RUMOURS AND BLOODY SEPTEMBER: TWO EPISODES
September 11, 201 Imphal Times.
Aheibam Koireng Singh
Asst. Professor, Centre for Manipur Studies
Rumours are associated with collective behaviour and are compared to a spark and the people who hear it with either cement or dry grass. It may or may not catch fire. In a tense atmosphere, the frenzied crowd becomes so manipulable that it tends to accept every charge cast as its real or supposed enemies. Here, I deal with two episodes, one in the year 1993 and the other in 2015 where in both the instances, rumour is purposively used to instigate the crowd sentiment to spark the blood-bath by creating an atmosphere of distrust, hostility, apathy and prejudice.
The first one occurred in 13 September 1993 in the early years of Kuki-Naga clash. Already since the beginning of 1993, as many as 242 Kukis have been killed and over 242 houses belonging to Kukis have also been burned down. The villagers of Joupi Kuki village at Tamei Subdivision of Tamenglong District were already living with acute fear as the United Naga Council (UNC) had served Quit Notice to the Kukis as early as 2nd September 1992. They received quit notice in advance from the Nagalim Guard (NLG) and Naga Students Volunteer Organisation (NSVO) intimidating them to vacate their land on or before 15 September 1993. Two days before the expiry of the dateline, they left their houses and took shelter in the field. On 13 September 1993 at about 8 a.m., they came under attack while they were in the process of displacement. The attackers, including women, were both civilians and Naga ethnic armies with sophisticated weapons. In it, 80 persons including a woman were killed. 15 of them, all male, were fatally injured, out of which seven later succumbed to their injuries. Two days before it, Saramjao, a Liangmai Naga village also known as Makui-II, came under attack on 11 September 1993 at about 6 a. m. An exchange of fire took place between the Kuki ethnic armies and the security personnel guarding the village. And in Tamei, people were inflamed by rumours that from dawn to dusk, Saramjao came under heavy attack from the Kuki ethnic armies and many villagers including women and children were killed and their properties burnt down. Tamei Sub-Division has the highest concentration of the Liangmais population. The miscreants must have spread this very rumour in the Tamei area so that the civilian population by either believing or half-believing the rumour will either collaborate with them or show no disapproval in the genocide.
In addition to it, on the same day there was a pre dawn attack at Gelnel Kuki Village near T. Waichong of Senapati District. The villagers received Quit Notice in advance. As defensive measures, the village elders and youths performed vigils round the clock using single barrel and ‘Pumpi’ (country made canon). The village came under attack at about 4 am and the exchange of fire continued up to 8 am. Three of the attackers including a female also got killed. The villagers were compelled to flee as the attackers outclassed them both in terms of numerical strength and superiority of weapons. In the said attack, there were 17 death and seven injured casualties among the villagers. 80 out of hundred houses were completely burned down. Valuable items like money and livestock were taken away. Church and school were also burned down.
As maximum number of death casualties occurred on this day of 13th September 1993, the Kuki communities chose to observe onwards from succeeding years the day as the ‘Black Day’ in remembrance of those killed, injured and displaced in the Kuki-Naga clash. The apex body of the Kuki, Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) had consistently been maintaining that the Kuki people will not accept the outcome of the talks between the Government of India and the NSCN-IM before the issue of the ‘killing of 905 innocent Kukis, uprooting of 360 villages and displacement of more than One Lakh Kukis by the NSCN-IM is settled.
