Over 5000 people in Ukhrul district on Thursday took out a mass rally in the district HQ, expressing strong condemnation of the "forceful occupation" of nine villages of the Tangkhul community in the district by the Assam Rifles.
The rally started from two locations namely, Dungrei junction of Hungpung and Mission compound, Ukhrul and culminated at Ava Market (Ima market), Phungreitang in the heart of the Ukhrul district headquarters.
Organised by the civil society organisations of the Tangkhul community, the rally was attended by Kho John, president of United Naga Council (UNC); Joyson Mazamo, convenor of Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) South and Asha Wungnam, president of Naga Women's Union among others.
Business establishments, vehicular and public movements came to a grinding halt amidst the mass rally, where protesters held placards with slogans like, ‘Leave Us; Respect Land Owners, Nagas Don't Have Khas Land, Our Land, Our Identity, Honour Our Rights, etc.’ among others.
The CSOs also submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, appealing him to immediately withdraw the forceful occupation of nine Tangkhul villages by the Assam Rifles in addition to withdrawal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Power Act 1958 (AFSPA) from all the Hill Areas/ districts of Manipur.
The copy of the memorandum was also duly submitted to Francisco Cali Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Gam A Shimray, General Secretary, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).
In a memorandum submitted to PM Modi, the CSOs stated that "The Tangkhul Civil Organisations Collective, as the representatives of the Tangkhul community in Manipur, wish to place our pressing concerns with faith in your authority and leadership."
That, beginning in the year 2016, an unwarranted occupation of the land by the Assam Rifles began in Chatric Khunou village. Since then, eight more villages have been occupied as outposts in the same forceful manner in the face of strong objections from the local populace in the following nine villages namely, Chatric Khunou, Ramphoi, Kangpat Khullen (Kamdong), Tusom CV, Poi, Mapum, Lamlang Gate, Khamasom Wallely and Kasom Khullen, it pointed out.
The aforementioned villages have been turned into veritable military garrisons and it is indeed an ungainly sight to find fully armed and combat-ready soldiers moving around in these serene villages, indicating a warlike-situation when there is none and conveying the presence of hostilities when there is peace, the memo alleged.
Whereas it may be impressed upon that many generations have been crippled in the Naga homeland under the Indian Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 and a relentless effort have been made from every quarters to usher in peace and in light of the subsisting Ceasefire Agreement dated July 25, 1997 and the Indo-Naga Framework Agreement, dated August 3, 2015, signed between the Government of India (GOI) and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) and similar such Suspension of Operations (SoO) being successfully negotiated with other insurgent groups operating within Manipur, the Home Minister of India witness whereof has noted that the entire Northeast “is now witnessing a new era of peace, prosperity and unprecedented development,” it stated.
The CSOs also stated that as observed by the Jeevan Reddy Committee, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) has been a “symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness” where the brunt of such draconian laws being always borne by the common citizens of this country whereas the tribal populace of the Hill Areas/Districts deserve to enjoy equal rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
However, owing to forceful occupation by these men in uniform, the people are being subjected to rude disruptions and unwelcome alterations to the way of life in the villages, causing grave inconveniences, they stated, adding that public spaces such as the playgrounds, schools, children’s homes and community halls are being used as camps, thereby hindering its usual functioning.
Private spaces have also not been spared as constructions are being undertaken on private properties with utter disregard for its ownership and security check posts have been set up and the villagers are subjected to scrutiny as they go about their daily lives, the CSOs stated.
Women and children are subjected to the fears caused by this unwarranted situation and the elders who have not recovered from their traumas caused by the military’s atrocities are being subjected to it all over, it alleged.
The CSOs also stated that according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is being withdrawn from 15 police station areas in six valley districts of Manipur; 15 police station areas in seven districts of Nagaland; and 23 districts entirely and one district partially in Assam and whereas the Government of India since the year 2015 had already lifted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) entirely from the states of Tripura and Meghalaya and partially from the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
There is no justifiable circumstance why the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) should not be lifted from the peaceful Hill Areas/Districts of Manipur, it pointed out, adding that the number of FIRs registered in the Hill Areas/Districts is considerably lower as compared to the number of FIRs registered in the Plain/Valley Districts.
The non-withdrawal of the same from the Hill Areas/Districts is ex-facie mala fide, discriminatory and arbitrary being violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, it stated.
Whereas, at this critical juncture when the Government of India is engaged in hectic peace parley with the Naga people to hammer out a lasting solution to the long pending issue, it is ill-advised and ill-timed to create a fear psychosis among the peace-loving citizens by such mushrooming unsolicited military camps, the CSO stated.
“Therefore, with complete faith in the Prime Minister’s goodwill, his undoubted love and sense of duty towards the people, the undersigned herein, namely David K Shimray, president Tangkhul Naga Long,Thingreiphi Lungharwoshi, president Tangkhul Shanao Long, SA Ramnganing, president Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long, Shimri Raising, president Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong, Somatai Machinao, president Tangkhul Mayar Ngala Long, Dearson Chamroy, chairman Tangkhul Naga Ato Longphang, Shomi Angkang, chairman Aze Longphang, Joshua Konghar, chairman Zingsho Longphang and Ramyo Angkang, chairman Zingtun Longphang, on behalf of the Tangkhul Naga community, hereby obliged to make this crucial appeal for ensuring the following redressal as hereunder - immediate withdrawal of the forceful Assam Rifles occupations from nine Tangkhul villages in Manipur, and withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) from all the Hill Areas/Districts of Manipur,” they stated.