Statement of Human Rights Groups on the Situation in Manipur
The ongoing economic blockade enforced by All Naga Student Association Manipur (ANSAM) and others in the Indian state of Manipur since 11 April 2010 has pushed the people in the state to the verge of existence. The state-wide strike organised by the ANSAM blocking roads and highways, national highway 39 and 53, which are the only lifeline of Manipur, has resulted in acute shortage of food, medicine and other essential commodities in the state.
Manipur is a state where ordinary life is marred with extreme forms of violence ranging from abduction to murder committed by state and non-state actors. The strike led by the ANSAM has added further miseries to the people’s lives. In remote hill districts like Tamenglong, even the government food storage facilities are empty since the past few weeks. In Imphal, the capital city, the government and private hospitals have closed down emergency services. Within the next few days they will be unable to maintain its life support systems due to shortage of essential supplies including medicines and nasal cannula oxygen.
The price of food grains and other household supplies like rice, kerosene and cooking gas have escalated to such a level that the ordinary people cannot afford to buy household provisions anymore. Vehicle, including the inter-state and inter-district transport, are off the road as the fuel stations closed since weeks.
The strike is in protest against the state government’s notification for holding elections to the autonomous hill district councils in Manipur under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council (3rd Amendment) Act, 2008. Additionally, the state government issued another notification for the first phase of the Autonomous District Council (ADC) elections in Manipur on 26 April 2010. After this, the organisations declared the initial strike to be extended for an indefinite period.
Naga organsations consider the ADC election as a threat to their claim for ‘Greater Nagaland’, also known as ‘Nagalim’ a separate independent status within India merging neighbouring states into one entity with Naga racial supremacy.
In the midst of this tension, the NSCN-IM General Secretary, Mr. Th. Muivah was granted permission to visit to the Manipur by the Union Government against the strong opposition of the Government of Manipur. The opposition is on the ground that the visit would further escalate prevailing tensions between communities.
The state administration increased security deployment in the border town of Mao to stop Muivah from entering Manipur. In a resultant scuffle, two protestors supporting Muivah’s visit were shot dead and a group of 80 men and women were injured and hospitalised in the police action. This triggered off further protest and arson in some hill districts. Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and other Naga groups of Nagaland are extending support to these protestors.
The situation in the state is extremely volatile and with the slightest provocation, an internal conflict may breakout. If this happens it could spread to a large area and destabilise the whole region. So far, neither the state nor the Union Government has taken any action to prevent the impending danger.
Analysts view the inaction of the Government, adopting a wait and watch strategy to the plight of the civilians and the use of brutal force against the protestors deliberate to sharpen ethnic divide and foment civil strife.
A group of civil society organisations including Asian Human Rights Commission, Asian Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Alert and Barak Human Rights Protection Committee have sent a letter to the Prime Minister of India calling for an immediate intervention in the situation.
Neharul Ahmed Mazumder
Date 11 May, 2010
Place: Silchar, Assam