

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It may be noted that the government of Manipur (Home) had issued a letter on July 18, 2023, urging the Manipur DGP to take stern actions against the individuals associated with the Zomi Students’ Federation and to ban the further publication of their book.

The letter to the Director General of Police also ordered to submission of a detailed proposal to forfeit the book and issue necessary search warrants against it under Sec 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in the interest of the public.

Zomi Students Federatoin

The charges filed against three Zomi-Kuki prominent leaders are all for an interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire on different shows over the prevailing Manipur ethnic conflict.

Several eminent national student groups have condemned the charges against Prof Suan. The All India Students Association (AISA), National Students’ Union of India – University of Hyderabad (NSUI -HCU), Ambedkar Student’s Association – University of Hyderabad, Students’ Union – University of Hyderabad among others.

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