Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 25+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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Wednesday, 28 April 2021 18:38

Sailing towards choppy waters

By - Yambem Laba

The United Naga Council of Manipur has declared that chief minister N Biren Singh’s government is not welcome in the state’s hill areas. For some time, the CM’s programme of “Go to the Hills and Go to the Villages” had succeeded in bringing the administration to the doorsteps of people in those areas. Every month, various officials, ranging from health personnel to people from the revenue department, would be present there.
But Biren Singh went one step further to organise Cabinet meetings in the district headquarters of the hill areas by rotation. By the looks of it, the exercise seemed a good one, but the last meeting was held on 15 January 2021 in the newly created Kamjong district, carved out of Ukhrul.
The UNC have said recently that henceforth no Cabinet meeting or “Go to the Hills” programme would be allowed in the Naga areas of Manipur.
They contended that they have been opposing the creation of new districts in the state but even so, at the end of 2016, then CM O Ibobi Singh of the Congress Party did just that. For the last five decades, Nagas in Manipur have been opposing the bifurcation of the Naga-dominated Senapati district.
The plans to create Sardar Hills district out of Senapati had led to numerous economic blockades and bandhs in the state.
The Nagas had signed four Memoranda of Understanding with the state government, first in 1981, followed by 1992, 1996 and 1998. In 2011, the Government of India had intervened and asserted that all stakeholders, including Naga bodies, would be consulted before any new creation. But Ibobi Singh went two steps further by not only dividing Senapati but also Chandel, Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Churachandpur and created Jiribam, adding a total of seven new districts.
The only solace he gave the Nagas after splitting Senapati was calling the new district Kangpokpi and not Sadar Hills. The Nagas were up in arms and called for a rollback. With the 2017 Assembly elections already announced, restrictions by the Election Commission of India was cited as an administrative roadblock.
Then a change of guard took place at Imphal with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government assuming office. The ruling coalition had the support of four legislators belonging to the Naga People’s Front, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (I-M)’s over ground political outfit, while the UNC served as a mouthpiece for the Nagas of Manipur in the form of a civil society organisation. Although the NPF maintained a studied silence over the new districts, it egged the UNC on to raise the issue. An accommodating Biren Singh government agreed to hold tripartite talks in the presence of the Union home ministry and two such meetings were held in Senapati.
The latest furore erupted after the Manipur Cabinet, on 27 March 2021, decided to hold elections to the Autonomous District Councils in the hill areas including the newly created districts.
The UNC released a statement and asked the state government to expunge the resolutions arrived at during its Cabinet meeting in Kamjong. It further stated that deliberations relating to the creation of the new districts are still on and yet to be concluded, even after six rounds of talks at the political level to resolve the issue.
The UNC, which has been calling for the amalgamation of the Naga areas of Manipur, on the lines of the greater Naga Lim demand of the NSCN (I-M), must be in a quandary now.
The Centre’s interlocutor and Nagaland Governor RN Ravi has also hardened his stance against the NSCN (I-M) leadership over a lot of issues including the plans for Naga Lim. Elections to the various ADCs have been overdue for about a year now.
Putting pressure on the state government to hold the polls soonest is the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur, which had called for a total shutdown of the hill tribal areas recently. On the other hand, the newly formed Demand Committee on Creation of Autonomous District Councils has urged the Manipur government not to kowtow before the UNC, which they think is aiming to deprive citizens residing in the newly created districts of Pherzawl, Kamjong, Noney, Tengnoupal and Kangpokpi.
The DCCADC appealed to the UNC not to stand in the way of the development policy of the state government. It also reminded how the third Naga People’s Convention had declared elections to the Autonomous District Councils in 2011 as null and void and prevented the functioning of the Councils in Naga areas. Biren Singh’s predecessor Ibobi Singh was a persona non grata in the Naga areas of Manipur during his 15- year-rule.
Matters reached a head when he blocked the entry of NSCN (I-M)’s supremo, Thuingaleng Muivah into Manipur. He had barricaded the state’s two road entry points at Mao and Jessami and posted police commandos there.
An open letter was sent to the Centre that notwithstanding talks between the Government of India and the Naga rebel outfit, Muivah would be arrested if he set foot on Manipuri soil, which was his place of birth and where he was on the “wanted list” of rebel leaders according to a notification issued earlier by the state’s home department.
A sulking Muivah turned his cavalcade back from just two kilometres of the Mao Gate and returned to Hebron Camp near Dimapur. The antipathy of the Nagas towards Ibobi Singh reached its nadir when sometime in October 2016, he flew to Ukhrul, Muivah’s home district, to inaugurate a hospital.
As soon as his helicopter landed, his entourage was fired at and the CM had to return to Imphal. The NSCN (I-M) retaliated thereafter through its frontal organisation, the UNC, which blocked the two main National Highways that connect Manipur with the rest of India, one via Nagaland and the other through Assam.
The oft-repeated reason was the fear of bifurcation of the Nagadominated Senapati district and creation of a Kuki-dominated Sardar Hills district.
The blockade’s effect, which ran for almost 100 days from 1 November 2016, was devastating.
All essential items including life-saving drugs, baby food and aviation turbine fuel went out of stock in Manipur and the Indian Air Force had to fly in relief materials on numerous occasions. But then Ibobi Singh pulled the rug from under the feet of his Naga detractors.
In a swift midnight operation, he announced the creation of six new districts in the hill areas. While other communities welcomed the CM’s move, it amounted to showing a red cloak to a raging bull for the Nagas.
With elections to the Manipur Legislative Assembly due next year, each ethnic group seems to be falling back on its earlier formula of saying no to the demands and aspirations of other tribes or groups.
That said, much like Ibobi Singh, Biren Singh’s relationship with the Nagas also seems to be sailing towards choppy waters.

