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In soldarity with Manipur tribals
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In soldarity with Manipur tribals

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On 08 September 2015, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Students’ Union in collaboration with Manipur Tribal students from TISS, Mumbai has organised condolence service for the victims of Churachandpur incident in Manipur whose innocent lives were taken away by the State brutality. The condolence service was held at main campus gate of TISS, and participated by TISS students, staff and members of TISS Students’ Union.

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Video shows security personnel shooting down a protester

 The TISS fraternity paid respect to the deceased in the form of one minute silence and lighting of candles. A song was presented in memory of the victims of Churachandpur incident followed by group songs.

The service began by detailing the background of the incident, and subsequently and President of TISS Students’ union and students’ representatives delivered speeches, and strongly condemned over the loss of innocent lives including 10 year old boy in Churachandpur incident. TISS Students’ Union seeks the State to consult tribal bodies in any matter that infringe upon their interests.

Statement from Tribal Students of Manipur, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and TISS Students’ Union

We, the tribal students from Manipur studying in Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in collaboration with TISS Students’ Union, Mumbai, want to convey in this medium our displeasure against the excessive forces lashed out against the tribal people in Churachandpur. We would also like to point out the State’s apathy and its approach towards the hills, and we strongly condemn the calculated act of the State against the hills. Inhuman experiences meted out to tribal people are not new, and the process of marginalisation is at play for many decades by the State. In the present context, the State has the audacity to override the existing constitutional rights of tribal people and passed the three contentious bills namely: the Protection of Manipur People’s Bill; the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill; and the Manipur Shops and Establishment (Second Amendment) Bill. The step taken by the Manipur Government as such disrespects the constitutional body- Hill Areas Committee and the existence of tribal people in Manipur.

The State assembly held on 31st August 2015 was aware of the bandh in the hills organised jointly by Kuki Students’ Organization (GHQ), All Naga Students Association, Manipur (ANSAM) and All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM). The way how the three bills were passed in the assembly unanimously suggests that there is more to it than the assurance doing round the corner that the bills in question does not infringe upon tribal’s interests and its land. The emphasis on ‘lack of communication’ leading to a protest in Churachandpur is seen as a move to exclude tribal people’s interest from the process of consultation. However the manner in which the bills have been passed without consulting tribal bodies shows that the State is drawing a distinct line against the hill districts. The content of the bill, despite claims of unfounded fear by the tribal people, is far from convincing especially the base line year and the provisions under the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill.

The former issue can exclude tribal people from their land owing to the customary practices where land and its settlement are besotted with community/village chief-so there is a need to critically analyse the notion around creation of base year be it 1951 or 1961 or 1971. This is in consonance with the practices of land among tribal society where land records are usually maintained orally, and passed on from one generation to another on the basis of shared values- culture, custom and identity. On the aspect of the latter concerning Land Reforms bill, there is a fear that the amended Bill can formalise non-tribal to make inroads into the lands of tribal people. It is not that the existing Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (MLR & LR) Act protects the hill districts, there are loopholes in it for instance land lying in the low lying areas in the hill districts are being placed under this act. As per evidence drawn from the year 2010, there are already 117 villages from Churachandpur, Senapati and Tamenglong districts where MLR & LR Act has been implemented. The recently amended Bill can escalate the existing loophole and institutionalise the dilution of tribal’s rights over their land. There is a need to engage and consult with tribal bodies rather than communication when it comes to the interest of tribal people.

Additionally, it is important to point out that the recently concluded Autonomous District Council’s election is yet to be functional, despite repeated call for its operationalisation. Within the sphere of Autonomous District Council, the demand for Sixth Schedule has begun in late 1980s and till date the State has not implemented Sixth Schedule despite the centre’s directive to implement Sixth Schedule in the hill districts of Manipur.

At this juncture, we also like to raise the under-representation of tribal people in the media houses operating out of Imphal. The dissemination of information from Imphal largely shapes the discourse of politics, activism and how it informs public consciousness, and the role it plays in public policy. We would like to inform the mainstream media to focus on gathering information from the hill districts as well.

We echo the sentiments of our tribal people who are struggling back home. We also reiterate the common call for separate administration in the hill districts under the ambit of Sixth Schedule. We place before the State to repeal the bills in question- the Protection of Manipur People’s Bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, and the Manipur Shops and Establishment (Second Amendment) Bill, and proceed an inquiry into Churachandpur incidents where the armed forces unleashed brutality against tribal people leading to loss of 8 lives. We also want the State to follow and stick to the course of constitutional mechanism in consulting tribal bodies in any matters concerning tribal people. Last but not least, the claim of unequal population and land distribution in the hills and plains does not place any community in Manipur to have upper hands without exercising power through political means over economic, cultural and social status which resides predominantly in Imphal.

Date: 08/09/2015 

 ~ PresidentTISS Students’ Union, Mumbai, and Manipur Tribal Students of TISS, Mumbai`

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[Via Richard Kamei]

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