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The Imphal catastrophe: Where is the media?

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By Prerna Grewal

Imphal, the capital of Manipur, has turned into the epicenter of madness and violence, carried out in a fit of agitation. Protests that were initiated with the demand of implementation of Inner Line Permit Bill System (ILPS)  have gathered momentum after the death of Sapam Robinhood, a 16-year-old student who was killed by the police in their efforts to quell the protest. imphal 2

What is ILP?

Inner Line Permit is an official travel document issued by the central government to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period. It is obligatory for Indian citizens, not residents of those states, to obtain a permit for entering the restricted areas.

What exactly are the demands of the protesters?

Protesters have been demanding the withdrawal of the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers Bill and implementation of a proper Bill which could safeguard the indigenous people of the State. The demand for the implementation of ILPS has emerged as a consequence of all this.

As reported by the Times of India, “Early this year, Manipur chief minister OkramIbobi Singh introduced the ‘Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers’ Bill 2015 in the assembly to safeguard the interests of the indigenous people of the state.

However, Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) said the bill was protecting the interests of immigrants rather than the indigenous people of Manipur”.

How did the protest turn ugly?

The death of the 16-year-old gave an ugly turn to the protest with protestors resorting to extreme measures in a fit of anger.

Despite imposed curfews (July 9 onwards), protestors came out on streets and imposed road blocks. Apart from trying to storm the residence of local MLA NameirakpamLoken, which was thwarted by the police, the protestors continued to burn tyres, place tree branches, rock boulders and iron posts on the roads.Imphal Express also informed of Sit in protests being staged in different parts of the State including at Kongba crossing, KhongmanMangjil, SingjameiBheigyabatileikai.

The level of frustration is clearly evident in the following statements made by the Indigenous People’s Assocation of Kangleipak’s (IPAK) chairman SapamchaJadumani.

“He said the movement will continue until the demands are met as the ongoing agitation demanding implementation of the Inner Line Permit System in the State is not only for the joint committee but for the whole people of the State.

The Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers Bill 2015 which was passed by the government omitted the recommendations submitted by the All Political Parties Committee and the joint committee and was made not according to the interest and welfare for the people he asserted.

The situation would not have turned this bad if the government had shown some concern and understanding of the people’s sentiment, he continued.

“It would be best if the government withdraw the previous bill and fulfil the demand made by the people as this is the only means to safeguard the indigenous inhabitants of the people and to live peacefully in the state” he added.

(Reported by the Imphal Free Press)

The next few statements made by the protesters and published by the Imphal Free Press are reflective of their obstinate determination.

The protestors also shouted at the police that the demand was also for the police and their families and “Take our lives, but don’t destroy our Home, please, we are eager to sacrifice for the ILPS.”

A fog of frustration seems to have clouded people’s perception and judgement. This is true for people on both sides of the spectrum. If protestors are resorting to extreme measures like the ones already mentioned (burning tyres, blocking traffic etc.), the police too is resorting to violent measures to quench the protest. Some of these are often on the fringes of being inhumanimphal 1

Tear gas shell, fired by the police that exploded in the middle of a group of protesters left several injured. One of the injured has been identified as 17-year-old Roshan Haobijam. Rushed to RIMS hospital, a splinter of a tear gas shell was taken out from an injury on his stomach.Splinters had also hit his thigh and shoulders and he was also bleeding from his right ear.

The following account was published by the Imphal Free Press,

“According to the students who are both 15-year olds, they were talking inside their residential gate at Kakwa when police personnel who came from behind jump on them and put them inside their mini-van parked outside.

The two have been identified as class VIII student Alex Thokchom son of Rajan and S Thoibi son of Amuchao.

The two said they were taken to the Kakwa Police Station and accused of using catapults which they had not.

The police then assaulted them using the butts of their guns and stamped all over their bodies with their boots, they said.

They were only rescued by the local womenfolk who stormed the station after learning of their arrest.

The two boys who are now at the RIMS wore lucid boot marks on their necks, thighs, knees and other parts”.

Mainstream Media not providing enough coverage to the issue?

While the residents of Manipur are in a better position to justify their stand on implementation or non-implementation of ILP, it is worth considering why the media hasn’t been giving as much coverage to the entire issue as it deserves. Except for regional media platforms within Manipur, hardly anyone within mainstream media seems to be going into the details violence unleashed upon the group of protestors which did not even spare teenagers or minors.

Posts about commercial media not giving enough coverage to issues in Imphal have been trending all over social media. Many people were taken by surprise on getting to know about the situation in Imphal through social media platforms such as Twitter. Some even expressed doubts regarding the validity of the news as they hadn’t heard of it elsewhere.

The biting sarcasm embedded within the tweet is clearly targeted towards such omissions on behalf of commercial main stream media. Various people on twitter agreed with him in their responses.

In response to this, Vishal Dadlani said he found no news of the same.

 

Award-winning author Binalakshmi Nepram continues to tweet about the issue from her handle.

Once again, the issue of discrimination faced by North Eastern states, despite being a part of India has been brought into discussion. The entire situation also highlights the significance of social media and the power it enjoys in terms of influence and effects. It is indeed one of the most powerful tools easily accessible to common man that can often be employed towards the welfare of society.

Finally, the following can be said about the situation in Manipur. Clearly chaos has established control over rationality and perhaps humanity. Difference of opinion has extended into something much more violent than a simple war of words. The government urgently needs to come up with a solution or arrive at some kind of negotiation.

Next Story

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Inaugurates Eight Projects in Manipur

Modi arrived at Imphal amid a shutdown and boycott imposed by some underground organisations protesting against his visit

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Modi. BJP
Modi to inaugurate several infrastructure projects in Odisha. VOA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated eight projects during his one-hour visit to Manipur on Friday.

He also laid the foundation stones of four other projects which will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore.

Despite a boycott call given by some insurgent outfits, there was a huge crowd at Hapta Kangjeibung where Narendra Modi addressed a public meeting.

Modi said that most of the projects were delayed by the previous Congress government, thereby wasting more money. “If the projects had been completed without delay, people would have benefitted,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that helicopter services had been introduced for the people and the construction of the Jiribam-Toupul rail line was progressing.

He said that 18,000 remote villages in Manipur had been electrified.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

Narendra Modi praised Manipuri women for being in the forefront in all spheres. He recalled how Mary Kom, the international pugilist, had won fame for India.

“It is in appreciation of the brilliant sportspersons of Manipur that the National Sports University was opened in Manipur,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that Delhi was now closer to the northeastern region. He said: “As Prime Minister, I have visited the region 30 times.”

He said the Integrated Check Post at Moreh, the border town of Manipur, will benefit the people of both India and Myanmar in trade and tourism.

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Modi arrived at Imphal amid a shutdown and boycott imposed by some underground organisations protesting against his visit.

Normal life was disrupted during the shutdown. All shops, commercial institutes, schools and colleges were shut. (IANS)