Protests broke out in Manipur after two Bills dealing with powers to the Hill Areas Committee and Autonomous District Councils were on Tuesday tabled in the state Assembly.

State Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister Letpao Haokip introduced the two proposed laws – the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Sixth Amendment) Bill and the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022, in the House.

The Hill Areas Committee – a body consisting of 18 legislators from the tribal hill districts – had proposed a law titled the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Bill last year. It was not clear whether the Bills tabled in the Assembly on Tuesday contain the same provisions as those proposed by the committee.

The All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur – an apex body representing tribal students in the state – had called for a shutdown from 6 pm on Wednesday demanding that the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Bill be introduced in the Assembly.

After the police arrested at least four members of the organisation, the tribal students’ body brought forward the shutdown to 6 pm on Tuesday.

In the Kangpokpi district, protestors blocked vehicles on a national highway from 7 pm on Tuesday, East Mojo reported. The Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong, a federating unit of the tribal students’ body, enforced a similar shutdown in the district of Ukhrul.

The Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong said that it was “astounded by the atrocities [meted] out by the Manipur police towards the student leaders of ATSUM”.

The organisation, meanwhile, said that the shutdown will be followed by “intense forms” of protests from August 5, according to The Indian Express.

Background of the protests

A law passed in 1971, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, provides for the creation of autonomous district councils in the tribal districts. The members of these councils have certain administrative powers and are chosen through separate council elections.

The 1971 Act was passed by Parliament since Manipur was a Union Territory at the time. Last year, Chief Minister N Biren Singh claimed it had to be examined whether the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Bill was constitutional and whether the state government had the authority to pass such a legislation.

For several decades, citizens in hill areas of Manipur have alleged that they have faced administrative neglect as compared to citizens who stay in the valley. The proposed law seeks to address this imbalance.