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Christians seek SC probe into Manipur violence

Courtesy: Dawn News/AFP

NEW DELHI: A Bench led by Chief Justice of India D. Y. Chandrachud is scheduled on Monday (today) to hear a petition filed by a Delhi-based body for Manipur tribal communities seeking the constitution of a special investigation team to probe the attacks and violence which has gripped the Manipur.

More than 50 persons were killed in ethnic violence on Wednesday, which saw assaults on and destruction of dozens of churches, reports say the majority Hindu Meiti community is seeking to be given the status of Manipur’s tribespeople, a move opposed by extant tribal groups who are mainly Christian.

The petition, filed on Saturday was urgently listed for hearing, a three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice and accompanied by Justices P. S. Narasimha and J. B. Pardiwala.

The petition filed by Manipur Tribal Forum, through advocate Satya Mitra and senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, said the situation in the state was “extreme” and these “attacks had the full support of the party in power in the State as well as the Centre which supports the dominant group and has planned the attacks on account of a non-secular agenda”.

The Manipur Tribal Forum said there have been sparks even in the national capital where Kukis have come under attack by the “dominant community”.

“The assaults have also spread to Delhi where the Kukis in Delhi are also coming under attack by the dominant community. Similar attacks are also taking place in Meghalaya,” it said. The petition said armed groups were seen roving with semi-automatic weapons, doing house searches, in Manipur.

“Petitioners have a few videos and photos of the assailants during the assault on the tribals and some of these videos and photos show burning of churches, beating of tribals and assailants walking around with semi-automatic weapons, which is surprising because even the police force would not be in possession of such modern and deadly weapons,” the petition said. It said there was also a spread of online hate speech.

“Up to today, approximately 41 churches have been razed to the ground, wherein the mobs went on a rampage, burning houses and vehicles, and business establishments and even hospitals belonging to the tribals,” the petition said.

It has asked the apex court to order a team to be put together to conduct an inquiry into the villages burnt and assess the value of property destroyed in the violence. The petition has listed at least 58 villages in this regard. The petition said the state should be directed to compensate the people and reconstruct the churches.

“Thirty tribals were killed by the dominant community and 132 injured… Neither FIR was registered nor was there any investigation taking place as the police itself is on the side of the dominant community and has stood by idle while the killings took place,” the petition alleged.

The forum has urged the court to direct a special investigation team to be headed by a former director general of police of Assam to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

The tribal body has alleged that the conditions faced by tribal people sheltered in six police force camps are “deplorable and pathetic”.

“Each of them holds approximately a thousand-odd tribals and more, with many of them without food and most of them have not been able to have a bath for days. Their conditions are deplorable and pathetic,” the petition said.

It has sought a direction to take the tribal people back to their homes in the hill districts. The Bench would also hear a separate petition filed by Chairman of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, Dinganglung Gangmei, who has challenged a State High Court order to grant Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community. The petition alleged that the High Court order led to the Meitei-Kuki clashes in Manipur.

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