Congress launches protest against secretive Framework Agreement
Autonomy of any sort seeds of disintegrating Manipur: Ex-CM O Ibobi

Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, November 12 2017: The Congress party has launched a protest movement from today against the Government of India's failure to divulge contents of the Framework Agreement it signed with NSCN-IM on August 3, 2015 .

One can safely assume that seeds for disintegrating Manipur have been sown if the Government of India offers administrative autonomy or cultural autonomy or financial autonomy to a particular community in their efforts to appease a single rebel group, ex-Chief Minister Okram Ibobi stated categorically.

The protest movement was launched with a sit-in-protest at Andolan Keithel, Khoyathong which was organised by the Thangmeiband Block Congress Committee.

The Congress party has already chalked out a detailed programme under which sit-in-protests would be staged in each of the 60 Assembly segments.

This would be followed by mass protest movements at district and State levels after which the party would meet the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and other relevant officials regarding the ongoing political dialogue and its possible impacts on Manipur.

Speaking to the people who took part in the sit-in-protest, O Ibobi who is also the Congress Legislature Party leader cautioned that it would be like abetting insurgency apart from sowing seeds for balkanisation of Manipur in case New Delhi comes up with the idea of granting autonomy to a particular group of people in its efforts to appease and entertain a single rebel group.

If the number of insurgent groups multiplies, the issue of insurgency will see no end even after several decades.

Questioning the Government of India's secretive approach to the Framework Agreement, Ibobi asserted that the Central Government must confess that it had signed such an agreement even though there may not be any necessity of tabling the same at the Parliament or before the Union Cabinet.

In case the Framework Agreement was signed by a Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs rather than by interlocutor RN Ravi, the agreement could have been accepted as an official agreement.

Yet, the agreement has aroused deep suspicion among the masses because of its secretive nature and it was signed without consulting even the Union Cabinet.

According to the map circulated by NSCN-IM, they have been claiming almost 90 per cent of Manipur's leaving aside just Churachandpur and the valley.

In another word, they have been claiming the whole of Manipur's Chandel, Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong districts.

In case administrative, cultural and financial autonomy is granted to the areas claimed by NSCN-IM and all grant-in-aids given to them after by-passing the State Government, it can be safely assumed that the seeds for disintegration of Manipur have been sown even though the State's territorial integrity is kept intact for the time being, asserted the ex-Chief Minister.

Once these areas claimed by NSCN-IM are given autonomy, the rebel outfit would have no problem in demanding a separate State for these hill districts for they would have very little to do with the State Government and all key dealings would be done with the Central Government.

The situation is all the more tricky if the Government of India comes up with the argument that NSCN-IM is not demanding separation from India and they are not challenging the country's integrity.

Even though the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and other Union Ministers repeatedly assured that the territorial integrity of Manipur would not be affected, it would be equally disastrous if New Delhi offers autonomy in order to resolve the issue of Naga insurgency, Ibobi stated.

Once the hill districts are given autonomy, they may even demand water tax for rivers that flow down from the hills to the valley.

As such, granting autonomy can be equated to disintegration of Manipur.

It would be hardly one year before Manipur breaks apart in case separate administrations are set up for the hills and the valley.

It is this deep apprehension which has prompted Congress party to hold a series of protest demonstrations, Ibobi continued.

He went to ask the Chief Minister as to why an all political parties meeting was convened and a consultative committee was formed if the Government has no apprehension that Manipur may break apart because of the ongoing political dialogue between the Government of India and NSCN-IM.

Categorically stating that there is no point in introducing 6th Schedule in the State, the ex-Chief Minister asserted that powers devolved to the Hill Autonomous Districts Councils are greater than powers given under 6th Schedule in other States.

The Village Authority Act passed by the Parliament in 1956 already encompasses such aspects as customs, traditions, culture, language, education etc.

If the hill people still want more, the Act may be amended.

The Hill Areas Committee passed by the Parliament in 1970 does not allow the State Government to even touch the amount earmarked for development of hill areas.

There is no reason for any one to bear any grudges against the creation of new districts.

It was done for administrative convenience and Manipur is not the exclusive domain of any particular community, Ibobi stated.

He then asserted that Congress party would never tolerate any demand which would disintegrate or pave way for disintegration of Manipur.

Congress party always welcome any initiative to resolve insurgency problems but the Central Government should refrain from doing anything which may quell one insurgent group but give birth to a dozen militant groups.

The ex-Chief Minister also appealed to the Government of India not to polarise the people of Manipur on ethnic lines.

Congress spokesman Kh Joykisan asserted that any solution worked out between the Government of India and NSCN-IM should be confined to the State of Nagaland and Manipur should not be encompassed in any manner.

He then asked as to why the Government of India has been sowing seeds of disharmony among the different communities in their efforts to appease a particular rebel group.

Questioning the rationale behind constitution of a consultative committee when the State Government does not have any misgiving about possible disintegration of Manipur, Joykisan further asked as to why the State Government has not been disclosing anything about the consultative committee's meeting with RN Ravi and the Union Home Minister.

MLAs Th Lokeshore, O Henry, AK Mirabai and K Meghachandra too spoke at the sit-in-protest.

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