12 hours bandh in tribal areas on October 7 as per the stand of the Outer Manipur Tribal Forum (OMTF) and the Joint Action Committee Against Anti-Tribal Bills (JAC-AATB) and surely the hill people will respond to the bandh call. The reason for the bandh ? To express their resentment and displeasure towards the State Government for its indifferent attitude towards the tribals of Manipur and clearly the divide between the hills and the State Government seems to be complete. Making matters worse or more complex is the point that the State Government has been dubbed communal, meaning that it is concerned with the welfare of only one community, the Meiteis/Meeteis. So the divide between the hill people and the State Government may be seen as the divide between the valley people and the hill people. This is the tragedy. So while the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) has been piling the pressure on the State Government to pass a new Bill to regulate the entry of non-local people into the State, the hill people or rather the Churachandpur JAC and the OMTF have been making their stand clear that any Bill that goes against the interest of the people will be opposed tooth and nail. That these two organisations mean business can be seen from the series of programmes that have been lined up in the next couple of days. While one can expect the JCILPS to be active and vociferous in the valley area, the hills will reverberate with sounds from the numerous civil society organisations. It will be the United Naga Council in the Naga dominated districts while in the Kuki dominated districts, it will be the Churachandpur JAC and others.
So it is that campaigns have been drawn up in the hill districts in the next couple of days to spread awareness on the Constitutional rights and duties of tribals and the ‘atrocities’ and ‘prejudices’ faced by the tribals of Manipur. It is along this line that programmes have been charted out on October 8 at Motbung and Kangpokpi while a similar programme will be held at Senapati on October 10. On October 12 the campaign will be taken to Ukhrul and Chandel on October 15. Likewise the campaign will proceed to Tamenglong on October 21. Meticulously planned, one may say and while awareness programmes are welcome, extra care need to be taken to ensure that the programmes do not get reduced to an exercise in Meitei/Meetei bashing. Likewise every possible step should also be taken up in the valley to ensure that the demand for a mechanism to check the inflow of non-local people is not reduced to picking up anyone on community line. This is where avenues may be explored to see if a meeting between the civil society organisations of the valley and the hills may be arranged. And why not ? The coming days will be anything but easy on the inter-community ties and the onus on the public leaders should be made clear. No rabble rousing on either side of the Bills divide is the need of the hour.