Against an assurance of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India on November 8, 2015 which is liable to be interpreted in ways that favour either the majority community or the minority community, the process of talks was started between the Government of Manipur and the Joint Action Committee (JAC) against (i) The Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015; (ii) The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (7th Amendment) Bill, 2015; and (iii) The Manipur Shops and Establishment (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2015 controversially passed in the Manipur Assembly on Monday, the 31st August, 2015. The Bills, officially meant to bring about an inner line permit system in Manipur to prevent non manipur people from possessing land or setting up business establishment in the state, were seen by the tribals especially those from Churachandpur district as an attempt to dispossess them of their ancestral land.
The Bills drafted without much pre-legislative consultation, were introduced on the previous working day, i.e., August 28, 2015 (Friday).
As a fall out of the Bills and the ensuing violence, houses of the tribal legislators were burned down and 9 young men shot dead.
Tension was brewing as families of the dead refused to claim the dead bodies which are laying in make shift morgue in Churachandpur district hospital. It's about 98 days already.
V. Paukhansiam, a veteran musician and composer of country/patriotic songs, thanked God for the time he had positively prophesied in ages for, according to him, for political union of all tribal brothers, had come.
Haokip, who hails from Churachandpur district, had rightly pointed out, in a facebook comment, the inherent problem of the 40 is to 20 ratio between the valley and the hills respectively, in the Manipur Legislative Assembly. Even the cabinet is dominated by the dominant community. Statistics has it that the tribals consist of atleast 50% of the state population.
Sadly so many tribals are residing in the valley area, all of which come under one valley constituency or another. The issue has not been taken up. Untill lately the Manipur Tribals Forum, Delhi (MTFD) had reportedly approached the Election Commission.
BURIAL OF DEAD BODIES: THE AGENDA
Lately the JAC had decided that (i) burial would be conducted; and (ii) conducted in some suburb of the south district headquarters of Churachandpur town. Should one go by the agreement, that could be the last chapter in the first phase of the movement triggered by the passage of the controversial bills and the ensuing violence.
The MHA which wanted the dead be buried since day one vaguely assured simply that in matters relating to the three anti-tribal Bills, 'all stakeholders including the Manipur Government, the hill and valley people and other interested parties' would be consulted before arriving at any decision.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DIVIDE
When the JAC suddenly agreed to bury the martyrs within the month of November and when some of the thadou speaking people were supportive of the decision, the age old psychological divide between some of the thadous speaking people and paites came to a boiling point once over again.
Even the tears of emotion had hardly dried up yet.
Among the dead an 11 year boy named Khaijamang Touthang was from the Thadou speaking community. Most other victims are from the Paite speaking community
On the night of the 17th November, 2015, representatives from Jhankhand and Meghalaya and Zomi Re-unification Organization (ZORO) joined the coffin relay rally in Jantar Mantar held every day from 4 pm to 8 pm. The ZORO representative coming from Mizoram, thanked the representatives from Jharkhand and Meghalaya.
It may be recalled that the Manipur Government had manipulated the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act (MLR&LR), 1960 by making inroads for the valley people into the tribal lands by issue of gazette notifications from time to time. 89 villages from Churandpur district; 92 villages from Jiribam subdivision; 14 villages from Sadar hills of Mao subdivision; Makhao Tampak of Churachandpur subdivision; and 809 hectares of land from Tamenglong district of the hill areas had already been annexed illegally in the valley area under the MLR&LR Act, 1960. That has been heavy in the hearts of the hill people especially people from Churachandpur district. Rectification of the manipulation of the act provisions may or may not take place. That would be at the mercy of the people in power.
I would be happy to see the chiefs back in their lands. But whether they would be interested in returning or not is a big question. And if they are in possession again of the plots of land they/their ancestors once sold, will there be a safeguard against the land slipping back into possession of the valley people? Is anyone interested in empowering the existing district councils with legislative and executive power? Why the lands got converted into valley at the first place? Are the existing laws safe enough for tribals of Manipur? So many questions are staring one in the face. Someone need to gather the courage to find pieces to all the puzzles. If one is committed to the future and the future of his children.
Brothers in Mizoram have grand designs. Of uniting all ethnic tribes in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Brothers in Manipur could have capitalized the situation for the cause. When they sacrificed so much for tribal unity.
THE HEART OF THE PUBLIC SERVANT
Common surname makes me a nephew of Phungzathang Tonsing, the Health Minister of the Congress ruled Government of Manipur. Likewise Vungzagin Valte, the Parliamentary Secretary, was a neighbour. I wish the best for the two politicians who committed their lives for the cause of the people. And of late, they have become the butt of joke. As servants of the public, they would be fine by the forging of unity under the banner of the 3 bills, even at the cost of the people's goodwill to them? If at all people can have a better destiny through cursing you, you would be having no problem whatsoever. Even Tonsing and Valte should be fine. They are good at heart.
Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. All Manipuri tribals are His disciples. As the Marathis emulate Shivaji, it's imperative that even Manipuri tribals emulate Jesus Christ, their hero and role model.
As the controversy had turned all sitting tribal MLAs into devils, and as BJP MP from Uttarakhand, Tarun Vijay had raised the issue on December 3, 2015 with Jaya Bachan (UP), Aviary Rai Khanna (Punjab), Majeed Memon (Maharashtra), D Raja (Tamil Nadu), PL Punia (UP), MD Nadimul Haque (WB), Satyanarayan Jatiya (MP) and Tapan Kumar Sen (WB) seeking to associate themselves with the issue, Pu Thangso Baite, the Congress representative from outer manipur parliamentary constituency, has a chance to make it big in politics. Instead of grabbing the opportunity at making history, Baite chose the go with the status quo and refused to raise any voice in the BJP dominated Lok Sabha. He said that none of the innpis (households of the Thadous, Paites or any innpi) had approached him.
In fact it was him who supported the case for having inner line permit system in Manipur when Dr. Thokchom Meinya, the representative of inner manipur parliamentary constituency (also from the congress party) advocated the case in lok sabha.
It was not clear if Baite had the consent of the innpis for the same.
Come December 9, the MTFD has a plan to organize a march to Parliament in culmination of the coffin rally regularly held at Jantar Mantar, from 4 to 8 pm. Whether that would change history of the tribals or of some individuals will depend on how the case is handled. In fact the MTFD is a motley crue of young, innocent and disconnected individuals, who doesn't seem to have political ambitions, but work purely with emotional backing.