ITANAGAR: Amidst anticipation of a possible announcement of the Naga peace talks and its ramifications on the territories of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Manipur, the government now also has to deal with the issue of Zoland amidst renewed demands for a territorial council in Manipur.

The Zomi Council, a body comprising of nine Zomi tribes (Gangte, Kom, Mate, Paite, Simte, Tedim-Chin, Thangkhal, Zou, and Vaiphei), on Monday revived its demand for the formation of a Zoland Territorial Council (ZTC) in Manipur’s Churachandpur district.

Simultaneous rallies were held in Manipur and New Delhi.

The Delhi unit of the Zomi Students’ Federation (ZSF), which organised a rally in Jantar Mantar, said that the rallies were held in support of the dialogue between the “Government of India, Government of Manipur, United People’s Front (UPF), and the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) for an honourable political settlement for the Zo people in Manipur”.

A statement from the students’ body said that it is seeking the “restoration of our dignity, our identity, our land, and its resources to its rightful place under the Constitution of India”.

Both the ZSF and the Zomi Council said that tribals in Manipur have been demanding the extension of Sixth Schedule provisions for the last 42 years and are the only tribal-majority regions in the Northeast where such Constitutional provisions have not been implemented.

They said that the Zomi people were falsely categorised and divided as Kuki, Chin, and Lushai by British anthropologists.

Zomi Council spokesperson, R Sanga, said that Zomi people have been living in Manipur’s Churachandpur district for centuries and that their demand is not the creation of new land but for what has been their ancestral land.

The Council also said that if the Centre is going to create a Naga territorial council, it “should consider a similar solution for the Zo people”.

“In 2017, the NDA leadership made assurance to UPF leadership for the creation of autonomous territorial council and we reciprocated by voting the BJP into power in Manipur. Then, why is this promise not being fulfilled now,” the Council said in a press statement.

A point of complication is the fact that several tribal Kuki villages are scattered in districts in Manipur that fall under the map of the Greater Nagalim as claimed by Naga separatist groups.

While the Kuki and Thoudou tribes are culturally similar, their community bodies are not part of the Zomi Council.

Sanga said that for the Naga political solution, the Indian government must negotiate with “the stakeholders like Zomis or Kukis” which otherwise can create ‘misunderstanding’.

“If we sit together everything can be settled because we want a political solution (and are) not against each other,” he said.

He added that while “we are Indians now, we are indigenous to the land” and that the Zo people were never under the administration of any other kingdoms.

The Zomi Council and the ZSF submitted memorandums to the prime minister’s office stating that “we hope and pray that Pu (Shri) Modiji fulfils his party's commitment to us at the earliest possible”.