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JAC - AATB: Press Release Lamka, April 14, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
JAC - AATB Press Release
Lamka, April 14, 2017

The Joint Action Committee Against Anti-Tribal Bills (JAC) would like to clarify the numerous rumours doing the rounds in various media circles regarding its Charter of Demands and the two rounds of preliminary talks it had with the new BJP-led Manipur Government.

With an invitation from the new Manipur Government indicating its desire to bring an amicable solution to the current impasse, the JAC held a series of consultations with various sections of the tribal society within a span of one week, including one with the general public on March 28, 2017. Based on the discussions and suggestions, a Charter of Demands was prepared; the same was thoroughly reviewed and approved by the JAC and leaders of the various tribe/community-based organizations who have continued to support the JAC, namely, Mizo People Convention, United Zou Organization, Simte Tribe Council, Tedim Chin Union and Young Paite Association. The same was submitted to the Chief Minister Pu N. Biren Singh on April 2, 2017.

Based on the Chief Minister’s invitation, a delegation comprising of members of the JAC and the above-mentioned community-based organizations met with the Chief Minister and his cabinet on April 7, 2017 wherein the three-page Charter of Demands comprising of the following main points were deliberated:

I. Constitutional safeguard for ancestral tribal territories and development of tribal people
1. Send an immediate response to repeated queries raised by the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the “local adjustments and amendments” rider for extension of Sixth Schedule provisions.
2. A written assurance that no bills affecting the interest as well as the ancestral territories of the indigenous hill tribes shall ever be passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly unconstitutionally and without prior due consultation of the tribal stakeholders.
3. Creation of Lamka District for administrative convenience.
II. Restoration of the Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reforms (MLR&LR) Act, 1960 to its original principal Act status.
III. Justice for the Tribal Martyrs and the injured including declaration of August 31 as an annual State Holiday on the occasion of Tribal Unity Day.

At the first round of preliminary discussion, the Chief Minister mentioned that with the tripartite talks involving various groups under Suspension of Operations in progress, the State cannot make any commitment or declaration regarding Sixth Schedule, and pointed out the impracticality of restoring the MLR&LR Act, 1960 to its original status. However, he gave a positive indication regarding the feasibility of the other points in the Charter of Demands and expressed his desire to meet again on April 10, 2017 to finalize on the Memorandum of Understanding, which will then be signed in the presence of a witness from the Ministry of Home Affairs at Lamka on April 12, 2017.

However, at the second round of discussion on April 10, 2017, to the utter surprise of the JAC-led delegation, the Manipur Government laid down certain ground rules which negated its earlier positive indications towards the JAC’s demands other than those involving compensation and ex-gratia to the Martyrs’ families and the injured. The Government also mentioned its inability to declare August 31 (Tribal Unity Day) as a general holiday in the State.

Contrary to various Imphal-based media reports, the demand for a new district was never a priority for the JAC. While the tribal people are still mourning the death of the Tribal Martyrs, and with the JAC continuing to its fight for tribal self-determination, the then Congress Government without consulting any stakeholder created seven new districts within one night which was perceived as a blatant aim to create division among the tribal people. This was done with the sole intention of enticing certain tribes/communities to withdraw their support from the JAC, and resulted in appeasing those tribes/communities at the cost of the ones who continue to be ardent supporters to the Tribal Movement.

With the new BJP-led Government in Manipur showing no intention of rolling back the seven new districts hastily-created by the previous Congress Government, the JAC is in favour of reviewing the district boundaries, and realigning and creating new ones where needed; however, this was never a priority of the JAC. In fact, the demand for creation of Lamka District became a part of the JAC’s Charter of Demands only after an indication of its possibility by the Manipur Government before the preparation of the draft document itself.

It is a customary practice among the Christian tribals to give an honourable burial to the dead; however, until and unless the extreme sense of insecurity among the tribal people fuelled by the passing of the three anti-tribal bills can be mitigated through an amicable and sustainable solution, the burial of the remaining eight Tribal Martyrs is not our priority.

The three anti-tribal bills are the symptoms while the palpable sense of insecurity among the tribal people is the disease, and the JAC is focusing on finding a cure for the disease while treating the symptoms at the same time.

The JAC would like to humbly appeal to one and all not to engage in rumour mongering and spreading false propaganda at the interest of peace and communal harmony, and would like to make known to the public that the JAC is still hopeful of arriving at an amicable solution acceptable to the tribal people shortly.

Information and Publicity Department

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