As protests against the passage of three Bills in Manipur escalated, three persons were killed on Tuesday when police opened fire on a mob in Churachandpur district, taking the overall death toll to eight and the number of injured to 31. The fresh violence forced the authorities to extend the indefinite curfew imposed on Monday night.
Police firing on the mob which attacked the Churachandpur police station left three persons dead. Two of them were in their 30s while another was a 10-year-old, police sources said.
The Centre termed the situation ‘very tense’ with Home Minister Rajnath Singh calling up Chief Minister Ibobi Singh and offering all assistance.
Five persons were killed during a general strike called by the tribal student organisations on Monday to protest the passage of three Bills — Protection of Manipur People’s Bill, 2015, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015, and Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 — in the Assembly.
The tribal student groups claimed the Protection of Manipur People’s Bill, 2015 and the other two amendment Bills would facilitate buying of land by migrant workers in the State. The issue of losing one’s ancestral land is a big issue in Manipur as the indigenous population is getting outnumbered due to inward migration from neighbouring countries and other parts of the country.
While the ethnic population is demanding imposition of an Inner Line Permit (ILP), in line with a few north-eastern States to restrict outsiders, the government passed the Bills prompting fresh clashes.
Experts feel the Manipur government “has not explained the content” of the Bills to the people.
Manipur rights activist Babloo Loitongbam said the Bills had “nothing against the security or interest of the tribals.”
Rather, the process of buying land by outsiders in the State has been made more stringent by the new laws. But the content of the new laws was not properly explained, he feels.
As a result violence erupted on Tuesday and spread across many districts. Houses of many MLAs were set on fire. In Chandel district houses of two MLAs were torched, while in Ukhrul houses of three MLAs were set ablaze. Houses of six MLAs in Senapati district, three in Tamenglong and six in Churachandpur were vandalised. According to local residents in Churachandpur town, the situation is “nowhere under control” and people are asked to remain indoors. “A few thousand people gathered in Churachandpur town and a small-scale battle ensued between the police and the agitators. Eventually police opened fire killing four people on Monday and two persons on Tuesday,” said Dr. Immanuel Varte, a human rights activist.
Mr. Loitongbam said the State Government should have explained the content of the Bills, which have made land buying more stringent for outsiders.
“Earlier the permission to buy land had to be sought from a section or subsidiary of the Cabinet, but now the entire Cabinet needs to approve land-buying by an outsider. The tribal areas – being Scheduled areas – remain protected and are not disturbed under the new amendments,” Mr. Loitongbam told The Hindu from Imphal.
However the indigenous community developed an impression that the cut-off year remains 1951 in the new Bills, when the first post-independence Census was conducted and indigenous people who arrived after 1951 will be deported to respective States or countries.
“This was a wrong idea and it was not properly explained that tribal interests will not be affected. The Government should have explained the content in greater detail as the relationship between the ethnic community and the valley people is always a little sensitive in Manipur. As a result the local MLAs were targeted by the people,” Mr. Loitongbam said.
( With agency inputs )