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Manipur Violence: Supreme Court Seeks Updated Action-Taken Report

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NEW DELHI, July 3 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Manipur government to file an updated status report detailing steps taken for rehabilitation, improving the law and order situation and recovery of arms in the ethnic violence-hit state.

The state government, meanwhile, told the bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud that though slowly, the situation is improving and now the curfew time has come down to five in 24 hours.

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“Just tell us what steps have been taken with regard to rehabilitation camps, law and order and the recovery of arms,” said the bench, also comprising justices P S Narasimha and Manoj Misra, while listing a batch of petitions on the issue for hearing on July 10.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Manipur government, termed as “unfortunate” the allegations levelled by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who represented minority Kuki organisations, that some militant groups were “sponsored by the State” and said he should avoid giving any “communal angle”.

In a brief hearing, the top law officer gave details of the deployment of security forces and the recent status of the law and order situation.

“Though slowly, the situation is improving in the state. Wherever there is a problem that is being tackled. Apart from civil police, there is a deployment of Indian Reserve battalions, Manipur rifles, commandos, 114 companies of CAPF and 184 columns of Army…355 relief camps are there,” he said.

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“What I would request is that because I would not take an adversarial stand in this matter that my learned friend (Colin Gonsalves) may consider avoiding giving any communal angle Christians etc. That is not necessary. Human beings are dealt with by the law enforcement agencies,” Mehta said.

On the other hand, Gonsalves said that attacks on Kukis have hugely increased after the state told this court that the incidents of violence have decreased.

Some people are going to news shows and saying that “they are going to annihilate (Kukis). Their Facebook says that kill the Kukis and drive them from the hills. No FIR and no action taken… not a single person has been arrested…,” the senior lawyer alleged, adding “As long as these armed groups are not disbanded and are allowed to go and kill there will be an escalation in violence.”

“This is unfortunate. This will not solve the problem,” said the solicitor general.

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The court also took note of the submissions of a lawyer, representing a Meitei group in the state that some of the Kuki militants are having assault rifles and the central government must answer the issue. It asked the law officer to take instruction on this aspect as well.

“I may or may not mention that in the (status) report… but I will take instruction and appraise the court on this…There cannot be a head count of militants,” Mehta said.

The bench listed the plea on next Monday after the solicitor general submitted that the state government will file an updated status report setting out the measures which have been taken and indicating the present position.

On May 17, the CJI-led bench directed the Manipur government to take steps to foster confidence and ensure peace and tranquillity in the state torn by ethnic violence, asserting being the top-most court it can ensure that the political executive exercises its power and does not turn “a blind eye” to the situation.

Taking note of submissions on alleged provocative statements by Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh, the top court had asked the solicitor general to advise the constitutional functionary restraint.

On June 20, a vacation bench headed by Justice Surya Kant declined an urgent hearing on a plea filed by an NGO, Manipur Tribal Forum, seeking Army protection for the minority Kuki tribals in Manipur and prosecution of communal groups attacking them.

The court had said it was a law and order issue and that the administration should tackle it.

Gonsalves, appearing for the NGO, had submitted that 70 tribals have been killed in ethnic violence in the state notwithstanding the solemn assurances that nobody will die.

The solicitor general had opposed the request for an urgent hearing and said security agencies are on the ground and doing their best to stem the violence and restore normalcy.

He submitted that the main matter pertaining to the Manipur High Court’s order for the grant of Scheduled Tribe status to the majority Meitei community, which set off a chain of violence in the northeastern state, has been posted for hearing on July 17 by the top court.

More than 120 people have lost their lives in clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities. The clashes first broke out on May 3 after a Tribal Solidarity March was organised in the state’s hill districts to protest the Meitei community’s demand for ST status.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribal Nagas and Kukis constitute another 40 percent of the population and reside in the hill districts.

On March 27, the Manipur High Court order asked the state government to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks on the demand for ST status to the majority community.

The apex court is seized of a batch of pleas on the Manipur situation, including one by a ruling BJP MLA challenging the high court order on Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community, and a PIL by a tribal NGO for an SIT probe into the violence that has rocked the northeastern state.

 

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