Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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ATSUM, ANSAM and KSO Imposed 24-Hour Shutdown and Indefinite Economic Blockade Demanding ADC Bill 2021, JTSA Resolves Not to Endorse; Okram Henry Appointed CM Advisor; AR Seizes Smuggled Goods

Bandh, Blockade Back

The 24-Hour Total Shutdown on November 20 imposed by Manipur’s tribal student bodies, namely All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM), All Naga Students’ Association Manipur (ANSAM), Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO) General Headquarters and ATSUM Federating Units demanding introduction of Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council (ADC) Bill 2021 has mixed responses. The Student bodies also on November 19 announced to go ahead with the scheduled 24-hour total shutdown and the indefinite economic blockade along the National Highways in the state from November 22.

Meanwhile, the Joint Tribe Students’ Association (JTSA), a conglomerate of students’ bodies consisting of All Inpui Students Union (AISU), Liangmai Naga Katimai Ruangdi (LNKR), Rongmei Naga Students Organization Manipur (RNSOM) and Zeme Students Organizations Manipur (ZSOM) has resolved not to endorse the 24-hour total shutdown called by ATSUM.

Reports said that the 24-hour shutdown does not affect the normal lives in Churachandpur district, Noney district and Tamenglong district while Highways were blocked by the volunteers of the student bodies at Kangpokpi and Chikim village area in Moreh.

A release issued on November 19 by ATSUM information and publicity secretary Khaiminlen Doungel stated that on receipt of the invitation from the state government, an official discussion between the state government and the mentioned student organisations was held on November 19 at Chief Minister’s Office in the presence of the chief minister to discuss the HAC recommended ‘Manipur (Hill Areas) ADC Bill 2021.’

Since both the parties could not reach any agreeable solution in their positions, the announced agitations will go ahead as scheduled, it stated.

It further stated that the relentless efforts of the state government “to misguide the public by constantly claiming that the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Act 1971 is a Parliament Act and cannot be repealed by the state Legislative Assembly” is unfortunate.

Corresponding upon the precedent of the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Act 1971 being repealed in the year 2000 and by the rule of law, the state government should stop misleading the public immediately and convene Special Legislative Assembly to table the HAC recommended ‘Manipur (Hill Areas) ADC Bill 2021’, the release said.

Every right thinking populace of the state are appealed to support the movement which aims to consolidate fraternity among all communities of the state, it added.

Notably, JTSA statement said “We support the endeavours of the bill and appeal to the Government also to take necessary action in the interest of the Tribal at the right time.”

With festive season approaching, every individual is working hard for their daily bread, educational institutions are finally opening up after prolonged lockdown and ATSUM’s total shutdown and economic blockade is deemed unsuitable, untimely and uncalled for, JTSA said.

Therefore, ATSUM’s 24 hours’ bandh will remain ineffective along the full stretch of NH-37 and all National Projects under JTSA jurisdiction shall remain functional in full swing. All shops and offices shall remain open to the public, it stated.

Okram Henry Appointed Advisor to CM

After the Supreme Court had on November 3 dismissed the special leave petition filed by Okram Henry to nullify recognition of Yumkham Erabot as a Member of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly, Manipur Government has appointed former Social Welfare Minister Okram Henry as Advisor to Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on November 19 appointed with immediate effect.

An order to this effect was issued on November 19 by Chief Secretary and Secretary (Cabinet) Dr Rajesh Kumar.

Okram Henry, nephew of former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi, who is also the Opposition leader in the Manipur Assembly, was elected as Congress party MLA from Wangkhei Assembly Constituency in the 2017 state legislative assembly elections.

It may be mentioned that during the vote of confidence in the state Assembly, Henry was among the eight MLAs who had skipped the assembly proceedings, defying the party whip for the trust vote and saved the Nongthombam Biren’s government of BJP-led coalition in 2020. Henry resigned from the membership of the Indian National Congress and later joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). After he joined the BJP, the Biren-led government inducted him as state social welfare minister.

A three-Judge Bench of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Ravindra Bhat and M Trivedi examined the civil case during the election matter hearing and declared the election of Henry from Wangkhei Assembly Constituency, as null and void.  Moreover, the apex Court also dismissed the case.

It further dismissed the civil appeal case filed by Henry challenging the Manipur High Court’s order, declaring the second highest vote recipient Erabot as the MLA of Wangkhei AC.

Earlier, the Manipur High Court had passed a judgment announcing Erabot as the duly-elected Member from Wangkhei Assembly Constituency, apart from declaring the election of Okram Henry in the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election 2017 as null and void.

In the last Assembly polls, Henry, the nephew of former CM Okram Ibobi Singh, had won the election on a Congress ticket by a margin of 4,336 votes, defeating his BJP opponent Erabot.

In August 2020, he jumped over to the BJP from the Congress and was appointed a Cabinet Minister for Social Welfare, Cooperation and MAHUD.

