On the street where protests reside are those who scream and shout slogans, and those who sit silently hoping to be heard. But none draws the kind of reaction that nine black coffins do, with faces of nine young Manipuris in the backdrop — one of them just 11 years old.
Nine people, including the child, were allegedly killed in police firing in Manipur’s hill district of Churachandpur on September 1, during a protest against the passing of three controversial bills in the assembly.
The Manipuri community in Delhi, under the leadership of the Manipur Tribals’ Forum, Delhi (MTFD), has been holding protests at Jantar Mantar since November 4.
The symbolic coffins have been kept in place of the nine bodies, which are yet to be buried, to protest against the alleged police brutality. The protest, which started against the bills which the hill communities claim infringe on their land rights, has now turned into a demand for separation from Manipur by the minority tribal groups.
“This is to show our solidarity with the suffering tribal people in Manipur and support their demands. It is also to express sympathy and support to the families of the tribal martyrs, and to sensitise the Indian public and the government about the sad plight of tribal people of Manipur at the hands of the Meitei-dominated Manipur government,” said MTFD convenor Romeo Hmar.
Hill communities like Nagas, Kukis, Paites, and Hmars argue that these bills “infringe on their rights” and give more power to the majority Meitei community.
“Apart from the content of the three bills, the manner in which they were pushed through the Manipur Assembly is what outraged the tribal people greatly.
Convinced that they have no future under the present Manipur state, the tribal people have now demanded total political separation from Manipur,” said Hmar.
They have also demanded that bills should be reviewed at the earliest in a tripartite manner, with the involvement of the tribal communities, the Manipur government and the Ministry of Home Affairs.