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Watch | ‘Kukis Losing Faith in Modi and Shah but What Choice Do We Have?’

In an interview with Karan Thapar, Kuki Women’s Forum convenor Mary Grace Zou says her community cannot understand why the prime minister and home minister are persisting with Biren Singh as chief minister.

The convenor of the Kuki Women’s Forum Mary Grace Zou has said her community is “losing faith” in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union minister Amit Shah and cannot understand “why they persist with Biren Singh as chief minister” but pointedly added, “What choice do we have but to keep hope in the Central government?”

In a 40-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, Zou repeatedly called for the removal of Biren Singh as chief minister of Manipur, accusing him of being anti-Kuki as well as misleading the Union government. Right at the end of the interview, Zou said that the Kuki and Meitei are at “breaking point”.

This is the first of a two-part series of interviews speaking to the women of Manipur about the crisis in their state and how it has affected the lives of their communities.

Zou said the Kuki community in Manipur was “barely surviving”. She said, after the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, the present complete closure of schools in Manipur means a whole generation of children have missed out on their education. She said the elderly Kuki, when they fall ill, do not have access to multi-speciality hospitals because they are all in the Imphal Valley. Instead, they have to travel via Mizoram to metropolitan centres like Kolkata and Delhi. She said Kuki wives are struggling to run their homes and feed their children. The price of cooking gas has doubled. It’s particularly difficult for people dependent on a daily wage income.

Zou said that her organisation, the Kuki Women’s Forum, presented a memorandum to Amit Shah a week ago. They made four demands. First, do not post Meitei officers in the army to Manipur. Second, create a buffer zone between Kuki and Meitei settlements manned by the army. Third, do not allow Manipur state police and law enforcement agencies to operate in Kuki areas. Fourth, take action against the Meitei organisations like Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun, which Kuki-Zo communities claim are engaged in violent activities.

She said although a week has passed, they have got no official response whatsoever from the home minister. She added that reports from Manipur itself suggest their demands have been ignored.

In the interview, Zou and Karan Thapar discuss the situation facing the Kuki community in Manipur; how Kuki women assess the handling of the crisis by the Union government; the Centre’s failure to restore order in Manipur even after six weeks; why she believes a separate administration, as demanded by all 10 Kuki MLAs, is the only solution to the crisis; why there is no possibility of a dialogue between the Kuki and Meitei to build trust; and why it’s unlikely that Kuki and Meitei women can emulate the example of Catholic and Protestant women in Northern Ireland who won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to bridge the gap between both communities.