Common demands must to safeguard indigenes: Lancha

STAFF REPORTER IMPHAL, 24th Oct: Expressing serious concern over the emerging situation and impending fate of the state, cultural activist Ningthouja Lancha Tuesday called upon different organisations and people to unite and define a common set of demands and common course of action in order to safeguard the indigenous people of Manipur.

Ningthouja Lancha was speaking at the 20th Raising Day of Universal Friendship Organisation held at Satjal Academy at Nongmaiching.

Lancha observed that the socio-economic condition of Manipur is lagging far behind when compared to Singapore and Vietnam, which got independence in 1965 and 1975 respectively. People of the state are carrying out movements over several demands under different organisations. However, it has always been an impossible task to bring unity even among the constituent bodies of any organisation let along the people and different communities, he said while stressing the need for ironing out the differences and join hands for building up a single united force.

People are against one another and social media platforms are full organisations, which are pursuing different causes supposedly for the welfare of the state and its people separately. It is time to unite by keeping aside the difference in ideologies to pursue a common cause, he exhorted.

Out of 27 lakh population, seven lakh are non-locals in the state. There are reports of police arresting 10 Rohingyas from Pheidinga recently but there is no report of deporting them so far. While uncontrolled influx of non-locals pose a serious threat to the existence of the indigenous population, the government is hell bent on promoting small family policy, he said.

He went on to point out that Bangladesh, which is smaller than the combined NE region, has a population of more than 16 crore. According to reports of Defence Ministry of India, three lakh Bangladeshis enter India every year. At the same time, National Security Council of India in 2007 reported that there are 1.5 crore Bangladeshis in Northeast India. As such, it would be safe to assume that there are around two crore Bangladeshis in the northeast region of the country, which has a total population of about 4.5 crore.

With the prediction of 33 per cent of Bangladesh likely to be submerged underwater after 30 years, Bangladeshi immigrants have been entering India, especially the NE region continuously. Jiribam has an indigenous population of around 13,000 as against 21,000 Bangladeshis and the situation would be same all over the state in two decades. Even Ukhrul district has around 5000 Bangladeshis at present. They are also taking over the indigenous population in Tamenglong district. Despite this alarming situation, the government is not taking up any concrete measures to deport the Bangladeshis, he lamented.

Besides, the Centre is waiting for the railway track in Imphal to become functional in order to take out petroleum reserves of the state, which is said to be enormous and could take 300 years to extract all of them. The oil reserves have been sold off to a company based in the Netherlands. On the other hand, Loktak Project which earns Rs 12000 crore per annum with GST but Centre is claiming to support India with a mere Rs 6000 crore annual fund. The figure has been collected by Manipur University from the secretariat finance department, Lancha said.

He further said that Merger Agreement was signed by the then King of Manipur under duress despite Manipur having its own democratically elected government. But one must know that there were Standstill Agreement and Instrument of Accession before the Merger Agreement. Article 6 of the Instrument of Accession restricts India to occupy or annex Manipur. Article 7 of the agreement restricts India from imposing the Constitution compiled by Dr BR Ambedkar to Manipur while Article 8 restricts India from interfering in the internal sovereignty of Manipur.

The Indian government also revoked the Foreigners’ Permit Act, which was implemented in Manipur since 1864.

In such a situation, it is high time to discuss whether the people should demand the pre-merger status or stall every issue with five to 10 years of agitation, he said.

During the Manipur National Day observance of CIRCA on October 18, a public meeting adopted some resolutions. The meet demanded the Centre to bring a solution based on Instrument of Accession to end the armed conflict. It also demanded the Centre to put on hold extraction of natural resources from the state until the first demand is met and necessary steps are taken up as per the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. It also demanded Britain to act as a party of the agreement and take active role in bringing the pre-merger status to Manipur and allow players of the state to represent Manipur but not India in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Apart from inclusion of Manipur’s history in school syllabus, the meet further demanded a People’s Council in the Manipur Legislative Assembly with representatives from every recognised indigenous community of the state, he recalled.

Lancha revealed that the resolutions would be discussed with different CSOs and submit a charter of demands to the Centre soon.

Keirao MLA L Rameshwar and Kshetrigao MLA N Indrajit attended the function as chief guest and president respectively. JCILPS convener Arjun Telheiba was also present as guest of honour.

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