In the later part of the Kuki-Naga clash, concerted efforts were made by the Naga cohorts to buy peace with the Non-Thadou Kukis, viz., Hmar, Paite, Vaiphei, Simte and Tedim Chin when civilians belonging to these communities fell prey to the bullets of the Naga ethnic armies. In such cases the Nagas represented by UNC, Manipur successfully arrived at an amicable solution with the respective apex organisations of the ethnic groups concerned to which the victims belonged, by paying adequate compensation to the victim’s family. On the other hand, in case of their conflict with the Thadou-Kukis, the Nagas represented by UNC or otherwise show no such urgency of sorting out their conflict. Later, in the year 1997-1998, Churachandpur (CCPur) District witnesses the Thadou-Paite conflict in which both the warring groups belonged to the same kindred tribe of Chin-Kuki-Mizo/Zomi (CHIKIMZ) community. In it, the main protagonist was the armed group, Kuki National Front-President (KNF-P) and the Zomi Reuification Organisation ( ZRO) and its armed wing Zomi Revolutionary Army ( ZRA) allegedly trained and armed by the NSCN-IM. As regards the occurrences of the said clash is concerned, there have also been opinions that it occurred partly because the NSCN-IM tried to set their foot in CCPur District in proxy via ZRO/ZRA. The clash resulted to dethroning of Rishang Keishing from the Chief Ministership of Manipur as his impartiality in dealing with the clashes is being questioned by some tribal MLAs. With it, Shri W. Nipamacha became Chief Minister on 16 December 1997, and the effort of his new MSCP led Government to resolve the conflict led to fruition as the final peace accord between the two warring kindred tribes was signed on 01 October 1998 with Thadou Kukis represented by the Kuki Inpi Churachandpur (KIC) and the Paite Zomis represented by the Zomi Council.
The second episode is the violence erupted in CCPur District after the three bills for the protection of Manipur people were passed in the floor of the Manipur State Legislative Assembly (MSLA) without any debate on 31st August 2015. They are: 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 287 Amendment) Bill, 2015. With the said three bills being introduced in the MSLA, printed rumours in Manipuri and local tribal dialect containing 10 points, labelling it as the ‘Meitei JCILPS BILL’ started circulating in the vicinity of the District Headquarter area of CCPur. Its contents are here reproduced in free English translation: 1. Howsoever rich you are, you cannot buy even a piece of land in Meitei land;
2. Any business enterprise can no longer be taken up (Shop & Estd. Act);
3. Will no longer have the advantage of getting State Government employment;
4. Our sons and daughter will not get admission in MBBS/Engineering and other professional course;
5. We will not be allowed to buy land even in ‘Lamka’ which we took pride as our own;
6. Our students will no longer get Tribal fellowship;
7. Whatever benefits we so far get from the government will no longer be available;
8. Those tribals who possess land at Imphal and other valley area will face immense hardship. Many of them will be dispossessed from the land they bought and settle;
9. The Land for which we took pride for possessing ‘pucca patta’ will no longer be hill areas. Government will have the power to forfeit it by enacting any laws; and
10. Various documents will be asked to produce to just prove that we are natives of Manipur not outsiders. Your sons will no longer get the admission if you cannot produce the approved referral documents. One among the said referral Documents: Where did your forefathers inhabit before 1951? Even if it is in Manipur, can you produce relevant documents to prove it? Even if you produce, does it either exists in or matched with Government records? You become ‘outsider’ when you lack any of these. If you are outsider…. “Outsider from where?”
