Justice for victims in Manipur, equal citizenship for all countrymen, short-term and long-term measures for peace and reconciliation, internet restoration and long-term relief, getting on the streets to voice concerns of Manipuris, and pulling down people in power and bringing those guilty to justice were among the demands and pledges that were made by speakers at a public meeting on Manipur Violence. The meeting that was held on Friday at St Joseph's Hall, Hill Road, Bandra was attended by hundreds including Manipuris.
One attendee held placard saying, "Silence is Violence," demanding government address the issue | Vijay Gohil/ FPJ
Among the speakers were senior advocate Mihir Desai vice president of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Irfan Ali Engineer, director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism; Rupa Chinai, independent journalist and author of Understanding India's Northeast; Teesta Setalvad, founder trustee of Citizens for Peace and Justice; Dolphy D'Souza, The Bombay Catholic Sabha; and Bishop Allwyn D'Silva. The meet was organised by Friends of Manipur.
Speakers demand government action
"Unlike Gujarat riots where NHRC chairperson visited and passed slew of directions, Manipur did not get that. We only heard when the video became viral. The carnage of Kukis was supported and engineered by state. It is time to call a spade a spade," said Desai. Speakers said that in any other set up, looking at the extent of violence against women, the state government would have been sacked but that was not the case in Manipur.
The meeting that was held on Friday at St Joseph's Hall, Hill Road, Bandra was attended by hundreds including Manipuris. | Vijay Gohil/ FPJ
"That is because the violence was state sponsored. How can people without arms snatch over 4,000 guns and arms from armed people. This was systematic arming of certain right wing people," said Engineer. "However, we should also ask for justice for Meiteis too because we cannot deny that they too faced violence."
Setalavad said, "We want Meiteis and Kukis to talk. We also need to say that all Meiteis are not violent. We should also be flagging and asking for action against the SPs and collectors as they are govrnment servants and responsible to take action."
Civil Rights activist Teesta Setalvad was one of the speakers at the gathering held in Bandra | Vijay Gohil/ FPJ
Speakers blamed RSS for radicalising people and introducing identities that were unknown to the people of northeast India. "Now, we hear Meitei, Vaishnav and other such names. They have been demonising Kukis and poppy growers, terrorists and infiltrators," said Setalvad.
Not mere ethnic clash, speakers say
Speakers said that the problem in Manipur is much more layered than it being a mere ethnic clash - a narrative they said government tried to peddle by showing things like they were spontaneous clash between people.
"The government wants to encourage palm oil production for which they want to acquire land. The place also has mines and biodiversity that tribals and Kukis have protected. They want to give it to industrialists by taking away the lamd from the place. Palm oil production in Indonesia and other places has led to spoiling of soil,. We do not want a trillion dollor economy at the cost of rivers of blood in north east" said Chinai.
Protestors sloganeered and demanded Justice for Manipur which has been gripped by violence for over 2 months now | Vijay Gohil/ FPJ
Internet, which was banned for over 70 days, needed to be back in Manipur. "Manipur is part of India. Can people of Mumbai stay without the internet for even ten minutes? We need to link our problems with those in Manipur,. Ultimately it is fight for equal citizenship for all" said Engineer.
D'Souza said that it was shameful of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak only 36 seconds on the Manipur problem. "Our PM, who is all of 56 inches, spoke only 36 seconds that too when a video went viral. It is a shame," said D'Souza.