A hundred days after nine tribal youths were killed in police firing during anti-Inner Line Permit protests in Manipur’s Churachandpur district, the bodies of the victims are still being kept at a morgue as a mark of protest.
“We will not bury the bodies till the three bills are repealed. They will be kept in the morgue in Churachandpur till our demands are met,’’ said H Mangchinkhup, the convener of the Joint Action Committee against Inner Line Permit (ILP), which is a special pass to enter the state.
In August, the Manipur government had passed three Bills to appease the pro-ILP stir, which began in June and was led by people from Imphal valley to restrict outsiders from entering the state without permission. The Churachandpur protest was a counter to the demand by the Meitei people to implement ILP in the state.
To mark the hundred days of the agitation, mass prayers and candlelight vigils were organised across the Kuki-Zomi dominated district and Naga districts.
But even as the tribal bodies representing Kukis, Zomis and Nagas united for the first time in decades over a common cause, the Joint Committee for ILP threatened to revive their agitation from December 16 in case the Manipur government failed to implement three contentious Bills — the Protection of Manipur People’s Bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (Seventh Amendment) and Manipur Shops and Establishments Bill (Second Amendment) Bill.
“We have submitted an ultimatum to state government that they need to implement the Bills by December 15. Or else, we will begin our stir. We signed a seven point agreement with the government and that must be honoured. Apart from the Bills, we demanded a population commission along with a land reform commission and that a 1980s agreement to identify and deport foreigners from Bangladesh, Burma and Nepal, be implemented,’’ said JCILP spokesperson Ratan Khomdrom. In August, however, Churachandpur witnessed protests after the Bills were passed.
A tribal leader said: “We want an alternate system — either outside the Manipur state, or if we have to stay within Manipur then we must have separate administration…The Bills, particularly the land reforms bill is simply a ploy by the government to appropriate tribal land. There is a huge divide between the tribals and the Meiteis now which can no longer be bridged,’’ said the tribal leader.
But even amid rising tensions, attempts to avoid an escalation, particularly during Christmas, continue. “This is not the right time for an agitation. A confrontation may not happen as JCILP knows how fast this issue can turn communal. Over the past month there have been attempts for a reconciliation between the groups. For now, the ILP does not seem possible,’’ said Professor Amar Yumnam of Manipur University.