Communal mistrust in Manipur vis-à-vis the ADC Bill, 2021
Manipur students staging protest. File photo

Imphal: At least 30 tribal students sustained injuries on Saturday morning when police tried to disperse the student gathered at Chingmeirong in Imphal West for a peaceful rally by throwing tear gas and lathi charges.

At around 10:30 am, hundreds of tribal students studying in various colleges and universities in Imphal assembled at the Mao-Imphal market shed for a peaceful protest demanding to release immediately the five tribal student leaders arrested by Manipur Police.

However, a clash broke out when the police tried to disperse the protestors before they begin the peaceful protest. Later, the student protestors tried to march toward the Manipur Legislative Assembly, but they were stopped by the police.

Another clash occurred between the student protestors and police near MBC Memorial Ground where they pelted stones at each other.

Speaking to EastMojo, Ningzan Jajo, secretary, social and cultural of tribal students’ union, DM College of Arts, said that “We never invite government or any other police for the physical challenge. We are here for a peaceful rally but they (police) compelled us to become violent. We are with banners to shout the slogans like ‘release our leaders’, but they have already shot us teargas and many of the students have been injured. I would like to appeal to the government that until or unless they release the arrested leaders and serve justice, we will never back out from our movement.”

Jajo also alleged that the state government always tried to intimidate them by arresting leaders whenever there are tribal issues arises in the state.

“India is a land of democracy where every one of us has equal rights to express our thoughts and expression. But just imagine, yesterday more than hundreds of people from valley-based CSOs gathered and locked the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) office despite the section 144 of CrPC 1973 imposed in the area,” said Jajo.
Where were all those policemen who disappeared when such a huge gathering happened at the ATSUM office yesterday and where are all those rules and regulations written in the Constitution of India, questioned Jajo.

Two students involved in the scuffle were also arrested and taken away by the police from the spot. The police officers present at the site refused to comment in regards to the arrest of the students.

It may be noted that five leaders of ATSUM, including the president and general secretary, were picked up by Imphal West police on Tuesday following the union call for a shutdown in hill districts, to demand the tabling of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) recommended Autonomous District Councils (ADC) Amendment Bill, 2021. The arrested tribal student leaders have been remanded in police custody for four days till Friday. They will be brought to court on Saturday.

On Friday, much against the students’ demand, minister for tribal affairs and hills department Letpao Haokip passed the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council (sixth amendment) Bill 2022 on the last day of the budget session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly, while the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council (seventh amendment) Bill 2022 was referred to HAC for further discussion, stating that there is some technical error and it requires further examination.

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