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10 May, 2010

Manipur situation volatile, says Human Rights Alert

The following is a statement from Human Rights Alert, Imphal, forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:

The ongoing economic blockade enforced by All Naga Student Association, Manipur, (ANSAM) and others in Manipur since April 11, 2010 has pushed the people of the state to the verge of existence. The state-wide strike organized by ANSAM blocking roads and National Highways 39 and 53, which are the lifeline of Manipur, has resulted in acute shortage of food, medicine and other essential commodities.

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 ANSAM has added further miseries to 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 oxygen.

The price of items like rice, kerosene and cooking gas have escalated to such a level that the ordinary people cannot afford to buy household needs anymore. Vehicles, 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 April 26, 2010. After this, the organizations extended the strike to an indefinite period.

Naga organizations consider the ADC election 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 by the Union Government to visit to Manipur against the strong opposition of the state government on the ground that the visit would escalate tensions between communities.

The state administration increased security deployment in the border town of Mao to stop Muivah from entering Manipur. Two protestors supporting Muivah’s visit were shot dead and a group of 80 men and women were injured in police action and hospitalized. This triggered further protests and arson in some hill districts. The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and other Naga groups of Nagaland are extending support to the 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 destabilize the whole region. So far, neither the state nor the Union Government has taken any action to prevent the impending danger.

Analysts are of the view that the Government’s wait-and-watch strategy to the plight of the civilians and the use of brutal force against the protestors is deliberate and intended to sharpen ethnic divide and foment civil strife.

A group of civil society organizations have sent an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for immediate intervention. The letter is reproduced below. Those who wish to support the letter may convey their concern to the Prime Minister at the address below.

Open Letter

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister
7 Race Course Road,
New Delhi 110001, INDIA
Fax: +91-11-23015603/23019545/23016857/23014255

Dear Sir,

SUB: Appeal for Urgent Action To Diffuse Situation In The Border Areas Of Manipur And Nagaland, Following Firing On Unarmed Citizens Causing Several Casualties And Injuries.

We write to you with deep concern about the events as they are emerging in the border areas of Manipur and Nagaland, resulting from the proposed visit of the NSCN-IM leader, Mr. Th. Muivah to his hometown as agreed upon by the Union Government but contested by the Government of Manipur.

Instead of acting to help diffuse the situation, the state has responded by heightening its military response. Such action by the state has inevitably increased aggression from all sides and generated panic and insecurity among people of different communities in the region.

Not surprisingly, the situation has now deteriorated sharply, with the armed forces firing upon unarmed protestors in and around Mao village, resulting in three deaths and around 80 men and women hospitalized with injuries. Additionally, there are disturbing reports of other forms of repression of the local population by the forces.

We condemn such a response from the state and urge you to act immediately in order to bring the situation under control and restore normalcy to the region.

1. Angela Ralte, Mizoram
2. Anthony Debbarma, Borok People's Human Rights Organization, Agartala
3. Babloo Loitongbam, Human Rights Alert, Imphal
4. Bamang Tago, Arunachal Citizens Rights (ACR), Itanagar
5. Bondita Acharya, Purva Bharti Trust, Jorhat
6. Borok Women Forum, Agartala
7. D.Vari, Hmar Women Association
8. Fr. Santiago, Director North East Diocesan Social Forum, Gauhati
9. Grace Shatsang, Naga Women’s Union Manipur, Senapati
10. Hechin Haokip, CWG, Chandel
11. Helam Haokip, IRMA, Senapati
12. Jarjum Ete, Ex-Chairperson State Women Commission, Arunachal Pradesh
13. Lalam Mate, President, All Tribal Women Organisation, Chandel
14. Leimatombi, FAC, Bishenpu
15. Mary Beth Sanate, Rural Women’s Upliftment Society, Churachandpur
16. Mhon Kikon, Dice Foundation, Dimapur
17. Nazma Begum, OFT, Thoubal
18. Nonibala Narengbam, IRDSO, Wangjing
19. North East Network, Guwahati
20. Pramo, FFH, Thoubal
21. Rebati, ARDWE, Bishenpur
22. Rose Mangshi Haokip, Kuki Women Union Manipur
23. Shanghaidar Tontang, Weaker Section’s Development Council, Chandel
24. Shiluinla Jamir,Nagaland
25. Suhas Chakma, Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR)
26. Tamphasana, NEPSC, Imphal West
27. Asian Human Rights Commission - Hong Kong (AHRC)

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