Erabot then filed an election petition to the Manipur High Court, accusing Henry of deliberately misrepresenting his educational qualification while submitting his nomination papers for the elections held in 2012 and 2017.

Biren Urges Respect For All Communities

Expressing concerns over the need for maintaining peace among all ethnic communities of the state, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren said that suppression of rights of one’s community is the root cause of clash between communities.

The only way to bring peace and tranquility in the state is that every community such as Meetei, Naga, Kuki and Meitei Pangal should be treated equally, Biren said during the one-day political conference held at Tera Bazar, Sapam Leirak organised by the BJP-19 Patsoi Mandal on November 14, reports said.

Biren said that the real meaning of politics is to safeguard and protect every community of the state by guaranteeing them their constitutional rights. The main cause of communal clash and instability in the state is the suppression of one’s community by the other.

To prevent any form of violence in the state, every citizen should respect other communities and leaders should treat all communities as one, reports added.

English as Optional Language

English language has been included as an optional language, besides Manipuri in the State Bank of India (SBI) recruitment process in the state.

Announcing the development, outer Manipur MP Lorho S Pfoze November 14 expressed his gratitude to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman MoS for Finance Bhagwat Kharad and SBI chairperson Dinesh Kumar Khara for considering the matter and making the change possible.

The Manipur MP stated in a social media post that Union Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Kharad stated in a letter addressed to the former that the matter for inclusion of both English and Manipuri languages as option in recruitments done by State Bank of India was been taken up with the bank and the SBI bank has informed that from the recruitment year 2022-2023, options for both English and Manipuri will be available for recruitment of junior associates.

It may be mentioned that in May, the Outer Manipur MP wrote a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman requesting to “give the language option both in English and Manipuri and or any other recognised scheduled language” in regard to SBI recruitment in the state of Manipur while considering the discrepancies felt among the tribal people of the state.

“My state of Manipur is inhabited by various ethnic groups with diverse cultural and linguistic practices and the state has gone through turbulence times in the past over these issues. The education system in Manipur is liberal with options to learning through mother tongue (local dialects) and learning Manipuri (Meiteilon) is not mandatory; thereby making Manipuri a mandatory language for recruitment is not justifiable,” the MP wrote in his letter to the Finance Minister.

The All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) had also written to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), raising a complaint against the non-inclusion of Schedule Tribes (ST) languages of Manipur in the ‘test of specified opted local language’ in the recruitment of junior associates (Customer Support and Sales) of SBI.

Man Arrested for Post Chiding CM Released

A man, who was recently arrested for allegedly posting derogatory comments against Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on Facebook, was released on bail by the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal West on November 18.

The accused, Chungkham Chingkheinganba, 27, son of Ch Modhusudon of Sagolband Tera Lukram Leikai, Imphal West, using his Facebook handle ‘Ching Bizz’ posted a comment, “Biren Minai nangna hek ngangba wase taba yaba mata hek ngnagde. Ei IRB gi thabak t apply twkiba leitae adub ngna nangi cdi taba yadre.” (Biren, you slave. You never say anything worth giving attention. I had not applied for the IRB job, but what you are saying does not deserve any listening).

After his police custody term ended, the accused was produced before the court through video conferencing by the investigating officer with a prayer for remanding him in judicial custody for 15 days.

The additional public prosecutor submitted that the comment made by Chingkheinganba promotes disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred amongst the communities as well as visible representation in committing offence against the Manipur state government.

Meanwhile, an application on behalf of the accused was filed by his counsel, praying for rejecting the judicial remand prayer of the investigating officer and to let him on bail.

On hearing of the facts, and examination of the materials submitted, the court observed that the post of the accused directly targeted the head of an elected government.

“In a democracy, criticism of the government is the right of a citizen. However, being sarcastic and by using offensive words and targeting an individual directly cannot be considered as exercise of his right to free speech. Further, targeting the head of an elected government directly, who the public, including him, voted for seems not proper for a responsible citizen,” the court’s order mentioned.

During the hearing, the accused made a humble apology for making the statement and using offensive words against the chief minister, following which the court warned him not to repeat such acts.

After consideration of the above factual positions, the court granted the bail prayer and released him with a direction to appear before the same court on December 2.

CrPC 144 Clamped in Imphal West

The district Magistrate Imphal West has imposed prohibitory order under section CrPC 144 in the whole areas situated within the revenue district of Imphal West for two months with effect from November 18.

As per the order issued by the Magistrate the prohibition was necessitated in view of the likelihood of serious breach of peace, disturbance of public tranquility and grave danger to human lives and properties by activities of anti-social elements.

Subsequently, the order has prohibited assembly of five or more persons, which is likely to turn violent: carrying sticks, weapons, firearms without valid license among others which can be used as offensive weapons.

The order shall not apply to Government agencies involved in the enforcement of law and order, and the maintenance of essential services, stated the order.

