The Journey of AMSU since 1965
By Athokpam Marconi Singh
The emergence of students as a group in the context of addressing socio-political problems facing a society has been the most significant feature of socio-political changes taking place all over the world. Apart from their academic activities, they have always been sensible and sensitive to the issues and challenges confronting their society, and they have played a pivotal role in shaping the course of progressive transformation of their society.
There are various glaring instances to draw inspiration from the student uprisings which occurred in many parts of the world. History bears ample testimony to the progressive role they have played. Some of their remarkable movements which shaped the human history are - May Revolt of France, Civil Rights Struggle of US, Anti-Vietnam war protest, Soweto uprising, Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia, Tiananmen Square, 8888 Uprising of Rangoon, Umbrella movement, Sunflower movement, etc. They have always been at the forefront in fighting against imperialism, oppressive rules, military juntas and human rights extortion. The students’ role in Chinese Revolution is also worth mentioning here.
Coming to the context of Manipur, the student community is not lagging behind their counterparts in different parts of the world. Indeed, they have long tradition of playing an active role in struggle for securing and promoting democratic interests of the people. Manipur has been overwhelmed by a variety of issues and challenges; and the student community has never remained as silent spectators of whatever that might have been happening around them. Their involvement in addressing socio-political problems concerning the state and the people inside it are being highlighted in a nutshell in the following paragraphs.
The first major instance where one can see students uprising inside the state occurred in the year 1965 against the artificial famine. It was a difficult time for the people of Manipur in general and that of poor people in particular. In such a situation, they decided to come out from their classrooms and take a leading role in the movement to provide adequate food security to the people. For them, obviously, right to life was a far greater and immediate concern than their academic interests. During the protests, they also came out strongly against the corrupt ministers and administration, criticizing them as responsible for the famine like situation.
It was on 27th August, 1965 that a large number of students came out demanding immediate redressal of the crisis caused by the severe scarcity of rice. The genuine demand of the students for the Right to Food was responded with brutal lathi charge along with the firing of bullets. Four protestors including three students namely, Nongmeikapam Pramodini, Laishram Chaobhal, Oinam Nabakumar and Waikhom Nilamani lost their life and became the martyrs of the soil. Many of them were also severely injured. This unfortunate incident clearly shows the sense of negligence, oppressive and exploitative nature of the then government. This bloody tragedy sowed the seeds which led to the creation of AMSU (All Manipur Students' Union) on 28th August, 1965 with the motto - Learn, Serve, Sacrifice - as the first independent student union with no political affiliation in the history of Manipur. As a mark of remembrance, the Student fraternity led by AMSU has been observing the historic incident of 27th August, 1965 as “Hunger Marcher's Day” (Chaklam Khongchat) till date.
Since its inception, AMSU continued to sacrifice for the betterment of the society. They participated in the statehood movement inside the state which was basically a demand for basic political right – the right to self-government, for the people of Manipur. Further, with a view to make educational institutions free from religious consideration, the Union worked tirelessly to do away with religious functions and observances.
The beginning of 1980s again witnessed the AMSU, along with AMSCOC (All Manipur Students' Co-ordinating Committee), coming to the forefront in the popular movement concerning Foreigners issue. It was a movement against the influx of outsiders. The two student bodies were highly concerned about the future of Manipuri people. They raised the slogan-”Go Back Foreigners”. While carrying out agitations, two students namely, Potshangbam Premananda alias Lukhoi and Huidrom Lokendra sacrificed their life on 17th April, 1980 in a violent scuffle with the security forces. To pay homage to the two brave martyrs, AMSU has been observing this day as 'Realization Day' (Meekap Thokpa Numit).
