The Manipur government on Wednesday released five members of the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur, who were arrested from Imphal last week for calling a total shutdown in the region.

Manipur Tribal Affairs and Hills minister Letpao Haokip told NorthEast Live that the decision was taken after the state government reached an agreement with the students’ body to lift the economic blockade in the region.

Tension has been brewing in Manipur since the N Biren Singh-led Bharatiya Janata Party government introduced the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council 6th and 7th Amendment Bills, 2022, in the state Assembly on August 2. The Bills were not initially part of the agenda of the House on that day.

The All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur, however, had sought the introduction of the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Bill recommended by the Hill Areas Committee in August last year. This proposed law seeks greater financial and administrative autonomy for the hill areas to ensure that they are able to develop at par with the Imphal Valley region of the state.

For several decades, citizens in hill areas of Manipur have alleged that they have faced administrative neglect as compared to those who stay in the Valley.

On August 2, hours after the contentious Bill was tabled in the state Assembly, the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur called for a shutdown in the hill districts from the next day onwards. Subsequently, the five leaders of the student union were arrested by the police.

On August 6, around 32 students and two policemen were injured during a confrontation in Imphal city. The students were part of a protest at Kabo Leikai in Imphal West district, calling for the release the arrested leaders.

Two vehicles were also torched by miscreants in separate incidents in Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts each.

Later, the Manipur government suspended mobile internet services across the state for five days, citing law and order problems.