Farmers Condemn Damaging of Fields for Mega Food Park

The 44-Yaithibi Loukol Farmers and Land Owners Development Association on November 18 has strongly condemned the damaging of several hectares of ripe paddy fields of 44-Yaithibi Loukol allegedly by the state Industries department for the construction of Mega Food Park.

The staffs of Industries department accompanied with a large number of Manipur police personnel and commandos arrived at the site on November 18 morning and began damaging several hectares of ripe paddy fields by using JCB and bulldozers for installing a police outpost for the construction of a Mega Food Park, the association alleged in a release signed by its president Kh Romenkumar.

The farmers and landowners, who came for work at the paddy field, were denied entry by the police team. The present BJP-led state government has decided to set up a police outpost at the site under Thoubal and Kakching SPs for constructing the food park, it stated.

“The government may set up the outpost only after killing the villagers and taking over their houses to station the security forces,” the association stated.

It further stated that the present BJP-led state government is against the poor and their welfare. There is no faith in the state BJP government for upliftment of the poor.

The people residing in and around the site have strongly condemned the steps taken up by the three MLAs of the adjoining assembly constituencies namely Paonam Brojen, D Korungthang, and M Rameshwor as their moves are meant only for getting contracts and their support on the construction of Mega Food Park is very unfortunate for the farmers and people, the release alleged.

The association further questioned why Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetlands Act 2014 has not been implemented at 44-Yaithibi Loukol, and added that in this regard a case has still been filed at Thoubal Court by the farmers against the government.

Non-Implementation of BPL Schemes

The Manipur Tribal Women Joint Action Committee (MTWJAC) on November 19 sought the intervention of concerned authority and state government agencies on the issue of non-implementation of schemes for BPL people in hill districts of the state.

The committee resolved to conduct a protest demonstration if the concerned department fails to bring out a white paper on the issue.  According to the committee, an RTI was filed by one Salim Kamei of Churachandpur on November 23, 2020 to the Horticulture and Soil Conservation department. And, the reply to the RTI was given on October 22, 2021.

The committee, however, decried the reply by the department of Horticulture and Soil Conservation on implementation of state and Central-sponsored schemes like Technology Mission (I and II), Soil Conservation, MHD, MIDH and others.

The MTWJAC stated in a release that the reply to the RTI denied the implementation of the said scheme for the past five years in hill districts such as Tamenglong, Churachandpur, Ukhrul, Senapati, Chandel, Kangpokpi, Kamjong, Noney, Tengnoupal, Pherzawl and others.

World-Class Polo Ground in Imphal East

The DoNER Ministry has given its approval for construction of a world-class polo ground at the birth place of modern polo (Ibudhou Marjing Khubham) at Heingang in Imphal East, Manipur Tourism director W Ibohal said on November 19.

Reports said the official was speaking to the media during the inauguration of a stairway to Ibudhou Marjing Khubham. It was organised by Ibudhou Marjing Khubham Kanba Lup (IMKHUKAL).

Ibohal said that the state government has been working full swing to convert the surrounding areas of Ibudhou Marjing Khubham as a world-class tourist destination.

Pointing out that the only polo stadium in Manipur at Mapal Kangjeibung does not meet international standards; he explained that there is no buffer zone (an extra space outside the boundary) in it. The director said, 23 acres land has been reserved for the construction of the polo ground. Once it is officially approved, the construction work will be started without any delay, reports added.

Big Victory for Farmers, Defeat for Modi Govt, MPCC

The Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) said the decision of the center to repeal the three farm laws is a big victory for the farmers and a big defeat for Narendra Modi-led government.

Speaking to the media, MPCC vice-president Kh Devbrata on November 19 said the three bills were passed on the floor of Parliament by the BJP-led government despite the hue and cry. Since then, to repeal the contentious bill, farmers have been agitating against the three laws for over a year. The Congress party, Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party have been supporting the movement of farmers against the three laws, reports said.

Devbrata maintained that the prime minister made the announcement to repeal the three laws taking into consideration the suffering of the farmers. The actual reason could be the upcoming Assembly elections in five states, including Manipur. He pointed out that of the total population of the country about 82 per cent of lifeline of people are based on agricultural produce, 72 per cent are farmers and 50 per cent of the total voters of the country are farmers.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi repealed the three farm laws to get political mileage and not out of sympathy,” asserted Devbrata.

The three laws Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 were passed in September 2020 and received the presidential assent on September 27, 2020.

AR Seize Smuggling of Goods Worth Rs. 67.93 Lakhs

The Tengnoupal AR battalion under the aegis of IGAR (South) on November 19 foiled a cross-border smuggling attempt near Khudengthabi village in Tengnoupal district.

Reports quoting IGAR release said the AR intervened the smuggling during an operation launched by the troops of AR on the basis of a reliable input regarding movement of illegal items.

During the operation, a total of 51 packages containing liquor, furniture, cosmetic and electronic items worth around Rs. 67.93 lakh were recovered. The recovered items were handed over to the Customs department, Moreh for further legal action, reports added.

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