GUWAHATI: In ethnically-sensitive Manipur, two decisions of chief minister N Biren Singh’s two-month-old BJP-led government are being seen as steps that will help improve ties between the tribals and the non-tribals.
A decision was made to sign an agreement with protestors pertaining to the burial of eight bodies, lying in a morgue for over 600 days. The tribal victims had died in police firing in the State’s Churachandpur district.
The second decision was on inviting Nagaland’s chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu, in a first, to Imphal for a meeting.
In August 2015, the then Congress government had introduced three Bills – The Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015, and The Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015. The tribals soon erupted in protests as they viewed the bills as anti-tribal.
Six people were killed when police opened fire on a group of protestors in Churachandpur district. A resultant violence had left three more locals dead. While a body was reported stolen from the morgue earlier this year, eight others have not been claimed yet in protest. The State government broke the deadlock on Wednesday by striking a deal with the protestors.
As per the agreement, the government agreed to compensate the victims’ families, take into account tribal opinion in all future actions and probe the deaths. Accordingly, the protestors agreed to arrange the burial by May 25.
“We appreciate the gesture of the new government. It literally took no time in solving the problem. The issue could have been resolved earlier if the previous Congress government had the intent,” Sang Lethil, leader of a protesting organisation, told the New Indian Express.
Meanwhile, Nagaland CM Shurhozelie Liezietsu’s visit was dubbed as “historic” given the conflict between the Nagas and the Meiteis (Manipuris) over the contentious demand of the Isak-Muivah faction of the insurgent National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) for the creation of a greater Naga homeland by slicing off Manipur’s Naga-inhabited areas besides Assam and Arunachal.
Biren Singh himself asserted that his Nagaland counterpart’s visit had “excited” Manipur. The visit is seen as the beginning of a new era for the two neighbouring states.
“We are all aware that there were several crises in our two States but with the change of guards in Manipur, people have begun to see a ray of hope and a new dawn of peace is being heralded,” Liezietsu asserted.
The Nagas have a sizeable population in Manipur’s hills. Their every conflict with the government invariably leads to an “economic blockade”. Biren Singh has been meeting the Nagas on a regular basis in an attempt to improve ties.