Activists joined members of the Indian Diaspora outside Victorian Parliament on August 20 to show solidarity with the indigenous Kuki-Zo minority, who are being targeted by Hindu extremist organisations in the north eastern Indian state of Manipur.
They called for an end to the violence by the majority Meitei, for the Australian government to speak out against violence and for reconciliation and justice for the victims to prevent future conflicts.
Rebecca Lhouvam, a Kuki-Zo woman, spoke of the suffering of her friends, family and community. “My aunt’s house was burned … she had to flee for her life with the [children], seeking for shelter… my cousin sister and her family also had to flee for their lives.”
She expressed helplessness and frustration with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. “It’s unbearable to hear [my family's] voices, full of pain, and I’m here not able to do anything. The cries for justice are louder and louder, but they are just echoes in the air for the government of India.”
Afzal Abdul Kadar, Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) Australia and IOC Australia Kerala Chapter, told the gathering that “the BJP’s negligence has only intensified the suffering of innocent people … in the face of our plight, the Indian government’s response has been feeble, tardy, and insufficient”.
Other speakers accused the BJP government of participating in the violence. Kham Khual, a Manipuri, said that in Lamka (Churachandpur), in the north east, the Kuki people who were protecting their village, daughters, wives, mums and dads were shot. He criticised the state-wide shutdown of internet services for two months, saying the BJP “tried to plan a silent genocide”.
Jacob Andrewartha of Socialist Alliance said Labor must condemn the chauvinist violence. He said there is a connection between the violence against Kuki-Zo in Manipur and the promotion of hatred against other oppressed minorities in India, including LGBTIQ communities. Militia groups in Manipur have ties to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the paramilitary organisation behind the Hindutva movement in India.
Suresh Vallath, from IOC Australia Kerala Chapter, spoke about the context of the violence in Manipur including that Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh had introduced a mining bill “allowing companies to operate mines and oil projects and forcefully evict tribal peoples”.
[Green Left is hosting a public forum, “Genocide and Resistance”, on August 31, 6.30pm at the Multicultural Hub.]