Manipur: 12 tribal student leaders arrested for economic blockade on national highways, later released

While the student leaders were arrested from Noney district, they were kept at different police stations in Imphal West.

Almost a day after Manipur Police arrested 12 tribal student leaders of different groups for an economic blockade along the two national highways, the law enforcing agency released them and the protestors suspended the agitation for the time being. The protest began on November 22 over the new Autonomous District Council (ADC) Bill.

The arrests were made by a combined team of Nungba Police and Commandos around 11:30 pm Wednesday at Nungba in Noney district. The arrested student leaders were from All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM), All Naga Students’ Association Manipur (ANSAM) and Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO) and federating units of ATSUM.

According to an agreement between the student bodies and the state government, there will be discussions between the Hill Area Committee (HAC), Manipur Legislative Assembly and the state government within five days of placing the draft Autonomous District Council (ADC) Bill, 2021.

Thereafter, the draft ADC bill, 2021 shall be introduced by the government in the upcoming Winter Assembly Session after completing the due process of law provided under the Constitution of India.

The agreement was signed by ATSUM president Paotinthang Lupheng, president of ANSAM Wanglar Thiirtung and KSO president Sasang Vaiphei and additional chief secretary Letkhogin Haokip.

While the student leaders were arrested from Noney district, they were kept at different police stations in Imphal West. Earlier in the day, many tribal student bodies condemned the arrests and called them “arbitrary”. They had also demanded unconditional release of the leaders and threatened extreme measures.

The joint tribal student bodies have been demanding a special Assembly session to table the ADC Bill 2021 recommended by the Hill Areas Committee (HAC).

In August last, the HAC of the Manipur Legislative Assembly recommended a new ADC bill that aims to bring equal development in the hill districts. The committee maintained the existing bill indicated deficiencies that resulted in disproportionate development between the areas of hills and valleys of Manipur over the years.

As a result, the new draft bill seeks to repeal and replace the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 in order to provide more autonomy to the HAC and the district councils.

Article 371C of the Constitution of India provides for separate schemes for the administration of the hill areas in Manipur through the Hill Areas Committee and district councils. However, the Manipur government failed to table the bill citing various legal issues that needed to be addressed before introducing it in the house.

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