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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Pro-NRC stir by students’ organisations hits Manipur

Six students’ organisations in Manipur have launched an agitation demanding the introduction of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the establishment of a population commission to check the influx of outsiders from within and outside the country.

The stir affected normal life in Manipur’s capital Imphal on Monday while police resorted to cane-charge when some agitating students tried to barge into the official residence of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh and march to the Raj Bhavan nearby.

Led by the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU), the organisations justified their demand by claiming an abnormal surge of population in the hilly areas, rampant cultivation of poppy primarily by outsiders and encroachment of reserve forest areas by such people.

Members of these organisations said the NRC and the population commission were needed to prevent people, especially from Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh from affecting the identity, culture, economy, administration and the environment of Manipur.

Demanding the detection and deportation of “illegal immigrants” from Manipur, a spokesperson of the coordinated body of the organisations said, “We are not against any community or religion, but we want to protect our land and the indigenous communities from the adverse effects of illegal settlements.”

Commission yet to take shape

The 60-member Manipur Assembly adopted a private member resolution in 2022 to establish the population commission in the State. The State Cabinet later approved the idea but the government is yet to start the official process.

The agitation follows a crackdown by the Manipur government on illegal poppy cultivators and alleged encroachers of forest land and the withdrawal of suspension of operations signed with two extremist groups – the Kuki National Army and the Zomi Revolutionary Army.

The government accused the two extremist outfits of instigating people to oppose the eviction from protected areas in order to continue with poppy cultivation in cleared forests. The government also said the leaders of these groups were outsiders.

The government’s drive was construed as targeting the Kuki-Zomi communities, many of whom are said to have settled down in Manipur from Myanmar in recent years.

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