NEW DELHI, Nov 4: Tribal people from the hills of Manipur living in the tiol Capital Region staged a protest rally here on Wednesday in continuation of their agitation demanding the repeal of three controversial bills passed by the state’s assembly ostensibly to protect the rights of the indigenous people.
The Manipur Tribals Forum, Delhi (MTFD) organised the rally at Jantar Mantar here which was attended by students and people from different walks of life hailing from the hills of Manipur.
The hills of Manipur have been simmering with tension ever since the state assembly, in a specially convened session on August 31, passed the three controversial bills.
The passing of the Protection of Manipur People Bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (Seventh Amendment), and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill was the culmition of a months-long mass agitation by people living in the valley districts of the northeastern state.
They demanded an inner line permit (ILP) system similar to the ones in force in Aruchal Pradesh, Mizoram and galand to be introduced in Manipur.
That very day, the hills of Manipur erupted in flames - literally - with protesters, mainly comprising tribal organisations, torching five houses belonging to Congress lawmakers, including those of Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Outer Manipur Lok Sabha member Thangso Baite in Churachandpur district.
The violence and resultant police action left at least nine people dead.
According to people living in the hills of Manipur, the bills will directly undermine the existing safeguards for the tribal hill areas regarding land ownership and population influx as the primary threat for the tribal people comes not from outside the state but from the Meitei people living in the valley itself.
“It has been more than two months since protests erupted in Manipur hills in the immediate aftermath of the passage of three anti-tribal bills by the Manipur assembly on August 31,” an MTFD statement issued on Wednesday said.
It pointed out that the bodies of the nine people who were killed in the violence were still lying in a hospital mortuary in Churachandpur.
“Apart from the contents of the three bills themselves, the manner in which they were pushed through in the Manipur assembly is what outraged the tribal people greatly,” the statement said.
“Convinced that they have no future under the present Manipur state, the tribal people have now demanded total political separation from Manipur.
According to MTFD, the Manipur government has “adamantly refused” to unilaterally revoke the three bills or even review them and hence the tribal people have now demanded the holding of tripartite talks between the representatives of the tribal people, Manipur government and the union home ministry.
“Since the protests erupted, representatives from the Joint Action Committee (JAC) against the three bills, tribal organisations, tribal students’ organisations like All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM), women’s groups have all come to Delhi to apprise the central government of the problem and the need to seriously address them,” the statement said.
These organisations, together with MTFD, have met the president, the union home minister, the union minister of state for home, the union ministers for development of the nrotheastern region and minority affairs, the tiol Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the president of the Congress.
“So far, there is no tangible and serious efforts on the part of the central government to address the grievances of Manipur despite these, and despite the constitutiol provision which states that ‘the executive power of the union extends to giving directions to the state government as to the administration of the hill areas’ of Manipur,” MTFD said.
Addressing Wednesday’s rally, MTFD spokesperson Lakpachui Siro said a six-member MTFD fact-finding mission went to Churachandpur last month and met local leaders.
“We also met leaders outside of Churachandpur, we have the support of students’ organisations, church leaders and community leaders,” Siro said.
“We have told the union home ministry that we do not want a cosmetic solution. We want a permanent solution.”
Other tribal leaders also addressed Wednesday’s protest rally. (IANS)