Tribal students from Manipur protested in Bengaluru

Tribals of Manipur fear land grab and protests have reached as far as BengaluruManipur Tribals Union Bengaluru
news Sunday, September 06, 2015 - 12:31

The north-eastern region rarely makes into the news unless there is something tragic happening in the region. That is the reason students of tribal communities from Manipur studying in Bengaluru protested for an entire day in the city – a tragedy had occurred in Churchandpur, one of the hill districts of the state – against what they perceived to be a land grab by the Meitei community, which is dominant in the valley.

Manipur’s demography is significantly influenced by its geography – the valley of Imphal is largely home to the Meiteis – to which community the last king of Manipur belonged, and the surrounding hills are largely inhabited by around 30 tribal communities of varying ethnic backgrounds.

A recent move by the state government of Manipur to amend three laws appears to have triggered the most recent round of deaths – eight people were killed in the violence that broke out on the day those bills were to be passed.

Read: A crystal clear explanation of why Manipur is witnessing violence

The whole of the north-east is a highly diverse and culturally rich region, like the rest of India is, but it possibly has the highest concentration of different communities in such a small geographic region. Each community has its own language and by extension culture, and a sense of belonging to the land. The latter aspect – belonging to the land – has been an influencing factor in much of the north-east, as the Naga insurgency shows.

Read: Explainer: What the Naga insurgency is all about

Students Bengaluru protested on Friday against the state government of Manipur, demanding temporary president’s rule in the state and a separate administrative region as a “permanent solution” to the “plight of the tribals”.

The News Minute is re-producing an edited press release issued by the Manipur Tribals’ Union, the apex body of numerous other student unions of tribal communities in the city. The statement is an indication of the range of perspectives that exist in the region.

Manipur Tribals’ Union statement:

Militants of valley-based Manipur belonging to the dominant Meitei community inflicted untold sufferings and casualties upon the distressed tribal people in 1998-2006 by planting landmines in the hills of Manipur. Fortunately the deployment of Army in the hill districts by the Govt. of India in the year 2006 chased away the valley-based militants and thus restored normalcy in the hill areas.

As per Section 158 of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960, land belonging to the Scheduled Tribes cannot be sold to a non-Schedule Tribe person without the prior consent of the Deputy Commissioner concerned. It is also noted that Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886 was extended to Manipur plain/valley areas.

The Manipur act also states that 10 percent of the total geographical areas of Manipur are valley and 60 percent of the total population lives in this 10 percent area. Manipur has 60 MLA seats wherein 19 are from the tribal areas.

Therefore, the points below are few which can be mentioned to prove the brutality of Meitei people against the hill peoples and their main ideology of grabbing tribal areas in Manipur illegally:

1. Jiribam town, located in the western-most part of the state adjoining Assam state was under the district of Tamenglong. Whereas, the Govt. of Manipur in 1997 had merged it with the Imphal East district which is separated by three districts at a distance of 211 km.

2. In the year 2010, the Govt. of Manipur had an agreement with private firms for drilling of petroleum products in the hill districts of Manipur without the knowledge of the tribal people concerned.

3. The valley people want all the un-occupied areas of the hill areas to be registered under Reserved Forest.

4. The Inner Line Permit (ILP) demand is chiefly because of the MLR&LR Act, 1960 regarding selling & buying of tribal lands (Scheduled Land) is restricted for non-Scheduled people.

5. The Schedule Tribe demand committee among the Meitei community, also mainly aimed at converting the whole Manipur into a hill state, so as to annihilate the Constitutional classification of Scheduled and non-Scheduled among the people of Manipur for their absolute advantage.

6. In 2011 census, there had been overlapping of village in the districts of Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel Districts i.e., tribal land/hill districts included in the valley districts.

7. The Govt. of Manipur, in the name of smart city tried to grab 3,000 acres of land tribal land (Haolenphai) in the year 2014 near Moreh town.

8. Introduction of Municipality council a valley-based local administration at the hill town of Moreh, border to Myanmar. And, deployment of Commando forces in the town.

9. Just after two months of agitation by the ILP protestors, a special assembly session was convened to discuss the three bills in the Legislative Assembly. Subsequently, three of the below bills were passed in the assembly on 31 August, 2015.
a. The Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015;
b. The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015;
c. The Manipur Shops & Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015.

We are deadly against these deceiving bills passed in the state assembly that impinge the rights, cultural and identity of the tribals.

Our humble demands:

1. Immediate withdrawal of Commandos:
The high handedness of the police force sent under the full approval and authorization of the CM, Okram Ibobi Singh-who within 24 hours massacred 7 civilians, where 2 more succumbed to bullet injuries bringing the total casualty to 9 and injured to more than 100 persons. The bias of the CM is clearly seen in the way live bullets were used for the tribals while tear gases were used for the Meitei community from which the CM belongs. Therefore, Commandos must be withdrawn from Churachandpur immediately and if need be, to be replaced with central forces.

2. Immediate unblocking of GPRS Internet in the state of Manipur:
The government of Manipur is not able to control the situation and is mishandling this sensitive situation just by blocking the GPRS internet connection that only heightens the anger of the protesters. In order to hide their incompetence in maintaining law and order the state government blocked GPRS internet, assuming that this will stop the violence. But this is not the solution as protesters continue to burn down government offices including 3 mobile towers. The Meitei had protested for 2 months and no such disconnection action was done. This is purely a communal government.

3. Secret commission for enquiry of Okram Ibobi Singh:
We also request that a secret commission be set up to probe the misappropriation of civilians funds by the CM's office, a percentage of which goes to the Meitei militants to finance their operations.

4. Immediate CBI commission for killing innocent civilians:
An independent inquiry commission (CBI) to be set up within 7 days to find out details of the day-wise operations in Churachandpur, of how orders were carried out and who all were responsible for killing those 7 civilians. The Commission must be operational within a week.

5. President’s Rule in Manipur:
We want President's Rule to be imposed in Manipur with immediate effect to prevent further loss of lives as the state government failed to contain the unrest.

6. Separate Administrative Region:
Most importantly we ask Modiji to give us the tribals an autonomous region to govern ourselves, where development funds come to the tribals directly instead of being channeled through the pockets of the CM's office. We want a suitable committee to be formed within a week which will be able to hold dialogues with the tribal leaders for the formation of an separate administrative region for the tribals.

This will forever settle the major problems in Manipur.

And, we promise your Excellency that militancy could be wiped out from the tribal populace if Modiji can hear us out, sit down and talk with us through concerted effort.

Signed

G. Lenna Vaiphei
President, Manipur Tribal Union Bengaluru

 

and

Michael L. Haokip
General Secretary, MTUB

 

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