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Student Protester Hit By Tear Gas Shell Dies as Manipur Burns 

A student protester was killed after being hit by a tear gas shell in a protest for the implementation of the ILP.

Updated
India
4 min read
Residents of Imphal spell ILP at a peaceful protest. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)

Manipur is in the news once again. This time it is not for the usual unrelenting highway blockades that strangulate the landlocked frontier state, but for demographic politics.

At least one 16 year old class XI student succumbed to his injuries after he was hit on his face by a police tear gas shell fired to quell a student agitation. The shells were fired to foil an attempt to storm the State Assembly while it was in session.

The body of 16 year old Sapam Robinson Singh, who was killed in Imphal after being hit by a tear gas shell. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
The body of 16 year old Sapam Robinson Singh, who was killed in Imphal after being hit by a tear gas shell. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)

Over 20 students have been injured in the police action, 9 of them remain at a hospital in Imphal, nursing their wounds.

Sapam Robinson Singh, a student of Ananda Singh Higher Secondary School, was among the thousands of students who took part in a rally that marched towards the in-session Manipur State Assembly. The students were demanding the roll-back of the defective Manipur Regulation of Visitor, Tenant and Migrant Bill 2015 and the implementation of the Inner Line Permit System as enforced in neighbouring tribal States of Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

Student protesters in Imphal, some of them visibly bloodied after a clash with the Manipur Police.(Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
Student protesters in Imphal, some of them visibly bloodied after a clash with the Manipur Police.(Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)

Following the death of the student protestor, fearing escalation of violence, security forces have clamped curfew in the Greater Imphal area, the epic centre of the agitation in Manipur, bringing normal activity in the restive state to a grinding halt.

A TV grab of a tear gas shell exploding as protestors flee from the scene. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
A TV grab of a tear gas shell exploding as protestors flee from the scene. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
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Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System in Manipur, a united body of civil-student organisations formed in 2012, which has been spearheading the agitation, has condemned the police action and called on the people of the State to defy the curfew by staging silent sit-in-protests against the killing in their respective localities.

The residents of Imphal at a peaceful protest in their neighbourhood. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
The residents of Imphal at a peaceful protest in their neighbourhood. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)

For long, civil societies, student organisations and activists have been demanding a permit system to regulate the unchecked influx of migrants into the tiny state. Their argument is that the interest of the indigenous people of the state needs to be safeguarded.

The Manipur Police trying to disband protestors at a neighbourhood in Imphal. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
The Manipur Police trying to disband protestors at a neighbourhood in Imphal. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
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This concern is backed up by revealing figures of the state’s census. The Joint Committee points out that Manipur’s population growth rate jumped up by over 25% in 1961-71 with the migrant population figures steadily overtaking the original settlers of the state. As per the 2001 Census, Manipur’s population was estimated as 22,93,896. Out of this, the migrant population counted for over 7 lakhs while tribal population was only 6,70,782 and the majority Meitei populated constituted 7,51,822.

Policemen stand in Greater Imphal after a curfew was imposed in the city. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
Policemen stand in Greater Imphal after a curfew was imposed in the city. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)

Unable to sit back and adopt its usual policy of wait-and-watch, the Okram Ibobi Singh Government of Manipur responded in 2014 by taking up the issue in the State Assembly and forming a committee to look into the possibility of formulating a state legislation to address the concern.

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Soon, after an exhaustive consultation that included views/inputs from a cross-section of people, including lawyers, intelligentsia, prominent personalities and activists representing the Joint Action Committee, “The Manipur Regulation of Visitor, Tenant and Migrant Bill 2015” was drafted and passed in the Assembly and awaits the Governor’s assent to become an act.

A policeman uses a catapult in Imphal. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
A policeman uses a catapult in Imphal. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)

The Joint Action Committee, however, rejected the bill and accused the government of selling out the interests of the indigenous people as it feels that the bill is ineffective to address its concerns.

We have forwarded a 5 points demand to be incorporated in the proposed bill during our consultation with the govt. Out of the 5 points that include, a permit system for all non indigenous people, no land ownership rights, we insisted on making 1951 a base year as the cut off year to classify non indigenous people and detection and deportation thereafter. These core demands were not inserted in the Bill thereby rendering (it) useless.
— Ibotombi Khuman, Joint Committee’s Convener

Protestors burn sundry objects outside a  neighbourhood in Imphal. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)
Protestors burn sundry objects outside a neighbourhood in Imphal. (Photo: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum)

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