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Opinions against the Ongoing Indefinite Curfew in Manipur

Chumthang News Service
Imphal 11 July 2015: In Manipur, there has been a democratic movement to safeguard the rights of the indigenous peoples. The incumbent regime in the State led by Mr Okram Ibobi has acted contrary to the democratic and legitimate demands of the movement for Inner Line Permit System and the recommendations of the All Political Parties Committee on ILPS (2014). There was a deliberate attempt to protect the interest of the migrant outsiders by arbitrarily passing a bill known as the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers’ Bill 2015, which has not received the assent of the Governor. 

There were attempts to suppress, at gun point, the protests against the Bill and the popular movement to defend the rights of the indigenous peoples. Brutal police actions have inflicted casualty on several persons. A 16-year old student named Sapam Robinbood, participating in a rally, was killed by the police on July 8, 2015. In order to suppress popular demonstrations against the brutality, the Government immediately imposed an indefinite curfew in the two central districts of Imphal Valley and closed all the educational institutions. Defying the curfew, people came out in the streets of Imphal in great numbers. The police resorted to open aggressive and disproportionate use of force in the form of torture, and cruel and inhuman degrading treatment, indiscriminate use of tear gas and rubber bullets, firing of live rounds upon the protestors and arbitrary detentions with impunity.

It is against this backdrop that we are coming up with a joint statement under the title Opinion against the Ongoing Curfew in Manipur.

Government and curfew
1. There has been unrestrained population invasion by outsiders under the policy and constitutional framework of the Government of India that ostensibly allows free movement of people within the country. The outsiders are enjoying virtual monopoly over commodity and the labour markets of Manipur. On the other hand, the military and corporate and private sector partnership projects have been forcibly taking control of the land and resources without any regulation and restraint. In this situation, it is natural that the indigenous peoples began to take up the initiatives towards defending their identity, market, livelihoods, land and other resources.

2. The question of defending the rights of the indigenous peoples is a political question that is intricately founded in the context of a worsening socio-economic condition and progressive cultural annihilation. It is the responsibility of a democratic government to bring a political solution to this question. However, the puppet Manipur regime, which functions under the command of the federal Indian pro-corporate and private sector regime, indulge in suppressing this question under the barrel of a gun.

3. Why is the government indifferent to the universal principle of defending the rights of the indigenous peoples? The government is determined in using curfew to suppress the popular movements to defend the indigenous peoples and the agitations against the summary killings, torture and arbitrary detentions. This predisposition exposes the government as an authoritarian regime of a violent and radical right-wing clique that relies on the gun as the backbone of its enterprise against the people, at the cost of democracy. Judging by the nature of State terrorism, the Government remains the real enemy of democracy.

Police and Curfew
1. The perception is that the Manipur police is meant for ensuring the security of the people; in fact the regime constantly refers to them as “security personnel”. Those who are employed in this sector are recruited from amongst our citizens, the majority from poor families. The expenditure of their salary, uniforms and weapons are being paid out of the taxes collected from the people including themselves. However, in the past instances and in the present situation, the police have forgotten that they are the citizens of our motherland and have acted brutally. Instead of serving the peoples, they have been converted into a mercenary force of the terrorizing clique that runs the Government.

2. During the curfew, the Manipur police and its auxiliary forces the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) and Village Defense Force (VDF) have been acting like agents of terror without any restraint. In the name of controlling crowd, which they referred to as “mob control”, they have intentionally violated the standard norms of using ‘firearms’, and have indulged in the widespread use of live bullets, rubber bullets, mock bombs and tear smoke shells with the intention to inflict injury and to kill. The deliberate baton attacks, brutal beatings and firing upon unarmed civilians who were on the run exemplify their terrorist character.

3. We want to raise some questions to the Manipur police. Aren’t you natives of our motherland, born of the same mothers? Do you really think that there is no share for you in this movement to defend the indigenous peoples? Are you supportive the stand to act against the movement of the indigenous peoples to defend their culture, land and livelihood? Being persuaded by the oppressive cliques and opportunism for a small government salary, promotion and misuse of weapons; how long will you remain standing against legitimate democratic movements concerning our motherland?

