Memo to PM prepared by the Meitei:
On behalf of all the valley people of Manipur, we, the undersigned concerned citizens of We Are The Change Manipur group, humbly, but exercising our constitutional rights, beg to address Hon’ble Prime Minister, by submitting the following representation for safeguarding the valley people in general by helping to approve 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, which were passed by Manipur Assembly on August 31, 2015. The misery and sufferings of the Meiteis and Meitei Pangals (Muslims) consequent upon the recurring blockades of the national highways, discrimination in terms of land ownership rights of Meitei and Meitei Pangals in the hills, relentless false propaganda of discrimination, artificial ethnic, racial and cultural differences with Meiteis, for political motive to gain administrative secession from the Manipur State have threatened the age-old peaceful co-existence of all communities in Manipur. The valley community is used interchangeably to mean the plains i.e. Meiteilon (Manipuri) speaking communities inhabiting about 700 sq miles of plain area.
DISCRIMINATION IN SETTLEMENT RIGHTS FOR THE VALLEY PEOPLE IN THE HILLS WHICH CONSTITUTE 90 PERCENT OF THE LAND AREA OF MANIPUR
1. The valley (Non-scheduled tribe Meiteis) which constitutes 60 percent of the state’s population are prohibited from settling in the hills (which constitutes 90 percent of State’s total geographical area). This has resulted in a population density of 731 persons in the valley as opposed to 61 persons in the hills. There are five hill districts and four valley districts in Manipur.
2. The Scheduled Tribes who reside in the hills can buy land and settle down in the Valley area. On the other hand valley dwellers cannot buy land and settle down in the hills because of the existing land law of the state. This means that the valley area of 10 percent is slowly and irrevocably being taken over by the scheduled tribes who control 90 percent of the state’s land area.
3. The valley districts, which together form only 10 percent of the state’s total area, is being left open for anybody to walk in and out at pleasure, while the doors of the hill districts should not only remain tightly shut to the valley dwellers, in particular the Meiteis and Meitei Pangals, but bolted still tighter by newer special arrangements.
4. The three bills are now awaiting assent of the state Governor. We learn that the Governor referred the three bills to the President. These are the bills against which the tribals are up in arms as this will result in an equitable distribution of communities across the hill and valley districts of the state.
5. Asymmetric empowerment structures are necessary to level out playing fields, but cannot by any stretch of imagination be limitless, as the valley population is now saturated, they too are now demanding protection from and the one way incursion into the Meiteis’ living space without reciprocation which is set to render the original valley people a minority in their living space within a few decades.
SINISTER INTENT TO EXCLUDE MEITEIS FROM LIVING SPACE IN THE HILLS
1. The bills do not impinge in any way on the rights of the tribals whose interests anyway are protected under the existing Article 371C of the Indian Constitution through the Hill Area Committee of the State Assembly. As such all the tribal bodies have so far run away from coming aboard the negotiating table to spell out the points of contentions and where it is impinging on the tribal interests.
2. The Manipur Shops and Establishments Act, 1972 provides for registration of shops/ establishments and regulation of employment and conditions of service of the employees employed in shops/ establishments. The proposed sub-section (4) of section 7A to be added by clause 3 of the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 seeks to empower the State Government to provide the rules, and form and manner of the identity cards to be issued to the registered employees. How it impinges on the tribal rights is open to debate.
3. The current anti ILP protest (specifically MLR-LR bill) by the tribal brothers is a move founded on Realpolitik intended to block the valley people from settling in the hills and thus filtering out the Meiteis from the Hills and continue their demographic dominance so that the national highways of the state are controlled by the tribals. With all the other tribes and outsiders buying land and settling in the valley area and decreasing the valley people’s living space relentlessly, and the hills people blocking the already insecure Meiteis from being given accommodation in the hills, the predicament faced by the Meiteis needs to be taken into consideration.
THE TRIBALS’ CLAIM OF SO CALLED ETHNIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DIFFERENCES ARE MEANT TO FURTHER THEIR NARROW AIMS
1. The tribals are not distinct from the Manipuris ethnically, culturally, linguistically, socially and in most spheres of life. G.A.Grierson in his monumental Linguistic Survey of India [Grierson, G.A: Linguistic Survey of India, vol.III, prt. III p.6.]has grouped the Meitei in the Kuki-Chin sub-family of the Tibeto Burman languages. P.S Haokip also records that if all the Bengali and Hindi words are to be omitted from Meitei language, the leftovers are all of Kuki dialect. Thus, to Gangumei Kabui, a more appropriate name of this sub family, in the opinion of many linguists, would have been the Meitei-Kuki-Chin.
2. Ethnic divide between Meiteis and hill dwellers of Manipur today is the manifestation of modern day ethnic inequality created by respected Indian Constitution which is having far reaching ramification in socio-economic and political spheres of one’s existence in Manipur.
QUOTA SYSTEM FOR THE TRIBALS
1. The question of under representation of the tribals in Manipur State Government jobs is a myth because currently, Scheduled Tribes corner 31 percent reservation, and OBC has 17 percent reservation and Scheduled Castes have 2 percent reservation. So the tribals are availing the favourable quota system on one hand and can be found across virtually all the state departments. And on the other hand, they decry the state machinery and staff selection system.
CONTROL OF THE HIGHWAYS BY THE TRIBALS AND CONSEQUENT RECURRING BLACKMAIL OF THE NATIONAL HIGHWAYS WHICH ARE THE LIFELINE OF THE VALLEY PEOPLE
1. In one of the worst blockades ever in any Indian state, the demand for Sadar hills district in Senapati resulted in a blockade of the two national Highways for 100 days [21st of August 2011 to 9th of November 2011] by the opposing tribal communities, the brunt of which was faced by the valley communities. All essential commodities flowing into the valley population including petrol, LPG and all major essential commodities were blocked for the said period resulting in a famine like situation in the valley areas.
2. Under the repeated blockades of the two lifelines of the state, the valley intermittently gets plunged under an “indefinite siege” resulting in acute shortage of their day-to-day requirements of food and other essential commodities for weeks on end. As such, a uniform and equitable distribution of the different communities across the districts has become imperative to neutralize the control of one specific community over the lifelines of the valley people.
PROGRESS CONFINED TO THE VALLEY AREAS
1. When the Center and Manipur government planned for establishing Smart city in Haolenphai, a remote tribal area, tribals objected, fearing they will lose their land and resources, , the main sources of their livelihood, and their culture and identity harmed. The same happened in the case of establishing the Sports University in the Senapati district. There are innumerable other such instances where the locals of a particular area decried the approach of the government to establish any institution in the hill areas. Some of them resort to even using threats and other forms of force to compel the Deputy Commissioner of the area to reject any proposal from the government.
2. Another reason is that infrastructural development, urbanization and market buildups tend to be concentrated in the capital area as a natural result of simple economic dynamics of any state. Therefore the disparity in development between the main city area and its peripheral districts happens everywhere around the world. But this does not mean that all the peripheral areas start clamoring for political separation from the main city as it will end up with an administratively and ethnically fractured state with communal flare ups becoming the order of the day. Therefore, we urge your good office to sincerely examine the threat posed to the valley dwellers and facilitate the three bills to become legislations.
(Concerned citizens of Manipur of We Are The Change Manipur)
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