In an urgent order issued by the State Home Department on the night of 6th August, the government stated that mobile and internet services would be suspended for five days in view of the dissemination of anti-social elements and hate speeches on social media platforms. The order came about after a report by the Superintendent of Police of the Bishnupur district that a vehicle was set ablaze by the protestors at Phougakchao Ikhang.
The Bill That Fuelled The Protests
Many tribal groups who reside in the hilly regions of Manipur have expressed resistance against the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) laws citing that these laws have contributed to the underdevelopment of the hilly regions. They demanded the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Amendment Bill, 2021, be introduced in the state Assembly.
The Hill Areas Committee (HAC)-recommended the draft of the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) Amendment Bill, 2021, which sought to establish greater autonomy within the hill regions with respect to aspects of finance and administration. In August 2021, the Committee, comprising 20 tribal reserved seat Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), proposed this bill to ensure there's an equitable format of development observed in hilly districts. It enlisted provisions such as an increased number of ADC constituencies, the setting up of the ADC's Executive Committee, HAC's active involvement in budget allocations, and so on.
The All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) staged several protests to have this bill tabled at the Assembly session. However, instead of the ADC Bill, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government passed a sixth amendment bill. The amendments were rejected by the ATSUM on the grounds that it "cannot fulfil tribal aspirations", read a report by The Hindu.
Following this, the ATSUM imposed several bandhs, economic blockades, and protests to show their resistance against the amendments.
Aftermath Of The Protests
The student protestors had blocked important national highways which were considered to be lifelines for the Imphal Valley. In an account of this, the police arrested five ATSUM leaders on August 4 and charged them with conspiring in the blockade. Furthermore, over 30 tribal students were injured in Imphal after the police attempted to stop the protests.
In retaliation, the Union announced an indefinite blockade and said that the agitations would be intensified until the state government yielded to the demands and amendments proposed by the tribal community.
Districts of Bishnupur and Churachandpur imposed Section 144 after the protestors set a few vehicles on fire. For the coming couple of months, an assembly of four or more people would be penalised, and the internet and mobile services would be suspended for five days starting from August 7 morning due to the "objectionable" content that is making rounds on social media.
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