Nagaland’s Lok Sabha member Neiphiu Rio on Saturday urged prime minister Narendra Modi not to give his consent to three bills passed by the Manipur assembly to safeguard the rights of the state’s indigenous people.
Rio, a leader of the Nagaland People’s Front wrote in his letter to the prime minister, “Agitations have been carried out by the civil society and mass-based organisations of the tribal people and students’ bodies have taken to the streets.”
“The sequence of events clearly indicates that the bills have created mistrust, and the desire and will of the people have been undermined,” he stated.
The passing of the bills on 31 August brought to an end a month-long mass agitation by people living in the valley districts of the north-eastern state demanding an inner line permit system on the lines of those in force in three other northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
However, tribes like Nagas, Kukis, Zomis and Hmars have claimed that the three bills would directly undermine the existing safeguards for the tribal hill areas regarding land ownership and population influx as the primary threat for the tribal people came not from outside the state but the Meitei people from the valley itself.
The bills include the Protection of Manipur People Bill, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (Seventh Amendment), and the Manipur Shops and Establishments Bill (Second Amendment).
The day the bills were passed, protesters, mainly from tribal organisations in the hills of the state, torched five houses belonging to Congress lawmakers. These included the houses of state Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Lok Sabha member from Outer Manipur Thangso Baite in Churachandpur district.
The violence and resultant police action left at least nine people dead.
“Considering the volatile situation and the possibility of more violence and disturbance in the overall scenario in the state of Manipur, I urge upon the government of India not to give its consent to the three bills passed by the Manipur legislative assembly as the bills are directly against the welfare, desire and will of the tribal people,” Rio stated in his letter to the prime minister.