Clearing the Apprehensions of the JACATB and ZC vis-a-vis the Movement for Inner Line Permit System in Manipur till 2015
- Part 2 -

Homen Thangjam / Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam / Aheibam Koireng Singh *

ILP : Tribal Unity Day marking one year of protest against 3 Bills at Churachandpur :: August 31 2016
ILP : Tribal Unity Day marking one year of protest against 3 Bills at Churachandpur on August 31 2016 :: Pix - Thangpu Simte

JACATB: To address the administratively-deficit situation, institute a “Separate Political Administration” for the tribals outside the Government of Manipur.
AUTHORS: This demand has communal overtone and politically motivated and another ploy to subjugate the already subjugated majority.

JACATB: Towards this objective expedite political dialogue with tribal groups (KNO and UPF) who are already under SoO with the Government
AUTHORS: Manipur has more than 33 underground armed groups Just imagine the scenario when each one of them starts demanding autonomy or a “Separate Political Administration” for each tribe! What does peace accord and political dialogue hold for the common people.

JACATB: The only resource the tribals own i.e. land, is constantly under threat by the Covert and overt anti-tribal policy of the State Government (eg. Manipur Land Revenue and Land reform Act 1960, etc.)
AUTHORS : Imagine running a Government without mobilization of resources in terms of land and resources. This does not mean agricultural land should be exploited in the name of development. On a more serious note, tribals are losing land to military establishments and developmental projects not on account of extension of MLR&LR Act.

JACATB: Unlike the valley based armed groups who are secessionist, most of the tribal movements today, as in the past, are for improvement of the existing socio-political set up based within the Indian Constitution
AUTHORS: Does it mean the tribal UGs do not collect illegal taxes, practice extortion and commit crimes? Is one defending the existence UGs simply because they demand something within the purview of the Indian Constitution?

On the Bills

As mentioned above, the position of JACATB on the 3(three) bills was stated (in a passing manner) in its Press Handout only on September 22, 2015. According to JACATB:
o These are not ‘Money Bills’ in spite of the claims of the Government of Manipur.
o The bills do not give ‘exceptional clause’ to prevent infringement on tribal rights and deliberately by-pass the provisions under Art. 371C of the Constitution
o The terms ‘native people’ are not defined in the bills
o The three criteria to qualify as ‘People of Manipur’ takes 1951 as base year, thereby making all ‘non-Manipur people’ of India a ‘Foreigner’ in the State

JACATB goes on to allege that the spirit, content, preamble, objectives and reasons of the Bills explicitly show the “deliberate intension of the Government to infringe on the rights and privileges of the Tribal in Manipur as well as non-tribal from outside the State.”

II. Zomi Council

ZOMI COUNCIL (ZC) is the Apex body of the Paite Tribe Council, United Zou Organization, Vaiphei People’s Council, Tedim Chin Union, Simte Tribe Council, Gangte Tribe Council, Kom Union, Manipur, Mate Tribe Council and Thangkhal People’s Organisation. ZC (Headquarters) submitted a representation to the Governor of Manipur on August 31, 2015 expressing apprehension to the proposed Protection of Manipur Peoples Bill and others introduced and passed in the special session of the Manipur Legislative Assembly on the 31st August, 2015.

In the following sections the authors give a point by point clarification in the interest of the people of Manipur. This section also can be taken as a reply to the allegations raised by the ALL TRIBAL STUDENTS’ UNION MANIPUR in its memorandum submitted to the President of India on September 6, 2015. (Memorandum for immediate creation of a Union Territory under Article 239 and 239A of the Constitution of India for the tribal peoples of Outer Manipur State).

ZC: Since the British Raj, the Tribals/Hill Peoples of Manipur who had settled and occupied the hills of Manipur were independent. The British were never involved nor interfered in the administration of the Village Chiefs. The Tribal Hills Chiefs were independent. They have never been under the suzerainty of the British Raj. Moreover, no subjugation was made nor no taxes was paid as an allegiance to the Maharaja of Manipur even during the reign Manipur Raja. To consolidate and amend the law governing the administration of the State Hill Peoples, the Manipur State Hills Peoples (Administration) Regulation, 1947 was enacted. This enactment had clearly indicated that the Hills of Manipur had a separate set of administration, even the Justice system where both civil and criminal jurisdiction were provided by the Regulation. To augment the circumstances encompassing the Tribals/ Hill Peoples of Manipur and to establish Village Authorities in Villages of the Hills, the Manipur Village Authority (Hill Areas) Act, 1956 was enacted by the Parliament.

