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Manipur bills: Fresh deadline, fresh tensions

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New Delhi: With agitators in the Manipur valley setting a fresh deadline for the state government to implement three controversial bills and the people of the hills continuing to vehemently oppose this, renewed tensions have loomed over the northeastern border state.

This week, the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) that spearheaded a three-month-long agitation earlier this year in the Valley, set a fresh deadline of December 15 for the Manipur government to implement the three bills, failing which it threatened to resume its agitation from December 16.

The people of the Valley carried out the agitation demanding the enforcement of an inner line permit system (ILPS) similar to one that are in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland to check the influx of non-Manipuris into the state.

The JCILPS says that according to the 2011 census, Manipur’s population is 2.7 million. Of this, only 1.7 million are indigenous people while the rest are people who have their roots outside the state.

Ostensibly to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people, the state government, bowing to the pressure from the agitators, convened a special session of the assembly on August 31 and passed three controversial bills – the Protection of Manipur People Bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (Seventh Amendment) and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill.

The very day the bills were passed, protesters, mainly comprising tribal organisations, torched five houses belonging to Congress legislators. Among them were the dwellings of Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Lok Sabha member from Outer Manipur Thangso Baite in Churachandpur district.

The violence and resultant police action left at least nine people dead.

According to the tribes inhabiting the hills of Manipur, the three bills would directly undermine the existing safeguards for the tribal hill areas regarding land ownership and population influx, as the primary threat for the tribal people came not from outside the state but from the Meitei people of the Valley itself.

The protests of the tribal people spread to New Delhi, with the Manipur Tribal Forum, Delhi (MTFD) holding rallies and submitting memorandums to the president as also to union ministers, including those of home, tribal affairs and development of northeastern region (DoNER), seeking the centre’s intervention in resolving the issue.

The MTFD, along with the Joint Action Committee (JAC) against the three bills, the All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) and women’s organisations, have said more than once that they did not trust the state government. They want the central government to convene a tripartite meeting and have demanded a separate administration for the hills.

With President Pranab Mukherjee not assenting to the three controversial bills and the centre yet to act on the demands of the tribal people, matters have reached a stalemate of sorts.

On Wednesday, however, Khomdram Ratan, convenor-in-charge of the JCILPS, held a press conference in Manipur capital Imphal at which he said that the indifferent attitude of the state government has led to the three bills rotting in the president’s hands.

“If the state government really wanted to save the indigenous people of the state, they should pressure the central government,” media reports quoted him as saying.

On Friday, an indefinite strike launched by the MTFD in the national capital demanding the withdrawal of the bills completed one month. Nine symbolic coffins laid out at the protest site at Jantar Mantar reveal the most tragic side of the whole saga – the bodies of the nine people killed in the protests in Churachandpur are still lying in a hospital morgue with the families refusing to claim them till the demands of the tribal people are met.

“The state government should have taken all stakeholders on board before passing the bills,” Mani Charenamei, former Lok Sabha MP from Outer Manipur constituency, told IANS at the protest site here.

Charenamei is of the opinion that the Imphal dispensation should be more sensitive to the demands of the tribal people.

“Now, if both the parties step up their movements, the state government will be compelled to somehow resolve the issue,” he said.

Addressing the protesters, the former MP said: “It has become very clear to the state government that the tribal people are not at all happy at the way they are being governed.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, an MTFD delegation met Satyendra Garg, the newly appointed joint secretary (northeast) in the home ministry, and apprised him of their demands.

“We were told that all memorandums and other documents that we had submitted have been sent to the judicial wing of the ministry,” J. Moivio, co-convenor of the MTFD, said.

“Action can also be taken only when the remarks from the judicial wing come in,” he added.

With December 15 close ahead, the question is: Who will blink first?

(Aroonim Bhuyan, IANS)

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Dalai Lama on Three Day Visit to Manipur

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Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama will be in Manipur on Tuesday. ians

Imphal, October 16: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will arrive here on Tuesday on a three-day visit to Manipur, officials said.

This will be his second trip to India’s northeast after his April visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh told IANS on Monday that the government had declared the Dalai Lama a state guest.

“We will extend a warm welcome to him. He will be given all facilities as an honoured guest,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Dalai Lama will be given a public reception at the Convention Centre here. It will be followed by a felicitation programme at the same venue.

The Dalai Lama will interact with members of the public and dignitaries.

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since fleeing his homeland in 1959, is coming to Manipur at the invitation of the Speaker of the Manipur Assembly.

His Arunachal Pradesh visit had sparked a diplomatic row between India and China.(IANS)

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Feeling Left out in the Race to Progress, Tribals express wish to get Educated and make up for Lost Time

AIMBSCS is an organisation formed to spread the ideology of Ambedkar and Birsa Munda, among other such progressive personalities

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Tribals of India, Wikimedia

– by Vishal Narayan 

Jamshedpur, Nov 27, 2016: A feeling of resentment among tribals at being “cheated” by upper-caste Hindus, of being left out in the race to progress, is now giving way to the urge to get educated, to “make up for lost time”. At a pan-India conclave of tribals here, many spoke of the need for education to shake off a widespread “inferiority complex”.

