Seminar on ‘The marginalised indigenous hill people in Manipur: Problems and Options”

SIPHRO & ZHRF Press Release 8 November 2006 A seminar on the theme, ‘The Marginalised Indigenous Hill People in Manipur: Problems and Options,’ is being held at the India International Centre (IIC), Lodhi Estate, New Delhi starting today. The Seminar will go on till tomorrow. The aim of the Seminar is to highlight and deliberate upon the marginalization and exploitation of the indigenous hill people in Manipur state in all spheres and explore the various options available to them for their survival as a people. Dr. HT Sangliana, MP (Bangalore North Constituency) opened today’s programme by delivering the keynote address. He reiterated the need for unity and dwelt at length on persisting landmine crisis in Manipur hills. He stressed too that India being a democracy, violent means will not get us anywhere. Dr. Sangliana’s address was followed by presentation of two papers by Prof. Lal Dena of Manipur University and Smitu Kothari, the Director of Intercultural Resources, New Delhi. Their themes are ‘Historical Perspectives–A Study of the Hill People in Manipur’ and ‘Indigenous Peoples in Intellectual Relations’ respectively. Mr. Mani Cheranemai, MP will deliver the inaugural address tomorrow. There will be a seminar paper entitled ‘Revisiting a Beleaguered Premise: Sixth Schedule and Autonomy in India’s North-East’ by H. Kham Khan Suan, Lecturer, Banaras Hindu University. There will also be a Symposium on the political future of the Hill People. This seminar is being held in the backdrop of unbearable atrocities committed upon hill people, especially in Churachandpur district by militants belonging to the majority community. The landmines planted by these militants in the vicinity of villages in the hills have claimed more than 20 victims during 2004-2006. Hundreds of villagers were forced to vacate their homes and take refuge in Mizoram earlier this year due to atrocities committed on them by these same militants. The mass rape issue in Tipaimukh sub-division of the state is still looming large and the perpetrators are yet to be booked. All these contributed to a situation in which the very existence of the hill people, their economy, and their mode of existence is under threat. In all these, the entire Imphal valley where the majority community is concentrated remained a mute spectator. Given the fact that the hill people have always been at the receiving end since colonial times, starting with the arbitrary drawing of state boundaries for ‘administrative convenience’, exploitation in the spheres of employment, land laws etc., recent events cited above have made it almost intolerable for the hill people to

tolerate it any further. And as a seminar is being held here, the landmine menace is far from over with Chandel district reeling under renewed threat from this tragic man-made crisis. The situation is symptomatic of state’s failure. Endemic misgovernance and inability of the state to maintain ‘law and order’ give leverage to disparate militias to run parallel governments. In the circumstances, gross human rights violations became the order of the day. The central government, the national media and civil societies should wake up to this tragedy before it is too late. Issued by: Sinlung Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Organisation (SIPHRO) & Zomi Human Rights Foundation (ZHRF), Delhi Cell (2007 HRO Archive)