Eight people were killed and 27 injured as protests spilled over to a second day in Manipur’s tribal hill district of Churachandpur after the State Assembly passed three bills, including clauses that relate to purchase of land by non-Manipuris and fixing 1951 as the base year to identify non-indigenous people.
The houses of Health Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and five other MLAs, as well as the vehicle of the deputy commissioner of Churachandpur, were set on fire by the protesters.
While the minister, the MLAs and their families were unhurt, an indefinite curfew has been imposed in the area. Sources said the Minister and the MLAs were targeted because they failed to prevent the bills from being passed.
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While three bodies were found in Churachandpur town on Monday evening, one more was recovered on Tuesday morning. Two others were killed in police firing as a mob attacked the local police station on Tuesday.
On Monday, the Assembly unanimously the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015; Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (7th Amendment) Bill, 2015; and Manipur Shops and Establishments (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2015. Of these, the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, is a prototype of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system.
The protesting tribal student organisations have claimed that the three bills overlap Article 371 C of the Constitution and Manipur Hill People Administration Regulation Act, 1947. Their primary objection is to the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reform Act (7th Amendment) Bill 2015.
“We feel that by introducing the land Bill the Manipur government and the Meiteis will try and grab our land. The land in tribal hill areas is governed by customary laws and held by the chieftans on behalf of villagers. With this Bill, the land will fall under the control of the deputy commissioners and the Manipur government,’’ said a member of the protesting Kuki Students Organisation (KSO).
For the first time in years, traditional rivals Nagas and Kukis have come together to agitate against the Bill in the face of “a common enemy’’. “The battlelines have been drawn,’’ said the KSO member.
One of the clauses in the Bills passed is to set 1951 as the base year to identify non-indigenous people, who are regarded as outsiders.
“But tribal society has not kept records of settlers. Besides, the first elections were held in 1971. How are we to establish who is a late settler and who is not? This is just a ploy to get rid of us and reduce our numbers,’’ said the KSO member.
The state government has, meanwhile, declared that the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reform Act (7th Amendment) Bill 2015 will not harm the interests of those residing in the hills.
State Education Minister M Okendro said that the amendment was aimed at lengthening the process for purchase of land by non-Manipuri people or non-permanent residents. He further said that the law will extend only to the four valley districts and not the tribal hill districts.