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Manipur govt claims blockade over, agitators vow to continue stir

Imphal, Aug 9, 2022 – Confusion reigned over the five-day old “economic blockade”, called by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM), along the National Highway 2 (Imphal-Dimapur) as the Manipur government on Tuesday said that it had been called off while the student body said that they would continue the protest.

An ATSUM statement on Tuesday night said that the emergency meeting of the organisation and ATSUM Federating Units held on Tuesday had denounced the agreement signed between the Manipur government, the Hill Areas Committee, and the ATSUM, ANSAM KSO-GHQ.

“The decision of the denouncement was made in the event of the agreement being signed at the unilateral capacity and decision of the individuals involved in the agreement without consulting the executives of ATSUM and Federating Units. The office of ATSUM suspends Vanlanlian Khaute from the post of Vice President of ATSUM with immediate effect for gross violation of the conduct of the Union by unilaterally appending signature to the agreement,” the ATSUM statement said.

It said that the ATSUM is convening an emergency meeting of ATSUM, ANSAM, KSO-GHQ, ATSUM Federating Units, and other senior leaders on Wednesday to seek a common way forward of the ongoing movement for introducing the HAC-recommended The Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Bill 2021 in the Manipur Assembly and its enactment.

Earlier, according to the state government officials, the ATSUM, which called the blockade on Friday to demand passage of the bill have called off their stir.

Due to the blockade, over 700 goods-laden vehicles were stranded till Tuesday morning along the National Highway-2, which connects Manipur with the rest of the country by road, via Nagaland.

“Security forces escorted 510 goods-laden vehicles to move to their destinations till Monday afternoon,” a police official said.

The Manipur government, after holding marathon meetings on Sunday and Monday, had signed an agreement with the agitating ATSUM leaders on Monday.

Soon after the signing of the deal, the government released all five arrested ATSUM leaders, who were arrested on August 2 and sent to 15-day judicial custody by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal West.

According to the agreement, signed by Manipur government represented by Tribal Affairs Minister Letpao Haokip, and Hill Areas Committee (HAC) Chairman Dinganglung Gangmmei and three student leaders, the 7th Amendment Bill of Manipur Hill Areas District Councils for devolution of power of Autonomous District Councils has been referred to the HAC and the HAC will have consultation with all the stakeholders before recommending it to the Manipur Assembly.

Government officials said that with the lifting of the blockade, the Manipur government also restored the mobile data (internet) services.

Special Secretary, Home, H. Gyan Prakash, quoting the Manipur Director General of Police, in a notification on Tuesday said that in view of the positive development, the suspension of internet and mobile data services in Manipur may be relaxed from today (Tuesday).

“… temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, do hereby orders the restoration of mobile data services in Manipur with immediate effect. All Mobile Service providers are hereby directed to ensure compliance of this order,” the notification said.

The BJP government headed by Chief Minister N. Biren Singh introduced the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council 6th and 7th amendment bills in the Assembly on Tuesday. However, the ATSUM claimed that these bills are not in line with their demands.

The ATSUM has been agitating in the hill districts including Kangpokpi and Senapati for quite some time, demanding more power to the tribal autonomous district councils.

In August last year, the Hill Area Committee (HAC), comprising MLAs of all the 20 tribal reserved seats of Manipur, had recommended the new Autonomous District Council (ADC) Bill to ensure ‘equitable development’ in the hill districts in the same parameters as in the valley region of the state.  (Agency)

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