Adivasi rights campaigner Thalko Majhi of the Ho tribe of Jharkhand, who had put up a book stall at the Tribal Conclave ‘Samvaad’, organised by the Tatas, said that upper-caste Hindus had made God their trustworthy ally in order to keep the tribals chronically subservient.

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Majhi spoke to IANS about his lifelong circumspection about the existence of God, which he could never describe for want of a proper idiom, until 2012.

“That year I came in contact with Shishir Varge of the All India Mulnivasi Bahujan Samaj Central Sangh (AIMBSCS). I joined his eight-day camp in Nagpur,” Majhi recalled.

“They taught people like me how to reason well; taught us the historical facts about the ‘varna vyavastha’ or the Hindu caste system that had never reached us earlier,” he said.

“All this soul/spirit is a lie! Hindus have cheated us,” said Majhi, adding, “I always wondered that if God is so benign then why does he allow such gross iniquities in the society? God is a myth.”

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Majhi said that until he was acquainted with the teachings of Bhimrao Ambedkar he had no idea about the “exploitative system” of the Hindu religion, which he conceded has made deep inroads into possibly every Indian culture through sophisticated propaganda.

“Did Hindus not eat beef? They very much did,” he said.

“And they made Buddhists flee when they faced tough competition from them,” Majhi said at the Dalit-Aadivaasi literature stall at the Tribal Conclave, which had on display titles like “Shoodron ki Khoj” (Search for the Untouchables) and “Tribals not Hindus”.

“I keep telling tribals not to mind such abstractions as God and not spend time on elaborate rituals. We have to make up for lost time,” Majhi said.

He rued that people, even those who benefit from the quota system, “tend to restrict the good fortune to themselves, and don’t educate others”.

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AIMBSCS is an organisation formed to spread the ideology of Ambedkar and Birsa Munda, among other such progressive personalities.

Munda, a 19th-century warrior, was an Adivasi and as far as can be gathered from his calls to his fellow men, was a confirmed sceptic. He was known to have urged tribals not to make animal sacrifices to appease any deity and not to indulge in idol worship.

Sukhmati of the Ho tribe, who too had a book stall at the conclave, had attended the eight-day AIMBSCS workshop in Nagpur as Majhi.

“I just want my future generation to be educated. I think this is the best way to wean them off their inferiority complex. Otherwise, they will just go on drinking and doing nothing as they have been doing for years,” Sukhmati told IANS.

Jharkhand has, among others, three main tribes — Ho, Santhal, and Munda. Although Mundas have of late come into the mainstream, the other two remain backward, with many of their youths unemployed.

The third edition of the four-day-long Tribal Conclave was held from November 15-19 and was themed around the Tribal Health System. There are an estimated 60 million tribals, or indigenous people, across India. (IANS)

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This year 600 children died of malnutrition in Palghar: So what? says Maharashtra’s Tribal Welfare Minister

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Malnutrition in Nigeria. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Videos of Maharashtra’s Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savra’s encounter with the tribals of Palghar went viral on the social media
  • Savra alleged that some activists of Shramjeevi Sanghatana, a local organisation, were instigating the tribals
  • Savra arrogantly shots back at the tribals saying, “If you don’t want me to come, then I won’t.

Palghar, Sept 17, 2016:Maharashtra’s Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savra faced the ire of tribals in Palghar whose children have perished due to malnutrition.

When he visited a tribal hamlet in Khoch village in the worst-hit Mokhada sub-district on Thursday evening, angry locals confronted the minister and demanded answers.

Some infuriated tribals asked him, “600 children have died here (in 2016) what have you done for us?”

“So what? The government is doing its work, implementing schemes…..,” Savra retorted, as some of the enraged villagers virtually asked him to ‘get out’.

One grieving young tribal woman, whose two-year-old son died due to severe malnutrition late August, accosted the minister at the doorstep of her hut, “Where were you so long.. My son died 15 days ago and you come now? You want to click pictures? We don’t want to meet you. No need to come here.”

Other villagers also joined the chorus and said there was no need for the minister to come, and Savra arrogantly shot back, “If you don’t want me to come, then I won’t.”

 

Savra’s comments were dubbed as insensitive by the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and even ruling alliance partner Shiv Sena, with several leaders including Leader of Opposition (Congress) Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, demanding his resignation or dismissal from the cabinet.

 

Later, Savra alleged that some activists of Shramjeevi Sanghatana, a local organisation, were instigating the tribals and that his comments were being “twisted out of context,” even as videos of the encounter went viral on the social media.

The locals expressed their anger that though claims are made of huge funds being allocated for their welfare, they received no funds and had to even ‘beg’ for money to treat the child of the young tribal woman.

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The child’s condition suddenly worsened last month and he was rushed to a Nashik government hospital, but succumbed due to suspected malnutrition symptoms.

 

Stung by the villagers’ aggressive attitude, the BJP leader who is also Guardian Minister for the district, beat a hasty retreat along with his motorcade from the village.

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Governor C V Rao had directed three ministers — Minister for Women and Child Development Pankaja Munde, Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savra and Minister for Public Health Deepak Sawant — to take urgent remedial steps to tackle malnutrition not only in Palghar but in other parts of the state also. (IANS)