TODAY -

Pact signed, ATSUM leaders freed, blockade continues
Source: Chronicle News Service

Imphal, August 08 2022: The five leaders of All Manipur Tribal Students' Union, Manipur (ATSUM), who were arrested in connection with the imposition of total shutdown over the demand for tabling The Manipur Hill Areas Autonomous District Council Bill, 2021 in the Assembly session, were released unconditionally on Monday after successful negotiations with the government.

A meeting was held between government representatives and ATSUM leaders from Sunday 5pm in connection with the demands for release of the arrested leaders and discussion of The Manipur ADC Bill 2021 .

In the meeting, the government was represented by TA& Hills minister Letpao Haokip and HAC chairman Dinganglung Gangmei, while ATSUM was led by its vice president Vanlallian Khaute, KSO general HQs by its president Sa-sang Vaiphei and ANSAM by its president Peter Thiirtung Wanglar.

The meeting, which continued till late evening, agreed for referring the handover of power under 7th Amendment of Manipur Hill Area District Council to Hill Areas Committee (HAC); for HAC to discuss the same with stakeholders before recommending it in the Assembly; release of the 5 ATSUM leaders without condition immediately after the economic blockade is withdrawn, and withdrawal of the arrest warrant and FIRs registered against the ATSUM leaders.

The ATSUM leaders were reportedly released from Sajiwa jail around 7.30 pm, almost five days after they were detained.

In-spite of their release, protests and shutdown continue across the state.

However, there is no report of calling off/suspending the economic blockade as consensus eluded the tribal consultative meeting held at Senapati town on Monday.

The emergency consultative meeting was organised by ATSUM to deliberate over the ADC Bill imbroglio attended by representatives of ATSUM, ANSAM, KSO-GHQ and all federating units, tribal apex bodies, tribe unions/Hohos, Kuki/Naga Women s unions, tribal chiefs' association, church leaders, human rights organisations, Kuki/Naga lawyers associations, leaders of political parties, tribal ex-parliamentarians, ex-ADC chairmen and members, tribal scholars, social activists/workers and well-wishers.

According to sources, there will be another meeting with the released ATSUM leaders to discuss further course of action.

Meanwhile, as per the agreement with the government, the IO of the FIR no.197 (08) 2022 of IPC, taken up by Imphal PS, submitted a final report (FR) to CJM Imphal West on Monday.

The report stated that a man from Uripok Sorbon Thingel Leikai submitted a report to Imphal PS on August 2 at around 7pm, stating that many life saving drugs and daily essential items are being brought into the state via the two national highways i.e., Imphal-Dimapur and Imphal-Jiribam.

However, some group of people, who came out of their own selfish interests, had imposed bandh/blockade along the national highways in the name of student body, ATSUM; thereby, disrupting the life of the people by causing shortages of daily essential items.

Based on the report, Imphal PS registered an FIR and arrested ATSUM president Paotinthang Lupheng, general secretary Andria Sinruwang, information secretary Khaiminlen Doungel, environment secretary Marankhai Awungshi and ex-president John Pulamte.

During the course of investigation, after analysing the evidences and consulting with senior officers, no proof supporting the charges were found and as such, the final report was submitted to the court.

After listening to the 10's report, the Court accepted the final report, remarking that the informant in the case had submitted a statement to the court stating his non-objection to the police investigation and the evidences collected.

The five leaders of ATSUM, including its president Paotinthang Lupheng and general secretary SR Andrea were picked up from the office of ATSUM located at Adimjati Shiksha Ashram, Chingmeirong following the union's call for a shutdown in hill districts, to demand the tabling of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) recommended Autonomous District Councils (ADC) Bill, 2021.On August 5, Tribal Affairs and Hills minister Letpao Haokip tabled the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council (sixth amendment) Bill 2022 on the last day's sitting of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly session, while the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council (seventh amendment) Bill 2022 was referred to HAC for further discussion, stating that there was a technical error and that it required further examination.

Following the arrest of the student leaders various tribal student organisations intensified their protests across the hill districts.

On Friday, ATSUM imposed an indefinite "economic blockade" along the national highways passing through the hill districts, cutting off supplies to the valley region.

On Saturday, at least 30 tribal students sustained injuries when police tried to disperse the student gathered at Chingmeirong in Imphal West for a peaceful rally.

The students were demanding immediate release of the five tribal student leaders arrested on the charge of imposing economic blockade in the hill districts.

Later on Saturday, mobile internet services were suspended for five days across the state by an order issued by Special Secretary (Home) H Gyan Prakash, which said that "some anti-social elements were using social media to transmit hate speeches, inciting the passions of the public".

Over 700 goods-laden vehicles were reportedly stranded along the National Highway-2 (Imphal-Dimapur) on Monday amid the tense situation, as the blockade, called by ATSUM since Friday, hit normal activities in the hill districts of Manipur.

According to the police, though a few incidents of arson, including setting a vehicle ablaze, have been reported on Saturday and Sunday, no untoward incident occurred on Monday.

"Security forces escorted 510 goods-laden vehicles to move to their destinations till Monday afternoon but over 7,000 vehicles, loaded with various essentials and other goods, are still stranded on the National Highway-2," a police official said.

The ATSUM called the 'economic blockade" on Friday, demanding the Manipur (hill areas) Autonomous District Council (Amendment) Bill, 2021 be moved in the state Assembly to provide more administrative powers and autonomy to the tribal autonomous bodies.

The police said that since Friday, over 1,200 goods-laden trucks carrying essential commodities were stranded on National Highway-2, which connects Manipur with the rest of the country via Nagaland.

In August last year, the Hill Areas Committee (HAC), comprising MLAs of all the 20 tribal reserved seats of Manipur, had recommended the new Autonomous District Council (ADC) Bill to ensure equitable development in the hill districts in the same parameters as in the valley region of the state.


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