Hunger Marchers' Day and AMSU

Leihaothabam Sharatchandra *

>49th Hunger Marchers' Day 2013 (Chaklam Khongchat) at the Pishum Chingamacha Memorial :: 27 August 2014
49th Hunger Marchers' Day 2013 (Chaklam Khongchat) at Pishum Chingamacha Memorial on 27 August 2014 by AMSU :: Pix - Shanker Khangembam

Nearly 48 years ago, there was no common platform of the students of Manipur. In those days, the schools and colleges had their own students' unions. Among these educational institutions, D.M College was the top-ranking institution in terms of infrastructure and number of students. Other colleges had markedly less number of students. This was the case for all the schools also. Manipur University was not there at that time. For these reasons, D.M College had to take the leading role in the popular movement of the students.

At that time, something very serious and painful took place at Imphal. This incident centered around scarcity of rice leading to a near famine condition. Because of the seriousness of the social atmosphere, crowds of men and women of Imphal and surrounding areas gathered and approached the bungalow of the then chief minister and demanded that enough rice should be available.

That day was 27th August, 1965. On that day, students of DM College got the information of the gathering of the citizens of Imphal marching to the chief minister's bungalow. Gradually, the students of DM college along with a big crowd of students from neighbouring schools and colleges also came out carrying books and organised a public meeting at Imphal Pologround. The meeting took a decision to meet the chief commissioner and thus they started moving towards the bungalow of the chief commissioner.

At that time, the chief minister and other cabinet ministers were having initial discussion in the office room along with the chief commissioner. During the meeting, some student leaders were also allowed to take part in the discussion. Meanwhile, there was a big gathering of students and general people outside the bungalow office of the chief commissioner.

Apprehending trouble, the Manipur Rifles Jawans began to disperse the gathering by firing tear gas shells and lathi-charge. And some rounds of bullets were also fired. Then the students began to run helter and skelter towards the iron gate which was found locked. As there was no way out of the compound, there was an unfortunate stampede. After the stampede was over, people began to disperse.

Then unfortunately, a jeep of AIR Imphal carrying some student leaders arrived at the northern gate of the compound. Some MR Jawans stopped the jeep and began to shoot leading to injury of a student leader. After that, Waikhom Nilamani Singh, the driver of the jeep was pulled down and killed with a bayonet thrust. In the meantime, an ambulance arrived along with some student leaders to look for the injured persons in the compound. These students were also tortured severely and sent to jail.

After the situation worsened, there was a report that Oinam Nabakumar Singh of DM College was shot dead, while Nongmeikapam Pramodini Devi of Manipur college fainted and died afterwards. Many students were injured in the lathicharge and gun shots, and others who fainted in the commotion were hospitalized. The government of Manipur clamped curfew from that evening to morning of the next day. Another student, Laishram Chaobhal Singh of Lamphel High School who was wounded on that day and receiving treatment at home also died on September 22 in 1965.

In the morning of August 28, 1965, the curfew was lifted and the student leaders gathered near Keishampat bridge and discussed the necessity of some future course of action. After that, the leaders went to the house of a DM College student, Leihaothabam Sharatchandra Sharma and a formal meeting took place. In that meeting, an important decision which may be termed as historic, was taken to form an apex body of students called the 'All Manipur Students' Union' (AMSU) to organise and streamline the future students' movements in Manipur.

Thus, on 29 August 1965, a meeting of the newly formed students' organization was held at a Mandap in Uripok and formed the first Adhoc Executive Council (1965) of AMSU. Under the leadership of the Executive Council, programmes like organizing students' rallies to press the government for release of the jailed students unconditionally.

On September 2, the arrested 17 student leaders were released and a reception was given to them at MDU Hall. This programme of reception led to a more regularized and strengthened AMSU which went for the formation of a more regular and streamlined second Executive Council on an Adhoc basis. This Executive Council worked hard for the drafting of a constitution of AMSU before the end of its term. On 1st January 1967, a general body meeting of AMSU held at MDU Hall approved the Constitution, after thorough discussion. This process of running the activities of AMSU under the leadership of Executive Council continued for many years and even today, the same tradition is being maintained.

Some of the issues taken up by AMSU on academic, social and political areas are:
(1) Manipur Statehood Movement,
(2) Territorial Integrity of Manipur,
(3) Establishment of a University for Manipur,
(4) Secularism in academic institutions,
(5) Introduction of Meitei Mayek,
(6) Foreigners' Issue,
(7) Control of prices,
(8) Movement for inclusion of Manipuri language in 8th schedule of Indian Constitution,
(9) Problems of Human rights and AFSPA,
(10) Restoration of Inner Line Permit system in Manipur etc. etc.

One important issue, which was not seriously considered by the people of Manipur and the Government, was the territorial integrity of Manipur. People could not think of the possibility of building of some undesirable moves threatening the age-old and historically mandated territorial integrity of Manipur. In 1961, Nagaland became a state under the Indian Constitution and at that time, Manipur was a Union Territory. The government of India had no intention of granting statehood to Manipur. But under pressure of continuous socio-political movements organised by various groups, Manipur became a state of India in 1972.

Here is a very serious problem eating into the vitals of some groups and organizations both in Manipur and outside. Even before statehood was granted to Manipur, sometime in 1967-68, some Naga leaders and the government of Nagaland started an aggressive programme for formation of a 'Greater Nagaland' by integrating chunks of areas inhabited by Nagas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. AMSU was very seriously concerned with the issue and it submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi on 4 January 1968. The memorandum was received by the Prime Minister's Office and an acknowledgement was sent to the President of AMSU on 18 January 1968.

'The Sunday Hindustan Standard', Calcutta in its 7th January 1968 issue (at page 7) published a report under the caption "Manipur split-up move condemned". The text of the news report and the acknowledgement letter pertaining to receipt of the AMSU memorandum are given here for ready reference:

In this way, in the case of the movements for promotion of Manipuri language and Meitei script, AMSU had always been taking active roles. The Meitei Mayek has already been introduced in academic world of Manipur under the Manipur Gazette 1980. After this, the grievances concerning the growth of status of Manipuri language continued.

In 1972, the Sahitya Academy recognized Manipuri Language and in 1979, Manipuri became official language of the state. After this, a big conglomerate called 'Manipuri Language Demand Coordinating Committee' (MLDCC) of Manipur formed by people living in Manipur and diaspora Manipuris living in various parts of north east India spearheaded an impressive movement demanding inclusion of Manipuri language in the 8th schedule of Indian Constitution. AMSU was also a powerful member of MLDCC. The result was that on 20 August 1992, Manipuri Language was included in the 8th schedule of Indian Constitution.

Last but not the least, it is the quite relevant to note that AMSU, which was involved through these years in a series of socio-political and academic activities of Manipur, are still ready to be involved actively in more and more nation-building activities in future. AMSU sincerely feels that if the people are serious, and if the people know the rightness of their demands, they always achieve their goals. AMSU, which is a time-tested common platform of right thinking and committed students, will always be there to go along with the people.

* Leihaothabam Sharatchandra wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on August 28, 2014.

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