Afspa stresses job creation as Manipur votes for phase 1 today | Latest India News

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Elections for 38 of Manipur’s 60 assembly seats are due to take place on Monday. The longstanding demand for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (Afspa) and jobs are among the key issues this time around in the state.


The Afspa debate

The request for the repeal of Afspa, which empowers security forces operating in “disturbed areas” to search, seize, arrest without a warrant and use firearms on suspicion with complete impunity, has revived in Manipur, affected by the insurrection, after the violence of December 4 and 5 in Nagaland. 14 civilians were killed by an army unit in Oting in the Mon district of Nagaland on December 4-5 in a botched operation which the army and the Center say happened because the army unit confused civilians, who were returning from a coal mine, as insurgents.

Manipur has been declared a “disturbed area” since September and Afspa remains operational in the state, except in the communes of Imphal. Since 2017, the Supreme Court has heard a plea on 1,528 cases of alleged extrajudicial executions in Manipur. Over the past five years, nearly 200 other such deaths are believed to have taken place, rights activists claim. Activist Irom Sharmila Chanu had held a 16-year fast to demand the repeal of the law.


“If Afspa is not an issue in the poll, nothing is an issue. This is the most talked about issue and all parties except the BJP have included it in their manifesto. The very fact that the BJP did not include it in its manifesto has itself become a big problem,” said Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert (HRA).

“Afspa is important because it deals with the lives of voters. Before the 2014 legislative elections, Narendra Modi had promised the repeal of Afspa, but surprisingly, his party is not silent on this. This also applies to Congress. They talk about repealing Afspa when they are not in power, but forget it when they are in power,” he added.

Unemployment

The unemployment rate in Manipur stands at 9.5%, according to labor ministry data from trade unions tabled in parliament last year. It is the second highest in the northeast after Nagaland. The Covid-19 pandemic has further impacted employment in the state, with many jobs lost and companies suffering losses.


“Unemployment is the most dominant issue this time around. Many people are affected across the state. There have been a lot of TV debates and also discussions among the public around the issue of employment,” said journalist and senior columnist Pradip Phanjoubam.

The issue has also found an important place in the manifestos of political parties. The Opposition Congress has promised to create 50,000 jobs each year and to reserve a third for women in all government jobs. But the ruling Bharatiya Janata party has been silent on job creation.

political instability

Other issues that could play a role include political instability, security concerns, planned tribal status for the Meitei community, and the failure of the BJP government to table and pass the 2021 Tribal Law. Manipur Autonomous District Council (hilly areas).

Manipur has seen great political instability since 2017, with MPs changing sides, resigning their seats or being disqualified. The first BJP-led state government, which came to power in 2017 by creating a coalition, has been busy managing numbers throughout its tenure, which has affected development.


“The people of Manipur have seen through the game of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who was hand in hand with Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh to break up parties to bring the community together. majority over the past five years,” said Janata Dal (United) National General Secretary Afaque Ahmed Khan.

“The people are seething with anger and a wave of opposition to power is sweeping the Imphal valley and the hills against the ruling party. The people are determined to teach a lesion to the ruling party by showing them their rightful place in the election,” he added.

In an interview with HT last month, Chief Minister N Biren Singh dismissed the claims and said one of the main achievements of the BJP-led government was to ensure a blockade-free Manipur, which had long hampered development. and peace in the state.


ST status for Meiteis

The state’s largest community, Meitei, which comprises 57% of the population, has claimed Scheduled Tribal status for many years. Meitei votes are important in 40 seats in the Imphal Valley and essential to forming the next government.

The Meitei community, which is predominantly Hindu and was granted Other Backward Caste (OBC) status in 1991, believe that ST status would help them secure reserved jobs and also protect their land in the Imphal Valley, which make up nearly 8% of the state’s population. area where they mainly reside.

“Our basic reason for demanding ST status is land reservation for the community. With the introduction of railway network in Manipur and the entry of multinational corporations, more land belonging to our people will be taken away or sold and it will affect us more,” said Yambem Laba, Advisor of Schedule Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur.


The issue has not been mentioned in the manifestos of any of the major committees and is being opposed by the 36 tribes in the state, who believe it could affect the interests of those communities residing in the mountainous areas.

Failure of BJP government to table and pass Manipur Autonomous District Council (Hill Regions) Bill 2021 due to pressure from Imphal Valley based organizations has angered tribal organizations of the hill districts of the state. The bill was drafted by the 20 deputies from the state’s 10 hill districts and was intended to give more power to the Hill Regions Committee and the existing 6 ADCs over matters that govern them.

The BJP government argues that it was not legally possible to bring the bill to the assembly, as changes to the jurisdictions and powers of the ADC must first be approved by parliament.



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