Manipur's hill tribes demand president's rule

The people of Manipur's hill districts on Wednesday demanded imposition of president's rule in the state following the death of eight people in violence in Churachandpur district earlier this week

New Delhi: The people of Manipur's hill districts on Wednesday demanded imposition of president's rule in the state following the death of eight people in violence in Churachandpur district earlier this week

Following a protest rally organised by the Manipur Tribals Forum, Delhi, at the Jantar Mantar here on Wednesday, the Manipur Tribal Students, Delhi, submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding, among other things, imposition of president's rule in the trouble-torn northeastern state.

At least eight people were killed and more than 30 injured after violence erupted on Monday evening following Manipur government's adoption of three landmark bills - Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill 2015, and Manipur Shops and Establishment Bill 2015.

The bills were unanimously passed in the assembly on Monday after the ruling Congress signed an agreement with the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) on August 25 to enact three laws to protect the interests of the indigenous people.

The JCILPS had been spearheading a months-long agitation, demanding an inner line permit system in the state similar to ones in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.

On Monday evening, protesters attacked residences of five Congress lawmakers, including that of Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Outer Manipur Lok Sabha member Thangsoi Baite. They were not at home when the incidents took place.

The protesters also set ablaze a police station in Churachandpur town on Tuesday, leading to the death of six people after police opened retaliatory fire. 

Two more people who were part of the mob died on Wednesday, taking the toll to six.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Manipur Tribals Forum said that the three bills would 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 the Meitei people from the valley itself.

"The tribal people have made their opposition to the Meitei demands clear... the tribal people were never consulted by the 'Joint Committee' which have been spearheading the demands, nor the Manipur government which accepts them," it stated.

"The tribal MLAs in the assembly, fearing for their lives, dared not oppose the bills when the they were introduced and passed in the assembly."

In the memorandum to the prime minister, the Manipur Tribal Students called for action against state security personnel involved in the killing of the agitators and withdrawal of Manipur Police commandos from the tribal areas of the state.

It also urged the prime minister to expeditiously act on the demands for a "separate administration" for the tribal areas of Manipur.

"There is proof, if any more are needed, that the hill tribals and the plain Meiteis cannot live together under one administration."

Earlier on Wednesday, leaders of various tribes addressed hundreds of people who attended the protest rally in the national capital.

"If you have a map, you will see the discrimination made against the tribal people in terms of infrastructure development in the state compared to the valley areas," Chinkhan Guite, a leader of the Paite tribe, said.

"Now, we are not going to sit idle," Guite added.

Apam of the Hmar Students Association called for the people to work for the restoration of their dignity.

"We are not afraid of guns and bullets," Apam said.

"The land in Manipur belongs to us," said Sasang Haokip of the Kuki Students Organisation.

"We have been subjugated because we never raise our voices."

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