Curfew and economic burdens
1. The immediate tactics of closing down educational institutions and using curfew to suppress the agitation have converted the Greater Imphal area into a war field. Deployment of several rabble rousing police gangs in strategic locations and corners of Imphal has caused obstructions to the free movement of peoples. They indulged in unprovoked baton charging, firing rubber bullets and tear smoke shells on anyone either coming out of a gate or walking on a street. Tear smoke shells have been lobbed into homes too.

2. The government, instead of bringing a political solution, has spent huge amounts of money in the war effort. Huge amounts from the public exchequer are spent on fuel for bullet proof and armoured vehicles, live ammunition, rubber bullets, mock bombs and tear smoke shells. The government is a favoured customer in the burgeoning market to suppress dissent. When the lack of interest to bring a political solution to vital issues and problems culminated into silencing of democratic voice by spending huge amount of money in war expenditure, whose loss is it? Is this money paid out of the wage labour of those who run the government? No! They do not work with the hands and feet to earn their livelihoods. They exploit peoples and misappropriate public fund to accumulate their wealth. The public fund that they misuse comes from the taxes paid by those who work with labour. Should we agree with this ugly trend of wasting our money to wage war against the people, when it could instead be used for economic production and growth?

3. The war against the people, as other facet of curfew, has created a big onslaught on their free movement and the local economy. The imposition of the curfew in the central areas of Manipur has not only created obstructions to those who live in those areas, but also on those who earn through daily commuting from the peripheries and those who have to pass through the central areas to reach other destinations on a daily basis. In that sense the curfew has extensive impacts similar to a blockade on the economy and transportation all over Manipur.

4. The curfew has imposed a big burden on those who are dependent on the Imphal market for their daily consumption. It seriously affected the petty traders who are dependent on the local market for commodity exchange. The marginal labourers who are in search of daily work are badly affected because of the restrictions to free movement. Who will compensate for the loss incurred on the family income due to the obstructions caused by the curfew? If these burdens of the people have not been addressed by those who accumulate huge money through corrupt means and who are enjoying the blessings of the authoritarian regime; it only obviates the fact that they are profiting from oppressing the people and are never for their welfare.

The authoritarian regime knows the aspiration of the exploited and oppressed peoples. But, it does want to address it at the cost of the vested interests of the rulers. Therefore, there is no need of repeatedly conveying the aspirations of the people to them. For several years the peoples have been bearing the burdens of the ugly corrupt model of governance and the tactics of suppression of the democratic voices at gun point. We strongly condemn all these models and tactics.

Statement endorsed by:
1. Akhu Chingangbam, Imphal Talkies.
2. Amit Bhattacharyya, Secretary General, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners.
3. Anthony Moirangthem, President, Manipur Students Association Pune.
4. Dina Oinam, President, Women Empowerment and Child Development Organization (Manipur).
5. Dr. George T. Haokip, Chairperson, Institute Alternative India.
6. Ishan Chandam, League of the Proletarian Students of Manipur.
7. Jiten Yumnam, Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur.
8. L. Bijendra khuman, Social Welfare Club Mayang Imphal.
9. Luikang Lamak, Ex-President, Naga Students' Union. Delhi.
10. Malem Ningthouja, Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur).
11. Ningthoukhongjam Rajesh (Thanil) Centre for Research Documentation and Publication Manipur.
12. Padam Kumar, Worker’s Unity Trade Union.
13. Priyobata Irengbam, Manipur Students’ Association Delhi.
14. Roy Laifungbam, Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights In Manipur and UN [Members are: All Manipur Nupi Manbi Association; Centre for Organisation Research & Education; Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur; Citizens Concern for Dams and Development; Civil Liberties and Human Rights Organisation; Civil Liberties Protection Forum; Committee on Human Rights, Manipur; Community Network for Empowerment; Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families’ Association Manipur; Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared’s Association Manipur; Forum for Indigenous Perspectives and Action; Human Rights Alert; Human Rights Defenders Manipur; Human Rights Initiative; Human Rights Law Network Manipur; Human to Humane Transcultural Centre for Trauma and Torture Victims; Just Peace Foundation; Life Watch; Manipur Alliance for Child Rights; Movement for Peoples’ Right to Information Manipur; North East Dialogue Forum; Threatened Indigenous Peoples Society; United Peoples Front.]
15.Sanayairanchan Kshetrimayum, Manipur Alert.
16.Sapam Shyamsunder, Irabot Research and Commemoration Committee.
17. Vijay Singh, Editor, Journal Revolutionary Democracy.

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