Manipur Hills Simmer
An aerial shot of the massive human chain formed by Manipur women against the Land Bills
NEW DELHI: Manipur is on the boil with the five hill districts of the state continuing their protest against the three controversial land bills passed by the State Assembly.
The residents of Churanchandpur, Senapati, Temenglong, Chandek and Ukhrul have been protesting since August 31 against the Protection of Manipur People Bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill, and the Manipur Shops and Establishments Bill that they feel will change the demographic balance of the state, by giving land rights to citizens from the plains.
Women of the five districts joined hands in a massive human chain in protest against what they described as the divide and rule policy by the government.
Since August 31, the day of the passage of the bills, the hills of Manipur erupted in flames - literally - with protesters, mainly from tribal organisations, torching five houses belonging to Congress lawmakers, including those of state Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Outer Manipur Lok Sabha member Thangso Baite. Since then the pace of protests has gone up although these have been largely peaceful now.
The violence and resultant police action left at least nine people dead.
According to people living in the hills of Manipur, the three bills will directly undermine the existing safeguards for the tribal hill areas regarding land ownership and population influx. In their view the primary threat for the tribals comes not from outside the state, but from the Meitei people living in the valley itself.
Speaking to The Citizen, Th.Thangzalian, Editor of The Lamka Post and a close observer of the whole issue said, “ There is no effort so far from the authorities to bring in peace. Manipur is boiling, People are out on the streets and want to be heard. If they will not be heard what can be done about it. There is no effort whatsoever and that is simply sad”.
Of Manipur's total area of 22,327 sq km, the valley covers 2,238 sq km while the hills cover the remaining 20,089 sq km. Of the nine districts in the state, five are spread across the hills.
The students have also joined the protest with dharnas in the state capital.
"The Manipur government must initiate the process to find out what exactly are the objections of the hill people to the three bills and prepare for further amendments," said Amarjeet Singh, Head of North Eastern Studies in Jamia Millia Islamia,.
With the bills now being forwarded by the Manipur governor to the President for assent, only time will tell whether the problem will be resolved.