More than 100 people led by the Tangkhul CSOs gathered in Gandhi Chowk, Ukhrul town in protest to the government of Manipur against non-tabling of the Hill Areas Committee’s recommendation of Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Bill 2021, today at 11 am.
Two groups of public came rallying from different directions, Awontang Junction and Dungrei Junction, shouting slogans like “Equality in Hills and Valley“, “Manipur Government, Enough is enough”, “CM Biren, Valley’s CM’” “Long live, Tribal’s Unity“, “No one is above the constitution,” “Immediately table HAC’s Demand!”
A short programme was taken up at Gandhi Chowk where Somatai Machinao, president TMNL moderated the program, invocation by Veronica Zingkhai, president TSL, introduction by Shimri Raising, president TKS, Sira Kharay, Advocate, exhorted the rally, with vote of thanks by Tuisem Kamkara, vice president TNL and benediction by Kaphaoleng Ankang, general secy. TNWL.
“The government gives the state the same resources, money and schemes for the welfare of the state. But unfortunately the development doesn’t reach the hill areas. Roads are well constructed with state of the art infrastructure and facilities, but there is almost nothing to talk about when it comes to development in the hill districts. This is because the Manipur government doesn’t care about the welfare of the hill areas and as such they take away our share and have exploited us, leaving us helpless and unsatisfied. That being the cause we are standing up today through this movement. We have to take back what is rightfully ours,” said Somatai Machinao.
“We have our rights and we won’t back down. The Manipur Government, although in power, is not greater than the constitution and has no authority to exploit our rights. We hope this message will reach the CM of Manipur. If it doesn’t, we will shout even louder,” said Shimri Raising.
“If the deaf are to hear, the sound has to be very loud,” said one of the placards displayed in the rally.
Sira Kharay in his exhortation and elaboration of Article 371(c), said that tribals identity, culture and land are being attacked. “Are we still going to sleep?” asked Kharay several times.
“If we don’t fight for our land, it will be lost”, said Kharay. “There is war. War these days is fought with law and politics. Don’t you know that the war is at hand?” he questioned.
Urging the leaders to stop playing party politics, Sira mentioned, “Manipur government should be accountable to the law. There is no authority for Manipur government and its cabinet to reject the HAC Bill. As directed by the law it should be tabled in the assembly. If they don’t, it will be referred to the governor and the decision of the governor is final. HAC Bill 2021 is not an issue but this is just a spark,” he added. He further said that our root is in Article 371(c), ADC Act 1971, and HAC Bill 1972 which says that our government is always separate,” explained Sira Kharay.
Sira continued and said, “This is our nation’s war, this is beyond party politics. Our land’s identity issue should not reduce to electoral politics. Our leaders Awo Suisa, Awo Phizo and Avakharar Muivah never shuddered at the face of war instead they rise up and fought courageously. Likewise, we should wake up and fight again.”
In addition, he also pointed out “while the world tries to protect the minority but the Manipur government is trying to diminish the only rights we, minority, have. And as a minority if we really want to live an honorable life we should demand separate statehood as it is not illegal. We are not demanding the Manipur Government to share the land; we were not under Manipur government, we were living by ourselves. We are just demanding the government to give back our rights. It is time we demand our rights back.”
In conclusion, Sira Kharay said that the world is led by politicians but we are different. It is time we stand in unity; it is such a time that the politician cannot be trusted. We should take decisions today to vote wisely and boycott or recall those who try to bribe or buy votes by contract or scheme. We should choose the one who really loves our people, the one who will stand up for our people.
“Where are our rights without Article 371c? Where is our identity without this article?
Are we still going to blame each other for this when there is war at hand?”
The programme concluded with benedictory prayer by Kaphaoleng Angkang.