TODAY -

NE bodies petition PM
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, September 27 2015: Meghalaya People's Human Rights Council (MPHRC), Indigenous Women's Forum of North East India (IWFNEI), Sinlung Indigenous People's Human Rights Organization (SIPHRO), Naga People's Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Karbi Human Rights Watch (KHRW), Zo Indigenous Forum (ZIF) and Zomi Human Rights Foundation (ZHRF) have submitted a joint memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that the Government of Manipur has violated the Constitutional safeguards of the indigenous/tribal people.

The memorandum also urged the Prime Minister to immediately prevent further occurrence of violence and deaths by impressing upon the Government of Manipur to immediately withdraw the legally flawed and controversial Bills - Protection of Manipur People's Bill 2015, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill 2015 and Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill 2015 that were allegedly passed without due democratic process and in violation of Article 371 (C) of the Constitution.

The bodies also demanded the Prime Minister to ensure that the Government of Manipur adhere to established democratic procedures and obligations in accordance with National and international human rights standards such as the right to free, prior and informed consent of the right-holders, particularly the indigenous/tribal peoples, to ensure their full and effective participation in the legislation of laws that affect them.

It further demanded that an independent judicial enquiry be instituted to immediately bring to book the Manipur police commandos responsible for the deaths of the protester and immediately stop militarization of Churachandpur town and other indigenous/tribal people's land in the North East region.

The memorandum said that passing of the three controversial Bills by Manipur Legislative Assembly on August 31 led to widespread protests in the hill districts of Manipur and in Churachandpur town.

Protestors burnt down the houses of one Minister, three MLAs and one MP.

Manipur police commandos used live bullets to quell the protest and in two days, seven people were shot dead including an 11-year-old boy while 34 people were injured.

Two more subsequently succumbed to their injuries making the death toll to nine, the memorandum said.

In the statement of objects and reasons of the Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015, Manipur is described as a small hill State.

However, this is incorrect, and precisely because Manipur is not recognized as a hill State, its hill areas have been accorded special protection and privileges.

The Bill attempts to subvert this by obliquely changing the legal status of 'Hill Areas' to also cover the present valley areas and nullify the Constitutional and legal safeguards of the indigenous/tribal peoples of Manipur via Article 371 C of the Constitution, the memorandum said.

Further, the same Bill also questions the identity and citizenship of the indigenous/tribal of Manipur by invoking 1951 Census Report as one of the criteria to determine who the people of Manipur are.

Section 2 (6) of the Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015 defines "Manipur people" as "persons of Manipur whose names are in the register of citizen, 1951, Census Report 1951 and their descendants who have contributed to the collective social, culture and economic life of Manipur".

This is technically flawed as Manipur attained full-fledged statehood in 1972 and the 1951 census is not scientifically sound and eliminates many indigenous/tribal peoples of Manipur.

Despite its merger into the Indian State in 1949, the Hill Areas were extremely remote without connectivity even to the district head quarters hence it is irrational to assume that all the villages and the villagers would be officially recorded in two years.

This will lead to denial of citizenship to a host of indigenous/tribal population in the State.

It is also inherently discriminatory as indigenous/tribal peoples and their kinsmen spread across State boundaries and life for them is beyond a defined State.

The protest is also particularly against the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015 that surreptitiously attempts to alienate the indigenous/tribal communities from their traditional lands and territories which has already happened in parts of the hill districts.

In 2012, 18 hill villages under the jurisdiction of ADC were deliberately included in the Gram Panchayat/Zilla Parishad Constituencies and elections conducted despite opposition.

Also more than 120 hill villages have been brought under the jurisdiction of the Imphal East and Thoubal districts.

Despite their potential impact in the hill areas, the HAC was not consulted.

The indigenous/tribal people have only 19 Constituencies out of the 60 seats which make them a permanent minority in the Legislative Assembly.

The recent forcible passing of the three Bills is an instance of such subjugation of their voice in the Manipur Legislative Assembly, the memorandum opposed.


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