16hr ‘curfew’ on ‘outsiders’
|ZODIN SANGA AND KHELEN THOKCHOM|
Aizawl/Imphal, Feb. 12: Protests against racial discrimination and attacks on people from the Northeast in Delhi witnessed a pro-China slogan being raised in Mizoram and a “curfew” being imposed on “outsiders” in Manipur today.
“Hello China”, read a placard at a demonstration staged by the Mizo Students’ Union in front of Raj Bhavan in Aizawl though Mizoram does not share a boundary with that country at all.
The protest was held against the racial discrimination meted out to northeasterners in “mainland India” and to express the feeling of alienation which is seemingly gaining ground among the people of the region. “Is Northeast a part of India?” read another banner.
“We came under the Indian Union without our consent. If we are continually oppressed and racially discriminated in what is called our country, what else can we do?” MZU president Zodinpuia said.
He, however, clarified that they do not mean to wage a war against India or launch a secessionist movement like Laldenga-led Mizo National Front in the early sixties.
“We just want to let India know that if we are treated like second class citizens or aliens here, there are some countries in our neighbourhood where we can feel more at home and where we will not be discriminated on the basis of our physical features,” Zodinpuia said.
The students’ union also sent a memorandum to Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde through Mizoram governor Vakkom Purushothaman. It threatened to “launch a movement” if discrimination against people from the Northeast continued and appropriate steps were not taken to address the issue.
“We demand that the authorities should give paramount importance to the safety and security of the people from the Northeast living in Delhi and elsewhere in the country,” the memorandum said.
In Manipur, a coordination committee of six student bodies imposed a statewide “curfew” on all “outsiders” (non-Manipuris) from 5am to 11pm in protest against the serial attacks on people from the Northeast in Delhi.
They are the All Manipur Students Union, Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur, Kangleipak Students Association, Manipuri Students Federation, Students Union of Kangleipak and the Apunba Iramdam Maheiroi Sinpanglup.
The curfew was a part of the ongoing protest against the killing of Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, and attacks on Manipuris, including rape of a minor girl, in Delhi recently.
A majority of shops and restaurants owned by outsiders remained shut in Imphal for the day and non-Manipuri labourers and hawkers did not venture out of the city for their daily livelihood. Only shops owned by local people remained open.
“We closed our shops to honour the sentiments of the people and to show solidarity with the people of Manipur,” a non-Manipuri businessman of the city said. Sources, however, said most of them downed shutters fearing trouble from protesters.
Shops and saloons owned by non-Manipuris on the city’s outskirts also remained closed. “The hawkers who regularly bring bakery items to my shop did not turn up today because of the restrictions imposed by the student organisations,” Leima Devi, a shopkeeper in Imphal West, said.
Sources said the protesters warned non-Manipuri hawkers found selling items in and around Imphal today.
Sources said the student groups may continue the agitation to demand justice for the victims.
The United Revolutionary Front, a militant group engaged in peace process with the government, also joined the protests.
Police said there was no report of any untoward incident during the day.
Armed police, Manipur Rifles and CRPF personnel were deployed in and around the city to ensure that outsiders were “safe”.
The Manipur unit of the BJP also sent a memorandum, signed by party president Th. Chaoba Singh, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, urging him to frame an anti-racism law to protect northeasterners and deliver justice to victims and their kin.
“This (the attacks) is not a good social indicator for a democratic and developing country like India,” the memorandum said. It added that the attacks would be globally condemned and would affect the country’s goodwill.