The Bill mired into controversy, not primarily because of its contents but mainly, by labelling it as anti-tribal, an opportune moment was crafted out of the situation to push the polarised ethnic agendas. The otherwise innocent people were deliberately mobilised and incited against the bill to spark the already highly charged atmosphere. When the first day casualties of anti ILPS agitation which happened in the intervening night of 31st August 2016 were reported, six houses belonging to local MLAs and Ministers of the district were set ablaze. Seven including six protestors were killed on the spot, four in firing by security forces, two charred by the arson fire, and one died due to road accident. At the sight were casualties happened, Assam Rifles (AR) was deployed in the frontline on that intervening night. 23 Jawans of AR were also reportedly injured due to stone pelting. The reinforcement of the state force came only in the second day. Two more were killed the next day in police firing when the rioting mob reportedly tried to set ablaze the CCPur Police Station. Of all the six died due to bullet wounds only the two killed on 1st September 2015 are certain to have died of police bullets. But those masterminding the Anti-ILPS protest deliberately projected as if all the nine death casualties are due to police firing. The big national media houses, both the print and the audio-visual by remaining in the comforts of their desks and studios, without verifying the authenticity of the facts so projected by the protestors just went on echoing and disseminating it thereby bringing their ethical standings to the peril of serious disrepute. If one is to fathom using the desperation of the protestors to perversely politicise and publicise all nine death casualties as being killed by the state forces, it will not sound awry to conjecture that those charred to death were deliberately let to ‘martyre’ so as to increase the death count to further their cause of jeopardising the prospect of bill becoming an act. Naga cohorts including the political party and frontals as well found the opportune moment to exhibit solidarity with the Anti-ILP Bills protestor from the CHIKIMZ Community in CCPur. The Naga organisations which exhibit solidarity for the stated cause of ‘Tribal Unity’ against the ‘communal government’ of Manipur include UNC. The continuing agitation and the refusal to give a ceremonial burial to those 09 killed even after the prospects of bill becoming an act is ruled out exposes the intention of those sticking to protest. With it, Kukis and Hmars have declared the severing of ties with Joint Action Committee against Anti Tribal Bills (JACATB) just ahead of observing the second anniversary of the Anti-ILP protest started in 31st August 2015. With it covert rift within becomes overt. Many Kukis particularly Thadous had been very critical with the enthusiastic opportunism of the UNC and other Naga frontals which at one time had the impudence of serving Quit Notice to the Kukis in Manipur hills. In fact, those communities who disapprove the movement being piloted by the UNC and its cohorts dissociated themselves. Even there were reports that group of womenfolk stood guard at the Lighthouse Area of CCPur to disrupt the JACATB organised rally on 28th August to mark the run-up to the observance of the anniversary which later dispersed only at the persistence of some community leaders. By now JACATB constitutes only of the UNC, other Naga frontals and CCPur based organisations belonging to the communities who are traditionally ally of UNC. It will not be a volt from the blue if in the forthcoming festival of Indian (held) Elections, 2017, the Naga Peoples’ Front (NPF) debut it’s fielding of candidature in CCPur at least from the two Paite dominated Scheduled Tribes Reserved Assembly Constituency of 58-CCPur and 60-Singhat presently represented respectively by Phungzanthang Tonsing and Ginsuanhau of the ruling Congress party.
In the Ministry of Government of Manipur, the tribal legislators are equally sharing the cabinet berth including the post of Deputy Chief Minister. Most of the high ranking bureaucrats and police officials are also from the tribal community. The representation of Meiteis is almost insignificant in the state bureaucratic administration. Just a glance at the profiles of the Manipur Police shows the first seven top rung position at present are hold by those from the kindred tribe of CHIKIMZ community. The profiles with the superiority of positions in ascending order are as follows: DGP: L.M. Khaute; ADGP: P. Doungel; ADGP (AP/Trg & HG): C. Doungel; ADGP (L/O) K.T. Vaiphei; IGP (Zone-III & IGP Trg/HR/RTI): Thangkhanlal Guite; IGP (Zone-II & AP/Ops): Lupheng Kailun; IGP (Zone-I): Clay Khongsai. Even then the Anti-ILPs protestors still have the audacity to allege the state government/ police as ‘communal government’/‘communal force’.
From what has been unfolded in these aforementioned trying times of inter-community dynamics with unstable equilibrium, the damaging potentials of rumours when allowed to spread rampant can too obviously be seen. Apart from widening the chasm between and among the co-existing communities, it also brings not only the law enforcing agencies but the entire state machinery to serious legitimation crisis. The Department of Information and Public Relation, and the Home Department is found lagging in giving institutional response in terms of refuting the rumours that has been spread and alleged which could disturb and destroy the peace and harmony of secular Manipur. And what is lagging behind should be catch-up. The sooner the better.
Source: Imphal times
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