Speech of Mangchinkhup, JAC Convenor

Speech of the Chief Convenor, JAC Against Anti-Tribal Bills at the Burial Service of the Tribal Martyrs
Lamka Mawltual, Hiangtam Lamka, Lamka 

The passing of the three anti-tribal bills by the Manipur Legislative Assembly on August 31, 2015 met with simultaneous violent reactions in the hills of Manipur, that led to the tribals in Manipur shouting in one united voice for the first time in history!

However, the unfortunate thing about the tribals in Manipur is the fact that although we are not divided among ourselves, we can easily be divided by the words and deeds of others. Since Manipur Government is well aware of this fact, till today, even with the same issues and interests among the tribal people, creating enmity and animosity among the different tribal communities through divide and rule policies was never a problem.

After being totally ignored by Manipur Government for more than a year, refusing to talk to us since our last dialogue on December 29, 2015, Assembly Elections in the State brought about a new government under the BJP. The new State Government, showing its keenness in solving the imbroglio arising out of the three anti-tribal bills, invited the JAC for dialogue. After 7 rounds of talks between the JAC and the State Government, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed at 3:30pm on 10th May, 2017 at the Mizo People Convention’s office here in Lamka with an official from the Ministry of Home Affairs as a witness.

In the Charter of Demands that led to the final MoU, the implementation of Sixth Schedule in the Hills of Manipur was given a priority. However, with the State Government reluctant to give any commitment in the matter, the JAC then requested the State Government to reply to the MHA’s repeated queries regarding the ‘local adjustments and amendments’ rider, to which the Government conveyed its inability to do so, citing the sensitive nature of the subject. The demand for restoration of the Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reforms Act, 1960 to its original Principal Act status also met with the same fate. Instead, the State Government insisted that since the imbroglio arose due to the three bills, the dialogue should concentrate on matters concerning the three bills only.

However, since the issue of the three anti-tribal bills are very much political in nature as it involves the politics of identity [the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015], the politics of land [the Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reforms (7th Amendment) Bill, 2015] and the politics of economy [the Manipur Shops & Establishments (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2015], hence the need for a political solution.

Regarding the demand for a new district, this was never our priority; however, since it is very much within the purview of the State Government and can be created for administrative convenience, the same was included in our Charter of Demands. Since the State Government has flatly objected to our demands relating to Sixth Schedule and MLR&LR Act of 1960, for such demands, and other demands of political nature to be addressed, our next best option lies with the ongoing political dialogue with the tribal armed groups – the same was reflected in our MoU. Matters relating to ex-gratia, compensation and employment are not the core issue, it is that the Government is only doing what it is supposed to do.

Do you still remember the speech I gave at this very ground more than one and a half years ago? We need to set short term and long term goals.

The burial of the mortal remains of our Tribal Martyrs does not mean the end of our political demand or aspiration. Rather, this is the extent of what the State Government can do; the next step rests in the hands of the Union Government. Now, we are about to accomplish our short term goal, and have left the mission of achieving our long term goal with the tribal armed groups. The achievement of our aspiration and political desire now depends on how unified and united we are – the tribal armed groups, the tribal elected representative and the tribal public.

Please refer to our MoU and study it in greater detail, the true intent of it will dawn upon you.

For 632 days, we have been mostly driven by our emotions and sometimes irrational thinking; the time has come for the tribal people to move ahead based on logical and rational thinking rooted in reality.

Let us look forward to the opening of a new chapter in tribal history after this burial service of our Tribal Martyrs, and our tribal society is rendered clean with the spirit of service and sacrifice.

I honestly believe that had the various tribe-based organizations and the general public chosen to stand by the JAC for another 5/6 more months with the same zeal and commitment they had about a year ago, we would have achieved the demands we’ve outlined in our Charter of Demands. However, it is not too late. As we are about to enter a new phase of the Movement, we need to relook our approach and make necessary course corrections. The more important question now is, are the tribal people ready for it?