The existence of Gorkha community settled in Manipur for generations is at stake following the passage of three controversial bills on Monday by the State Assembly and the ensuing violence. The situation remains grim in Gorkha inhabited areas of the Northeastern State, it is informed.
|Existence threat for Manipuri Gorkhas|
Shiva Kumar Basnet, the panchayat president of Gorkha stronghold Kanglatongbi village under Imphal west district told SIKKIM EXPRESS that Gorkhas are living under constant fear and threat of being marginalized as outsiders in Manipur.
“Circumstances have become dead set against Gorkhas. As minorities, we are living under constant fear and threat to life and property. It is high time that we raise voice against ongoing atrocities,” said Basnet. He termed the ongoing tension as a fallout of the inner line permit agitation spearheaded by the Joint Committee on the Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS).
The said bills were passed as per the agreement between the Manipur government and JCILPS. The bills are yet to get the Governor’s assent, informed Basnet. He is one among the few elected Gorkha public representatives in Manipur.
The contention is that the Protection of Manipur People’s Bill, 2015 will restrict the Gorkha minority in the State as outsiders and thus sideline them. The law has also laid 1951 as the cut- off year to determine indigenous and non- indigenous Manipuris.
Gorkhas claim they had settled in the State as early as 1819, while it was an independent kingdom. The erstwhile Manipur Darbar had recognized Gorkhas in the State’s demography and Irang district was identified as Gorkha majority area, he said.
“We have been living in this State since two centuries,” said Basnet. He also rubbished claims that the Gorkha population registered a steep rise in the past decades. “There are hardly around 50,000 to 60,000 Gorkhas in Manipur. We are also trying to ascertain the exact population by conducting a census,” he said referring to claims that influx of Nepali speaking people was rampant in Manipur.
Dinesh Sharma, a Gorkha social activist from Manipur, in his blog maintained that Gorkha community has settled in the State for nearly two centuries and have lived in an area of 140 sq. miles till 1915.
“Today, after almost two centuries, our population is not even 1 lakh. How could we possibly disturb the social fabric of the Manipuri society or even snatch away opportunities from the locals? Today, we are as much a victim of historical circumstances, miscalculation and manipulation as all of you.
Sadly, despite being a part of the greater Manipuri society for nearly 200 years, we have been pre-leveled as outsiders,” wrote Sharma in his post.
Considering the bill as a contentious issue for the very existence of Gorkhas in Manipur, a delegation also called on Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh pleading protection of the Constitutional rights of Gorkha minority. ‘Since the bill is yet to receive the Governor’s assent, we have also requested him to look into our grievances,” informed Basnet saying that Gorkhas should be given a status of permanent local Manipuri Gorkhas. Their memorandum also clarified that the allegations leveled by different groups regarding the exaggeration and projection of extremely high population of Gorkhas and its impacts are baseless and unfounded.
Basnet was in Guwahati today to attend a Gorkha Mahabhela organized by All Asom Gorkha Students Union at Digboi near Dibrugarh in Assam. He said the delegation from Manipur will meet Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung tomorrow at Digboi and apprise him on the plight of Gorkhas in Manipur.
Earlier, they had also called on MoS Home Kiren Rijiju seeking his intervention to ensure safety and security of Manipuri Gorkhas.
Gorkha community members are also organizing a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi from September 7, it is informed. Various units of Gorkha students unions and Gorkha organizations are expected to take part in the protest in the national capital.
Meanwhile, another delegation of Manipuri Gorkhas has left for Delhi to press their issues with Central leaders.
Basnet also sought the support from all Gorkha community leaders and public representatives including Sikkim to extend solidarity to the cause Manipuri Gorkhas.