The Ukhrul protest against the forceful occupation of village lands by Assam Rifles was attended by thousands from the nine Tangkhul villages on Thursday.
On September 12, a peaceful sit-in-protest across nine Tangkhul villages was conducted simultaneously on September 12. Protestors from Khamasom, Chatric, Mapum, Poi, Tusom CV, Lamlong, Kasom Khulen, Ramphoi, and Kangpat Khulen village joined the sit-in protest.
This was followed by a mega mass rally against the alleged forceful occupation of nine Tangkhul villages by Assam Riffle. A memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister appealing for immediate withdrawal of the alleged forceful occupation from the nine Tangkhul villages and withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 from all the hill districts.
The rally began at 10:30 am from two locations-Mission ground, Hunphun and Dungrei junction, Hungpung, and converged at Ava Market (Mothers’ Market) at Phungreitang.
Slogans like ‘Go back Indian Army’, ‘We will never surrender’, ‘We want peace, not war,’ and ‘Democracy our right’ were heard during the Ukhrul protest.
As per Tangkhul civil society organizations (CSOs), public places such as playgrounds, community halls, schools, and children’s homes are used as camps by Assam Rifles, thereby hindering their usual functioning. Moreover, security check posts have been set up, and locals are being subjected to scrutiny as they go about their lives.
According to the memorandum, an unwarranted occupation began in the year 2016 at Chatric Khunou Village by the Assam Rifles. Since then, eight more villages have been said to have been occupied as outposts in the same forceful manner in the face of strong objections from the local populace in nine villages.
The villages are said to have been turned into veritable military garrisons where unpleasant sight such as fully armed and combat-ready soldiers moving around in these serene villages, seems to be indicating a warlike situation when there is none and convey the presence of hostilities when there is peace.
President Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long (TNWL), an apex body of Tangkhul headmen’s association, SA Ramnganing alleged that on the pretext of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958, the government has deployed security forces, including Assam Rifles, in many villages in the hills, including the border villages. He claimed that the Act and the presence of the security forces have created a ‘fear psychosis’ among the locals, especially the women.
“When the Naga political talks have been going on at the highest level with the Prime Minister of India, then why does the Indian government lift the AFSPA only from the Imphal valley, not repeal from the entire state?” questioned Ramnganing.
Ramnganing further stated that the ownership of land situated in the hill villages of Manipur vests with the locals. Likewise, according to our customary law, the land holding system in the Naga-inhabited area in Manipur is very intricate and different from the rest of India.
However, he alleged that Assam Rifles encroached on the traditional spaces and did not seek any permission from the village authority/headman/land owner while setting up camps.
Attending the Ukhrul protest, the Naga Women’s Union (NWU) President Asha Wungnam also said that September 11, 1958, has been a catastrophic day for the people living in a country which is claiming to have the highest democracy in the world.
She said that the alleged forceful establishment of military camps without their consent is almost a declaration of war and a challenge to innocent citizens.