By - Cecil Thounaojam
Ever since the Indian armed troops started pouring in Manipur in the pretext of Naga peace talk issue and as the winter session of parliament was slated to commence from November 18, people of Manipur had speculated if the downpouring was a preparation for what was going to come next as the passing of Citizenship Amendment Bill. It was certain that the Bill would be passed this time, given the BJP’s manifesto, its assurances, and the absolute majority it enjoyed in both houses in parliament. At the same time, people were mentally prepared for the protests that were to come and follow, as it was what they had witnessed the last time. It was as if the people and the government made the same calculation, and the preparations were done on both sides.
Manipur People Against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 (MANPAC) announced a series of protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 which would commence from December 8. MANPAC also announced to join the NE-wide protest by imposing shut down from 1 am on December 9 till 3 am on December 11. Following this, All Manipur Students Union (AMSU), a component body of the North East Student’s Organisation (NESO), called for 15 hours total shut down in the state of Manipur on December 10 in support to the total shut down called by NESO. Two more students’ bodies – Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur (DESAM) and Apunba Ireipakki Maheiroi Sinpang Lup (AIIMS) extended support to the intense agitation announced by MANPAC. It seemed like there was going to be a massive uprising that Manipur had never seen before.
December 9, CAB was introduced in Lok Sabha and Amit Shah re-introduced ILP in Manipur, too. Hell broke through. For a matter of fact, CM N. Biren Singh had already announced for a celebration, unofficially, claiming that Amit Shah had assured him over the phone for the implementation of ILP in Manipur. People of Manipur had already started panicking then, leaving MANPAC in a state of confusion. Soon after assuring the people that the agitation should continue, MANPAC suspended its agitation against CAB. BJP supporters celebrated the announcement with thabal chongba and bursting crackers. Manipur government grandly celebrated the announcement in Bheigyachandra Open Air Theatre and declared holiday, too. However, AMSU announced to go ahead with their 15 hours total shut down. Soon, 5 student leaders of AMSU were arrested.
Following these series of events, an extraordinary Gazette notification in the regard of extending ILP in Manipur has been issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. In no time, CAB was passed in Rajya Sabha and NESO announced Dec 11 as Black Day.
Despite many opposition, Citizenship Amendment Bill had become an Act with the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind late on Thursday night. MANPAC announced to conduct a review meeting soon, but was postponed in no time. Nevertheless, they held a review meeting and re-affirmed to intensify protest against CAB. MANPAC organised a protest, but it was stopped by the police. A deafening silence prevailed in the state of Manipur against CAA while the rest of northeast, especially Assam and Tripura, were burning.
NEFIP also called to intensify the protest and organised a candle light vigil in front of Western Kangla gate. NEFIS and MUSU also organised protests against CAA in Manipur University, with mass arrest of NEFIS members.
Meanwhile, a group of citizens of Manipur from different walks of life came together and protested in front of Western Kangla gate, supporting the anti-CAA movement and showing solidarity with Assam and Tripura. The group continued to protest at Kangla and Khwairamband Keithel in the following day. There was also strong criticism from the people of Manipur on social media regarding the silence of MANPAC in terms of anti-CAA protest. On the other hand, CPI, Manipur State Council, announced for a general strike on December 19. While addressing a crowd for organising a successful and peaceful general strike, L. Sotinkumar was arrested. After CJM Imphal West released him on bail, he was re-arrested by Manipur police on December 21. L. Sotinkumar along with other leaders and activists were slapped with sedition charges. In another case, a YouTube vlogger, R.K. Echanthoibi was arrested for criticizing Chief Minister N. Biren Singh in a video for unfairly claiming the credit for ILP in Manipur. Recently, a transgender rights activist was also threatened by Manipur police to delete her post about criticizing CM N. Biren Singh regarding the extension of AFSPA for six more months and post an apology on social media.
Amid all of this, the group of citizens of Manipur came out again and staged another protest against CAA in Iroishemba and Khwairamband Keithel, singing protest songs, holding placards, and chanting slogans. The very next day District Magistrate (Imphal West) imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in Imphal West for 2 months. Surprising it may sound, BJP - Manipur Pradesh also announced for a rally in support of CAA on December 29 as a part of the pan India campaign.