Thousands of tribals on Wednesday turned up for the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ called by a students body in all the ten Hill districts of Manipur to oppose the demand for inclusion of Meitei community in the ST category.
While Tribal Solidarity March was organised in the Hill districts by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM), separate demonstrations were held in few Valley areas against the ATSUM rallies.
Incidents of arson and stone-pelting were subsequently reported from parts of Churachandpur and Bishnupur districts. Several houses were burnt down, and many sustained injuries in the violence. Police in the two districts resorted to firing teargas shells to break up the clashes.
Following the reports of violence, prohibitory orders imposed in several districts. Mobile internet services have been suspended across Manipur for five days.
Leaders of the Kuki community who joined the massive rallies have accused the state government of targeting legitimate residents of Manipur by carrying out evictions in villages.
The rallies were called under the theme, “Come Now, let us reason together”.
“How can a community with two-third seats in the assembly demand ST status?” read a banner carried by demonstrators.
During the rally in Churachandpur, unidentified assailants resorted to arson at several localities like Bungmual, Singnat, Muallum and Mata Mualtam, The Print reported.
The ATSUM who organised the Tribal Solidarity March submitted a memorandum to the President of India through the deputy commissioners in all Hill districts.
“The demand for ST status by the Meitei/Meetei now, 70 years after the Constitution of India made a provision for Scheduled Tribes, is only a nefarious policy to exploit constitutional measures to grasp and dispossess the tribal people in the hills from their lands,” read ATSUM memorandum.
“The land of the tribal peoples in the hills of Manipur is protected by the constitutional provisions under Section 158 of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (MLR and LR) Act, 1960, under Article 371C of Indian Constitution, which stated that tribal land cannot be transferred to non-tribal individuals, including Meiteis,” it noted.
The memorandum describes the Meiteis as an “advanced community” inhabiting the plains of the state, and constituting over 60 per cent of the total population.
If the Meiteis are granted ST status, the “constitutional and legal protection given to the marginalised tribals of Manipur will become null and void,” the ATSUM memorandum said.