IT News
Imphal, April 26:

Federation of Haomee, a civil body of indigenous Manipuri people has submitted a memorandum to the Union Home Minister of India, Mr. Amit Shah urging him to identify the bearers of a bogus organisation called Indigenous Manipur Tribal Student Union which had submitted a letter to the same Ministry to declare the Federation of Haomee as an outlaw.
Speaking to media persons at Manipur Press Club, President of the HAOMEE, Yumnamcha Jadumani said that the so-called Indigenous Manipur tribal Student Union comprises of only Kuki community, and is stated to have been based in Delhi, without giving detailed official address.
“All the three signatories, to the letter dated April 20, 2021, submitted to the Union Home Minister are Kukis and none of the Indigenous Community of the state has been a member of the said organisation”, Jadumani said.
In connection with the present imbroglio at Mount Koubru, Jadumani said that the Federation of Haomee has no interest in either construction of Shrine or temple but the organisation’s demand to preserve all Historically important sites which are related with the origin of all Manipuri indigenous people either at Thangjing or at Koubru remains unchanged. The Federation of Haomee has been demanding for declaration of the sites as a Heritage site.
Over the issue that has been creating chaos and misunderstanding among the people of the state, Jadumani said that the state government should evict all encroachers from Mount Koubru, as it has been already declared as a Reserved Forest area. He also strikes a wake-up call to all concerned authorities to the sudden rise of many villages in and around the Koubru and Kangpokpi area and appealed to the government to flush out some of the camp of armed group KNF that has been established in and around the Koubru range.
“The government needs to check on how many legal weapons are being provided to the villages around and inside Koubru Reserved forest area and should seize all illegal weapon possessed by the villagers”, Jadumani said indicating the reality that has been happening in the ground.
He also cautions all concerned authorities about the massive deforestation that has been seen taken up for plantation of Poppy plant in Koubru range. Why should alien organisations who are not even the indigenous people of the state be the authority to control the Koubru range? Why should the indigenous people of the state which has cultural linkage with Mount Koubru be controlled by outsiders which are known only in the 18/19th Century, Jadumani asked.
In regards to the letter submitted to the Home Minister for declaring HAOMEE as outlawed, the Federation in its memorandum submitted to the Home Minister said that the Federation of Haomee (FoH) is a civil society formed by the Yelhoumees (Aborigines/ Autochthonous people of Manipur) namely the Meeteis and the Nagas established with an objective to strengthen the rights and voice of Aborigines under the provisions of the Constitution of India. It stated that the allegations by the bogus ‘body’ are false and the so call Indigenous Manipur Tribal Union could be treated as a group of Kuki Sticlers who come out to defame the Federation of Haomee and for hindering the Haomee’s social activities of peace.
Yazing Vicisy, Secretary General of the Haomee Federation signed the memorandum which was submitted to the Union Home Minister.

