ATSUM rally: Internet suspended for 5 days in Manipur, total curfew in 8 districts

Imphal: Thousands of tribals who make up about 40 pr cent of the population, joined the processions, waved placards and raised slogans opposing ST status for the Meitei community

BY and | Wednesday, 3 May, 2023
Gathering at Churachandpur district, Manipur during ATSUM rally on 3 May 2023

The Home Department of Manipur has suspended mobile internet in the state for five days following reports of violence during the All Tribal Student’s Union Manipur (ATSUM) rally on Wednesday.

The order stated that ‘incidents like fighting amongst volunteers/youths of different communities and situation is tense and volatile in the districts of Bishnupur and Churachandpur’ during the total shutdown in all hill districts from 6 am to 4 pm, called by ATSUM in protest against the demand for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei in Scheduled Tribe (ST) category.

The Manipur government also said that some anti-social elements were using social media to transmit ‘images, hate speech and hate video messages inciting the passions of the public’ and therefore to maintain peace and communal harmony by stopping the spread of disinformation and false rumours, it is issuing the order to suspend mobile data services in the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Manipur for the next five days with immediate effect.

In view of the situation, curfew has been imposed in non-tribal dominated Imphal West, Kakching, Thoubal, Jiribam and Bishnupur districts and tribal-dominated Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal districts.

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Thousands of tribals Wednesday turned up at a ‘Solidarity March’ called by a students body in all the ten hill districts of the state to oppose moves for inclusion of the majority Meitei community in the ST category.

The All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM), which called for the march, said it was organised to protest moves to include the “Meitei community in the ST category”.

Lawmakers of the valley areas have earlier openly endorsed the demand by some Meitei organisation for ST status for the majority community in Manipur, alarming communities who figure in the scheduled tribe list.

The Meiteis who make up 53 per cent of the state’s population inhabit the Manipur valley, which accounts for about a tenth of the former princely state’s land area and claim that they are facing difficulty in view of “large scale illegal immigration by Myanmarese and Bangladeshis”.

The hill districts which account for much of the state’s land mass is inhabited mostly by tribals – including the Nagas and Kukis – mostly live are protected from encroachment by valley people by various laws.

Tribal villagers from interior hill areas came in buses and open trucks to the nearest hill district headquarters to attend the rallies.

In Naga-dominated Senapati town, the district headquarters with the same name and located about 58 km from the capital town of Imphal, the local bodies forced total shutdown of markets and suspension of public transport from 10 am to 1 pm to ensure that maximum number of demonstrators participate in the rally.

Thousands of tribals who make up about 40 pr cent of the population, joined the processions, waved placards and raised slogans opposing ST status for the Meitei community.

Representatives of the Senapati District Students’ Association also met the deputy commissioner and apprised him of their concerns.

At Churachandpur, the second largest town in the state, people defied prohibitory orders and gathered at the public ground and took a rally till Tuibong peace ground to show their support to ATSUM, police said.

Prohibitory orders were clamped for an indefinite period in the town last week following violent protests against a drive to evict villagers from reserved forest areas. Security forces were rushed to the town from other parts of Manipur to control the situation after the vandalisation of a venue where Chief Minister N Biren Singh was scheduled to address a programme.

Similar rallies were also held at Tengnoupal, Chandel, Kangpokpi, Noney, Ukhrul where even school students were seen among participants, police said.

Meanwhile, counter blockades were put up in the valley districts, including at Sugnu in Kakching district, in support of granting ST status to Meiteis. Protesters shouted slogans demanding ST status for the majority community as well as for protection of reserved and protected forests.

The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur (STDCM), which is spearheading the movement for the inclusion of Meiteis in the ST category said the demand is being made not merely for reservation in jobs, educational institutions and tax relief, but “more to protect our ancestral land, culture and identity”, which they claimed was being “threatened by illegal migration from Myanmar, Bangladesh and by people from outside the state”.

Read more: ZSF says granting ST Status to Meitei/Meetei will further marginalise the tribals to total subjugation, asks for autonomous district

NESO condemns eviction of indigenous settlers in Manipur

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