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Manipur violence: High Court issues notice to Centre, State Police, Army, Assam Rifles

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The High Court of Manipur has issued notice to the Union of India, state government, Manipur Police, the Army and the Assam Rifles on a contempt petition filed by the International Meeteis Forum (IMF).

The Bench of Acting Chief Justice M.V. Muralidharan and Justice A. Guneshwar Sharma sought response from the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the Chief Secretary of Manipur government, the State Commissioner (Home), the Director General of Police Manipur, the Deputy Commissioner of Churachandpur District, the General Officer Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army and the Inspector General of Assam Rifles. 

It further issued notice to the Chairman of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum and the Convenor of the Joint Philanthropic Organisations. The Bench listed the matter for further hearing on August 30.

The Forum alleged that the authorities violated the order passed by the High Court on August 3 to maintain status quo at the site where mass burial of Kuki-Zo community members who lost their lives in the ethnic clash was proposed.

The petition said a status quo ante had to be maintained as per the High Court orders at the proposed burial site, located at S. Boljang area of Haolai Khopi village in Churachandpur district. A sericulture farm was operating from the government-notified site, it added.

The Forum alleged that despite the Court order, tensions escalated as locals, particularly women, took to the streets to protest and sought access to the intended burial site.

Despite the claims by Pagin Haokip, (Chairman), Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) about the postponement of the mass burial, a mob from Churachandpur and S Kotlien vandalised Meitei houses in Torbung Bangla on August 5, 2023.

The mob allegedly employed bulldozers to destroy the area, including the Government Sericulture Farm, in clear defiance of the court’s order, noted the plea. 

It alleged that the acts took place in the presence of police, army and central paramilitary forces.

The petitioner claimed that they had obtained drone footage of the location, revealing the destruction of the structures and contended that the State Police, Manipur government, the Union of India, the Army, and the planners of the intended burial had displayed contempt by deliberately disregarding the court’s directives.

The petitioner further submitted that utilising the Government Sericulture Farm land exclusively for the Kuki-Zo community’s mass burial without proper legal authorisation was a malicious and improper act. 

Emphasising that such actions not only harm their interests, but also cast a shadow on the High Court’s reputation in the eyes of the general public, the Forum sought initiation of contempt proceedings against the respondents under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. 

(Case title: International Meeteis Forum vs State of Manipur)

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