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The ethnic violence between Kukis and Meiteis in Manipur started on May 3 (File)

Imphal/New Delhi:

The Manipur government sent an eviction notice to a village chief in May 2022 to remove encroachments from state land in Bishnupur district’s Torbung village – the same site where hill-majority Kukis on Thursday planned a mass burial of those who died in the ethnic clashes.

A copy of the eviction notice, which NDTV has seen, says the land that the village chief had encroached upon by building a road belongs to the state, and it has been used by the government’s flagship sericulture project to make silk.

Sericulture is a lucrative local industry with a long history in Manipur, and the state’s silk is known for its fine quality.

“… Shri Kamsei (village chief)… is encroaching on state land/sericulture farm… by way of construction of road at the centre off the state land/farm,” the state government said in the eviction notice served on May 24, 2022.

“… It has become expedient to issue eviction notice to all illegal encroachers to protect and preserve the government land and properties in public interest,” the notice said.

The government gave him three days to remove the encroachments, failing which eviction action would happen.

This eviction notice is significant in the current context, as the Kuki-Zo-Chin tribes want to bury victims of the ethnic clashes from their community in Torbung.

A petition in the Manipur High Court, however, requested for the mass burial at Torbung to be stopped, claiming the Kukis want to occupy government land under the guise of honouring victims of the ethnic clashes.

Acting Chief Justice MV Muralidharan of the Manipur High Court, in an urgent 6 am hearing on Thursday, ordered the state authorities to ensure status quo is maintained.

The Meiteis also said they suspect the Kukis would lay claim to new land by turning it into a remembrance site.

“What’s stopping the Kukis from burying the bodies in Kuki-dominated Churachandpur? So it seems like they want to create more tension,” a legal source told NDTV, asking not to be identified.

The Manipur revenue department’s records, copies of which NDTV has seen, shows this area comes under Bishnupur district and its official name is “98 Torbung”. These documents are being submitted in the court.

Violence broke out in Manipur on May 3 between the Kuki tribe and the Meiteis over the Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status. Over 170 have been killed and thousands have been internally displaced.

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