The AMSU also played a dynamic role in the Manipuri Language Movement. AMSU itself was a part of the Manipuri Language Demand Co-ordinating Committee (MLDCC). The movement demanded the inclusion of the Manipuri Language in the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
AMSU shows its strength in the issue of safeguarding the violation of Human Rights of the people of Manipur under the shadow of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. For instances, in the issue of Thokchom Netaji, student of Johnstone Higher Secondary School who was killed in the cross-firing incident on 28thFebruary, 1996, the AMSU launched serious agitations including Manipur Bandh, sit in protests, rallies, human chains, etc. The AMSU has been observing 28th February as “Netaji NingshingNumit”. Moreover, in the issue of involuntary disappearance of YumlembamSanamacha of Angtha Village who was taken away from his home by the personnel of 17th Raj Rifles on 12th February, 1998, the AMSU demanded immediate safe release of the student by calling for Manipur Bandh, boycott of the central government offices of the state, indefinite class boycott, sit-in-protest, demonstrations, processions, organizing 'communication blockade', etc. Again, in the “Tonsen Lamkhai Massacre” of 1999 where ten civilians including three students were killed, the AMSU and Other Organizations demanded the immediate withdrawal of AFSPA, 1958 from the state. In the issue of brutal rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama in 2004 by Assam Riffles Personnel, there were widespread protests from several organisations and different sections of people. The AMSU also strongly condemned and protested against this inhuman act along with the boycott of classes.
Mention may also be made of their commendable role in the fight against drug abuses and alcoholism. They also fought against inflation and demanded control over price rise of essential commodities from time to time.
Regarding the movement for safeguarding the territorial integrity of Manipur, AMSU reacted against any attempt to harm the territorial boundary of the state. It strongly condemned the extension of Cease-fire to Manipur through peace dialogue between India Government and NSCN (IM) in 2001. AMSU along with different CSOs adopted the historic declaration to protect the territorial boundary of the state. They had called social boycott of all the sixty MLAs and MP of Manipur. During the protest movement, many AMSU leaders were also arrested. As a reaction to the Framework of Agreement inked between India Government and NSCN (IM) in August, 2015, the AMSU launched a Campaign under the banner-"Campaign for the Protection of Historical and Political Identities of Manipur" on 15th February, 2017. It demanded disclosure of the details of the Agreement to the public domain. Under this Campaign, the AMSU stormed at the offices of different political parties demanding White Paper on the Agreement. It also staged protest against the visit of the then Union Minister, Rajnath Singh at Imphal on 19thFebruary, 2017. Series agitations were carried out one after another including protest into the Raj Bhawan, burning of effigies, organising rallies and human chain, etc. The Union has also conducted awareness programmes in different schools about the possible outcome of the Framework of Agreement.
Many years back, AMSU and other organizations brought into focus in the issue of implementation of Inner Line Permit System. With the removal of permit system in 1950, the state became a dumping ground for illegal immigrants. In the ongoing movement for implementation of ILP system, JCILPS (Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System) has super headed in the varied form of agitations to check the influx of non-locals. The AMSU actively involved in the movement as a part of the JCILPS, Students' Wing. In many occasions, the AMSU called for the re-implementation of ILPs to regulate the flow of illegal migrants.
Last but not the least; the AMSU has played a noteworthy role in the movement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which will facilitate granting of citizenship to the immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The AMSU, as a component body of NESO (North East Students Organization), staged protest against the Bill which is against the interest of the indigenous people of the Northeast. The AMSU also submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Manipur on 21st May, 2018 expressing that the Bill will give a great blow to the region by flooding with illegal immigrants.
When the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Lok Sabha on 8th January, 2019, the AMSU under the NESO actively participated in the widespread agitation and movement both inside and outside Manipur. The AMSU called upon the people of Manipur to stay united and oppose the Bill. As against the excessive atrocities of police towards protestors in Tripura on 8th January, the NESO observed 12th January 2019 as the ‘Black Day’ in the entire Northeast. In Manipur also, Six Student's bodies including the AMSU observed the "Black Day" against the police action of Tripura and Manipur with black flags hoisted at AMSU Headquarters, followed by the other offices of student's bodies as a part of observation.
These are some of the glaring examples bearing testimony to the indomitable strength of the students. It also indicates the fact that the student community possesses a strong sense of sensitivity and sensibility to the issues and challenges confronting the society they live in at large; and that they posses great sacrificing spirit. Such a legacy of theirs in the past has inspired thousands of youths of the present generation. In this context, the AMSU continues to shine as glorious example of the progressive role that student organization can play in the socio-political landscape of the state in general, and that of the scenario of student activism in Manipur in particular. Since its birth, AMSU has traversed a long journey and it is hoped that AMSU will continue to sacrifice for the welfare of the society with the basic ideology of safeguarding the rights of the Manipuri people.
(The author is Research Scholar in Department of Political Science, Manipur University)
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