Imphal: The All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) has said today that the “civil unrest and violence” that erupted on Friday in Churachandpur was a throwback to the infamous 3 Bills that fuelled the “tribal uprising” in August 2016. The ATSUM also said that the “violent street protest” was not a spontaneous phenomenon but an outburst of growing dissent against the “adverse and regressive policies” of the present government of Manipur.
According to the apex tribal student body of Manipur, the forest and land survey, with an objective of evicting villages in the survey areas, is a direct affront to tribal hill people. The student body also said that surveys of the forest areas in the hills of Manipur that are supposedly “reserved forests/protected forests/wildlife sanctuaries” have drawn lots of flak from “tribal communities because there were procedural lapses when these forests were declared as such”. It alleged that many of these forest reserves were declared by the government without the consent and knowledge of the local villagers.
“The Hill Areas Committee of the Manipur legislative Assembly, on 11th March 2021 vide its resolution No. 38/2020-(HAC) had also resolved even to the extent that these reserved forest/protected forest/ wild life sanctuaries shall not be enforced by the departments without the approval of the Hill Areas Committee. And yet the government has not properly implemented this recommendation,” the ATSUM added.
According to the tribal student body, the “state government’s highhandedness” towards the tribals and “insensitive handling” of the situation had also led to this current violence and protest in Churachandpur. “Despatching commando forces from a neighbouring district to suppress the protestors and to stifle the voice of dissent had also aggravated the situation. Instead of trying to calm the public and find an amicable solution that will allay their grievances the government imposed its forces and angered the public beyond control. Such attitude and approach of the government is unfortunate and condemnable because as many as 25 people have been injured including the two who are in critical condition,” the ATSUM stated.
While appealing for peace and calm in the state, the ATSUM said it “takes a strong exception” to the “communal rhetoric of some valley based civil organisations” such as WMC and KKL. The ATSUM said that these organisations should refrain from playing divisive policies among the tribal communities. It also said that the majority of the tribal people understood the diabolical agenda of these organisations and as such their efforts to disintegrate the tribal communities will be futile. The vast majority of the tribal people have now felt the urgent need for unity to safeguard our own rights and interests, said the tribal student body. In the pursuit of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status these organisations are further alienating the tribal hill people from the valley people, and the unity and integrity of the people of the state is at stake. The government of Manipur should immediately intervene to stop these communal tones from spiralling it out of control, the ATSUM further added.
The tribal student body then said that the ISTV news report “in which the protestors in Churachandpur were alleged to be speaking in Myanmarese language, then and there, branding the protestors as illegal immigrants is outrageous”. The ATSUM statement added, “It demonstrates the insensitivity and naivety of the majority community towards the language, culture and customs of the tribal communities of the state”.