IT News
Imphal, April 26:

Commemorating the incident of Patsoi-Langjing Khunou 1980, at which civilians including women and children were tortured, raped and molested by troops of CRPF, the proscribed group People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and its army wing Red Army today observed Indian Colonialism Resist Day 2021.
A statement of the rebel group, issued by Leibaak Ngakpa Luwang, Secretary –in-charge , Publicity and Propaganda , PREPAK, said that people of the state are in the verge of extinction due to the series of activities committed base on the militarization and Colonisation. The internal feud that has been going on among the various ethnic people of the region and the unwanted incidents among the people of the region are all architect of the colonial regime. More activities to spew venom to the various community are still on. Their attempt is to ignite a civil war in the region, the statement said.
Talking about democracy, the PREPAK statement said that India though proudly announced as the largest democratic country in world, people of the country are still yet to received the real taste of democracy. The rich, the powerfull are running the country and not by the people. The same way is being taught to the people of Kangleipak too.

The swamping rise in the 2nd wave of COVID-19 Pandemic across the country finally in the state of Manipur with a record of 142 new cases yesterday, which is perhaps the highest single-day surge of 2021 is alarming. This is a more serious case than the 1st wave and the government and the people should take this issue with extreme seriousness. Yesterday, the country recorded as many as 3.49 lakhs of people testing positive with COVID-19. Among these Maharashtra has been reported as the highest hit state with around 67,000 new cases daily. The number is on the rise and there are complaints of lack of oxygen supply for treatment of Covid patients in major states like Maharastra, Delhi, Karnataka, etc.
When the first COVID 19 issue sparks across the globe, India was among the first country to take the case with extreme seriousness. And among the states of India, Manipur perhaps was also among the first to take up precautionary measures to break the chain of spreading the virus from people to people. This is being said so as the state government had already shut down the market hubs – including the famous three Ima Market, 2 or 3 days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a total lockdown across the country to contain the virus.
All sorts of gatherings including religious related activities were banned when the COVID -19 crises reached its peak in April 2020. Media and social activists across the country blame the mass gathering - Tablighi Jamaat somewhere near the capital city of the country.
All was well, as long as the election time in different states came after the dreaded virus have already intruded to each and every nook and corners of the country.
Health advisory had been issued. And the local administrators issued Standard Operative Procedures to be followed by all. Even curfew had been imposed to make sure that the virus is contained. During those times, the worst-hit community was the daily wage earners, migrant workers, and people who are living below poverty line.
Now the so-called social distancing and advice to stay a home turn as a joke when it comes to election time. Legislators who make laws happen to be the ones who started violating the rules that they make. Nothing has been taken up against the violators of the COVID-19 SoPs. Social distancing, which one has to follow at least 1 meter distancing was a joke during meetings organized for election campaign. Today we saw lakhs of people gathering and offering prayers Kumb Mela, and thousands have been reported tested positive.
Something is seriously wrong with what is happening in the country. And if one recount the series of events and happenings during the Yaoshang Festival in the state of Manipur, just some few days back, one can simply imagine that there is definitely something that is not implacable to the running of the administration, no matter those involving have full awareness of how the COVID -19 has been spreading. Perhaps the system doesn’t allow to fight the COVID-19 pandemic even though those in the government wish to do so.
Well, many things had happened but not everything has ended. Government can take up measures to fight the spread of the virus even today. If the authority takes up measures to break the chain of the COVID-19 with immediate effect then the later days may be a brighter day for our children.
For the state of Manipur, the Chief Minister Advisory in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic is appreciated and should be appreciated by all. Report about the shortage of Oxygen at other major cities in India had alarmed the state of Manipur and today Manipur has a Medical Oxygen manufacturing plant at both JNIMS and RIMS. The Government also open a COVID care ward at Bal Bhavan which is the urgent need of the hour.
The Chief Minister’s understandings of the seriousness of the issue and his advice to his cabinet Ministers, Legislators, and government functionaries to refrain from organizing , participating, or promoting events to attract large gatherings of any size from today is indeed the need of this hour.
With the kind of situation faced by the state right at the moment, some of the experts in the field suggested total lockdown for at least 14 days and also strict checking of the outsiders entering the state. The government has already taken up measures and the only thing left is whether there is a need for total lockdown or not. Saying so the way the government is opening shops ration basis is appreciable.
More importantly, the SoPs should be let followed by all including those in the administration. Those who failed to follow the SoP should be strictly dealt and the People are expecting the kind of action that the Chief Minister may proceed against those violators of the advisory.

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