Intro : Eight persons were killed and at least 31 others injured after violence broke out in Churachandpur district in Manipur.
From 1980 onwards when insurgency erupted simultaneously in Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura except Arunachal Pradesh where there was no or miniscule number of Christians and Muslims, Manipur—the diamond in the crown of Bharatmata in North-East region, has become the prime prey of anti-national forces.
A section of Meitei Hindus who are over-powering the genuine Manipuri community have been trapped at gun point. The Hindi speaking people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are targeted every time to draw the attention of Delhi. Unfortunately, Delhi turned deaf ears during previous governments. Now also the divisive forces are working underground. As a result, these Hindi speaking people – the strongest centripetal force bonding Imphal with Delhi, are fleeing away from Manipur leaving behind their permanent properties. Though, the issue is different not connected with people from UP and Bihar, but this time also they are being targeted as usual. The vacuum thus created is being filled in mostly with Bangladeshi infiltrators.
The State covers an area of 22,327 sq km where 90 per cent of it belongs to Janjati people including Kuki and Nagas and 60 per cent of total population of 27 lakhs is confined in the 10 per cent Valley area. This has threatened the Meitei community as the Valley becomes over populated. But in the Article 371C in the Constitution of Bharat, the Meiteis who are in the general category do not have rights over janjati land whereas janjatis are in bee line to occupy the land in Valley keeping intact their lands in the hilly villages which are surrounded by thick forest woods, mineral resources and wild lives. In order to check the population distribution imbalance, the Manipur Government has been making attempts to extend the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (MLR & LR) Act in the hill districts of Senapati, Chandel, Ukhrul, Churachandpur and Tamenglong for a longtime now. Because of the strong opposition by janjati people the State Government of Manipur is unable to have its way.
On August 31, 2015, three bills- (i) The Protection of Manipur Peoples Bill 2015 (ii) The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (seventh amendment) Bill 2015 (iii) The Manipur Shop and Establishment (second amendment) Bill 2015 – were passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly.
On the perception that these Bills are anti-janjati and violate the provision of Article 371C and the Manipur State Hill People Regulation 1947, the janjati people started an agitation same day in the evening. The State Government claimed that the amendment does not infringe upon Article 371C of the Bharatiya Constitution. The State Government also said that MLR & LR Act 1960 is applicable only in four valley districts- (Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Bishnupur) and a small portion of Churachandpur district. The Ibobi government further clarified that these three bills do not infringe on the existing rights of janjati community settled in the State of Manipur.
The clarification has been not accepted by the Janjati people. The Naga People Organisation (NPO) of Senapati district has termed the action of Manipur Government as targeted against janjati community in Manipur. The Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), All Naga Students Association Manipur (ANSAM) and Kuki Students Organisation (KSO) have been opposing the particular bill.
The violence erupted on August 31, 2015 evening following the passing of the above three bills after the ruling Congress signed an agreement with the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (ICILPS) on August 25.
The mob attacked the residence of five Congress MLAs including those of Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and outer Manipur Loksabha Member Thongsoi Baite.
Several houses and vehicles were burnt to ashes. Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiran Rijiju termed the situation in Manipur as “very tense”. Centre is sending additional paramilitary forces following a request from the State Government.
The Central Government is required to act swiftly with heavy hand against instigating elements and applying balm to innocent victims.
Jagdamba Mall (The writer is an expert on North-East affairs)