By Sam Ngaihte:
280 days after that fateful incident in Manipur where the passing of three contentious bills by the Legislative Assembly led to the killing of nine innocent tribals, the state continues to be divided between the Valley and the Hills. With the families of the nine victims refusing to lay the bodies to rest until justice is served, the three bills have been referred to the President ever since.
While the tribal leaders continue to remain aggrieved that their representatives were not consulted as per the provisions of the Article 371C in the drafting and passing of the bills, the Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and his council of ministers remain adamant that the bills were not against the interests of the tribal Hill populace.
Lately, a delegation of selected MLAs and ministers, along with the Chief Minister himself, have been camping in Delhi under the banner of an ‘All Manipur Political Party’ in an attempt to pressure the Centre into giving assent to the three bills. The delegation does not include the political parties from the Hill tribes, most importantly the Naga People’s Front.
Thousands of young men and women gathered peacefully yesterday, June 7, 2016, in front of the Manipur Bhawan in Chanakyapuri to seek an audience with the delegation and their Chief Minister. The peaceful gathering soon turned into a confrontation with the police personnel when the demand, that the visiting delegates address the crowd regarding their claim to represent all of Manipur, was not accepted. Upon learning of their rejection to address the crowd, the protesters decided to meet them inside and made their way into the Bhawan through the gates that were not barricaded.
While the protesters were making their way inside the gates, the Manipur Rifles personnel who were guarding the gates started assaulting them physically. This act of abuse sparked a reaction from the protesters, who then sought to force their way inside the gates. The Manipur Rifles as well as the Delhi Police personnel then lathi-charged and water-cannoned the masses, leading to a brutal assault. Countless protesters, as well as press and television reporters, male and female alike, were beaten on the head and the body, many of whom had to be taken to trauma centres, and to hospitals nearby.
Those who managed to survive this senseless exertion of authority at its worst were taken to the Chanakyapuri police station. While the beating continued in the police vans, with women getting arrested by male officers, a girl later shared her tale of molestation by some of the officers. Many police personnel were also heard shouting “mar gaya toh marne do” (Let them die).
While many MPs have paid a visit to the 70 and more who were injured, the Chief Minister continues to remain tight-lipped and unapproachable for the Hill Tribes of Manipur.