Thousands of people gathered in East Imphal on Thursday evening to witness the burial of L.M. Sapam Robinhood, the teenager who succumbed to injury after a teargas shell hit his face during Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) agitation in Imphal valley on July 8.
The mortal remains of Robinhood, a class XI student, was claimed by his family on Thursday, 58 days after his death, in the wake of an agreement between the State government and representatives of JCILPS, said a senior police officer.
The day was relatively peaceful in the valley (Imphal) and the Churachandpur district, 60 km south of the capital Imphal, though minor incidents were reported.
With Mr. Robinhood’s last rites being observed, JCILPS has suspended its two-month long agitation. Schools and colleges have reopened and the government released all those who were arrested in connection with the agitation without conditions.
However, as the State government accepted the demands of the agitators, supporting an Inner Line Permit System passed three Bills on August 31, the hill tribes mounted a massive movement in parts of Manipur. The most affected district was Churachandpur, where eight persons have died so far in agitation and police firing.
On Friday, the committee to coordinate anti-Bill protest in Churachandpur — the Joint Action Committee (JAC) — has declared that the people killed in this week’s agitation are “tribal martyrs” and that any compensation from the Manipur Government will not be accepted.
“The tribals of the hills will raise fund for the martyrs and their families,” the joint secretary of the committee, Francis Songate told The Hindu . The spokeswoman of the committee J.L. Swami said that they will talk to the families to decide when they are planning to take the bodies back. “The bodies cannot be kept in the morgue for weeks in Churachandpur…the facilities are not adequate,” Ms Swami said.
JAC has entrusted United People Front (UPF) and the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) — the apex bodies of various tribal underground (UG) outfits — to continue with the struggle for political autonomy of the tribals. UPF and KNO demanded separate administrative status for the tribals in their earlier talks with the Central and the State government. The talks are still on, officially, even if it was postponed few times.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Chief Minister of the State, Gaikhangam, who is also a Zeliangrong Naga, has said the government is planning to send representatives to the trouble-torn areas (Churachandpur) to convince the people that there is no clause in the new Bills against any tribes. In fact, there cannot be a Manipur without the Naga and the Kuki tribes, he said.
On Friday, the tribal communities, including members of the Zeliangrong Naga and the United Naga Council have also met the representatives of the JAC. They all appreciated the role of the volunteers for maintaining peace on Friday and asked the communities to maintain peace over the weekend.