ZC: There exists parallel administration in the hills and valleys of Manipur. The tribal areas administered by Article 371C (a special provision for hill areas of Manipur) and Autonomous District Council (under District Council Act, 1971) as a local self-government institution. However, Autonomous District Council is a non-autonomous body which practically functions under the mercy of the Tribal and Hills Department of the State Government

AUTHORS : It would be absurd to start the history of Manipur fromthe British Raj. Our memory cannot be this short! To begin with, in ancient Manipur the size of the empire was not constant it was mainly depended on the capacity of the ruler. The work of consolidation of his kingdom occupied the most important one for the ruler. Consolidation of hill village began during the reign of Iwanthaba (1163–1195) [R.K. Jhalajit Singh, A Short History of Manipur, Imphal, 1965, p. 63].

To assert Meitei suzerainty over the tribal villages in the hills, Mungyamba sent out several military expeditions towards various tribal villages. He also captured many tribal chiefs of the villages of southern and south eastern hills. [Gangmumei Kamei, History of Manipur, vol. I. Pre-Colonial Period, New Delhi: National Publishing House, 1991, pp. 205-06]. According to Gangmumei Kamei, “Khagemba also strengthened the internal political control over the hill tribes and villages in the hill areas of the Kingdom”.[ Ibid., 210]. Paikhomba took up a minor expedition over the tribal villages in eastern hills inhabited by the Tangkhuls, Anal, Mayons, and Lamkang. The Maram in the north, Sakang and Nungkong in the south. [Ibid., 227].

King Bhagyachandra (1763–1762) also paid his attention towards the hill tribes of Manipur. The subjugation of hill tribes residing inside the present boundary of Manipur started in a major way during Maharaja Gambhir Singh’s (1826–1834) time. Gambhir Singh and his Manipur and Kuki levies (aided by the British) were forces to be reckoned, which undertook military expeditions such as the Naga Expedition and Lushai Expedition. Maharaja Nara Singh (1844-1850) and Maharaja Chandrakirti (1850–86) further consolidated the power and authority of Manipur. Thus, all the people inside the boundary of Manipur were under the control of the Maharaja of Manipur and later under the control of British. It was compulsory for hill tribes to pay taxes to the Maharaja (Rs. 2(two) for example or kind) and later on to the British (in cash).

Apart from conquest and subjugation of the hill tribesmen, what is noteworthy was the introduction of 'Lallup' system throughout Manipur [Lallup was a group of people organized for the purpose of war or battle to defend the state. During peace time, these people are engaged in public works.].According to the royal chronicles of ancient Manipur Lallup was imposed in the valley as well as in the hill villages of Manipur.

It was to symbolise the direct control by the king. For instance, during the Burmese invasion in 1723, 4000 (four thousand) hill tribesmen joined the Manipuri forces under the command of the king. It is said that Loiyamba Sillen also laid a decree to render a tribute by the tribes who were under the suzerainty of the king. “The tribute was mainly in the form of mineral resources like salt, lime, iron, gold, etc., produced in the particular area”. [N. Ibobi Singh, The Manipur Administration (1909-1907) Irnphal, 1976, p. 153].

Further, the festival of Mera Haochongba, encapsulated(s) world of Manipur in which hill natives of Manipur in genial amity ‘freely participated in events (of history) as lived experiences, free showmanship in events (of history) as collective memory;’ and thereby ‘helped in re-exalting the idea of nationhood and rekindling a heightened sense of patriotism in the unlettered, uninformed and un-imaginative public mindset of yore’.[ [A. Kamson, “The Mera Haochongba Festival – The traditional hill-valley interface: The carnival of Manipur”, In H. Dwijasekhar Sharma, ed. New insights into the glorious heritage of Manipur Vol. 1, pp. 131–98, New Delhi: Akansa Publishing House, 2009, p. 131.] Thus, the festival symbolizes a productive forum of producing a semblance of stability in the Kingdom among its populace. According to Kamson, Mera Haochongba, implies two things [Ibid., p. 140]:

1. First, it was resorted to as an administrative-cum ritualistic practice quite regularly on a fixed day of the year in the two-millennium long history of Manipur except during the British regime… In the process it has helped bring to effervescence the cultural achievements shared by both the brethrens of the hills and the plains… a kind of reciprocal love and an ultimate mutual respect for each other.

2. Second, it also means that both have suffered together ‘the birth pangs of the past and many an ordeal of survival sharing a common destiny against heavy odds’…. In that moment of bliss, ecstasy, togetherness and semi-divine happiness participants hardly find their different languages or any other antecedent a barrier Moreover, it relates to notion of an innate and symbiotic cultural ties among various natives invariably expressed through the medium of festival and charactierised by secularism.

To be continued.....

* Homen Thangjam / Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam / Aheibam Koireng Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at akoireng(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on November 11, 2016.

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