NEW DELHI/IMPHAL: Manipur, where the hill tribals have been protesting for 75 days against three controversial land bills, is boiling with anger. In a new development the tribal groups Joint Action Committee has decided to give a “respectful” funeral to the nine “tribal martyrs” who had died during the protests on November 30, a date that was decided at a meeting on Sunday.

The JAC has also called for a boycott the Sangai Festival hosted by the state government. Matters are thus, coming to a head after weeks of protests by the Manipur hill tribes have failed to elicit positive response from either the state government or New Delhi.

‘People from all the hill districts, particularly the people of Churachandpur have been requested not to participate in the upcoming Sangai Festival. If anyone from Churachandpur turns up for the event individually or in groups they will be branded and treated as anti-tribal,’ H. Mangchinkhup, the Chief Convenor of JAC told The Citizen after the meeting.

The Protection of Manipur People Bill, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (Seventh Amendment), and the Manipur Shops and Establishments Bill (Second Amendment) were passed by the Manipur Assembly on August 31. This led to immediate violent protests in the state, during which houses of lawmakers were torched, and nine protesters killed in police firing. The agitation has been going on since. Recently the special secretary (Home) Internal Security visited the areas facing severe unrest but was unable to come up with a concrete proposal to address the concerns of the Manipur hill tribes, heightened after the passage of the land bills.

The tribes like Nagas, Kukis, Zomis and Hmars have claimed 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 came not from outside the state but also from the Meitei people from the Valley itself. They are calling it a policy to divide the hill tribes. The legislations have fed into the insecurity of the hill tribes of being ‘consumed and subsumed’ by the plains.

Since the day, the bills were passed, protesters, mainly from tribal organisations in the hills of the state, torched five houses belonging to Congress lawmakers. These included the houses of state Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Lok Sabha member from Outer Manipur Thangso Baite in Churachandpur district.

While protesting over this issue several locals sustained injuries, while nine persons were killed. The bodies of these nine people have not yet been cremated as a mark of protest. And now according to information with The Citizen the funeral will take place on November 30.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC), which is against the alleged ‘anti-tribal Bills’ had taken a decision earlier that it would given the nine ‘tribal martyrs’ respectful last rites within November. This followed a written assurance at the time from the Centre that it would deal with the issue in a manner that will address all concerns. A closed door meeting of the tribal leaders, along with the JAC members, this Sunday fixed the funeral service for November 30.

The meeting expressed its exasperation against the nonchalant attitude of the Manipur Government and declared that the latter will pay a heavy price for its actions and inactions.

A separate meeting of the JAC held on Monday called on all the hill districts of Manipur to boycott the upcoming Sangai Festival that is to be hosted by the State’s Tourism Department.

Earlier on Sunday the tribal leaders along with the JAC noted the necessity of maintaining a united stand as the movement has crossed seventy-five days, and reaffirmed their commitment to work as a united force until the movement reaches its logical and desired conclusion, and their demand for the withdrawal of the Bills is met.

The JAC also declared their support to the relay-strike launched by the Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi and granted Rs 2 lakh in assistance.

‘It is felt that the burial of our Martyrs at the earliest is the duty of all as a goodwill gesture. Since the Government of India responded positively to the JAC’s appeal and assured in writing that the concerns of the tribals of Manipur would be addressed and stakeholders would be consulted on all matters pertaining to the three Bills, I think we should go ahead with the funeral,” Mangchinkhup said.

The JAC noted the failure of the Government of Manipur to address the concerns of the JAC and expressed total exasperation over the nonchalant and indifferent attitude of the State Government which has miserably failed to positively respond to the four requirements tabled before the Chief Minister on November 9, 2015.

The meeting, it said, noted with deep regret that the Manipur Government has not taken any step to address the issue, and it is only the Government of Manipur that will pay a heavy price for its actions and inactions. The meeting further pointed out its disappointment with the failure of the Government of India to initiate political dialogue with the UPF and KNO.

‘The meeting is of the opinion that it is in the collective interest of all to initiate dialogue sooner than later,’ it added.