Manipur Protection of Indigenous People Bill impasse

Radhabinod Koijam *

ILP : Human Chain by Students at Imphal demanding implementation of ILPS in Manipur :: June 6 2016.
ILP : Human Chain by Students at Imphal demanding implementation of ILPS in Manipur on June 6 2016 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

Manipur is in turmoil. This is largely because of the govt. of the day. In democracy the elected govt. is mandated to work for the welfare of its people. It should be a govt. of the people, by the people, for the people. It may be a govt. of the people constituted by their elected representatives. But, it may not necessarily be a govt. for the people.

For it to be so it should work in close liaison with the people learning their aspirations, desires, needs, joys, fears, desperations, sufferings and pangs. Its primary duty should be to endeavour to take the people to a higher level of a fulfilled life with security for themselves and their posterity.

The onus of the people

If the people elect intelligent, enlightened, honest, conscientious and public-welfare-minded persons as their representatives they will get a good govt. But, if they instead elect ignorant, selfish, greedy and perverted persons the govt. that would be formed would be incompetent, corrupt and anti-people. Thus, the people are responsible for the quality of the govt.

If they suffer the consequences of a bad govt. formed by the bad representatives they elected no one but them is to be blamed. This is the very problem we are facing. The position will be reversed only when the people understand the meaning, purpose, power and consequences of the election they participate to elect their representatives.

JCILPS agitations

We have a govt. in the state but not one for the people. The tragedy is manifested in the ongoing JCILPS agitations. Once awoken to the need of a law to regulate influx of migrants into the state through public demands the govt. should have applied itself relentlessly to the task exploring all possible means without further promptings. There was no need for endless street agitations as reminders. But, the present govt. remained unconcerned, unresponsive and immobile to be pushed, jostled and shouted at. If it were proactive the Churachandpur imbroglio would have been resolved long ago.

Dishonourable silence of members

After a prolong anarchic situation three bills were drafted by a Drafting Committee constituted by the govt. consisting exclusively of some Congress MLAs from the plain as members and an official as the Convenor. No MLA or person from other political denominations was nominated to the Committee. The three bills were hastily introduced in a session of the Assembly specially summoned for the purpose on the 28th August last year and were passed unanimously without any discussion on the 31st August,2015.

Surprisingly no member of the House raised any query or objection at any stage – be it the introduction stage, the discussion stage or the passing stage of the bills. One wonders what mesmerised all the honourable members of the House, irrespective of parties, to complete silence turning them into Madam Tussad’s wax-figures likes.

Can it be ignorance, disinterestedness, dereliction of duties, or something else? Many lacunae in the bills, the bills were not beyond reproach, as well as in the procedure of their introduction and passing under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly could have been plugged if the honourable members were not dishonourably derelict of their duties and obligations.

Failure to circulate the bills for public opinion was fatal

Further, the bills were not brought to the public domain to elicit opinions before their introduction in the House. The govt. and the JCILPS were equally to be blamed for it, for the responsibilities to consult all sections of the people – all the stakeholders – were with them both. The JCILPS was in an unholy haste to get the bills passed while the govt. succumbed to pressure.

Consultations and dialogues are priority

Unfortunately, there is a big trust deficit among different communities of the state, particularly between those in the hills and the ones in the plain. The people of the hills suffer psychological complexes visa-vis the Meiteis while vice-versa may also be true.

Many groups, especially the hill tribes, find idiosyncrasies of the Meiteis hegemonic, repressive and repulsive. With this background of distrust, suspicion and psychological complexes to do anything for the state collectively by both the hills and the plain free and fair discussions of the issues involved are called for. A consensus is the prime requirement, a driver for executing every plan collectively.

Unless the crooked shadow of consensus is chased assiduously and honestly through dialogues and negotiations and is harnessed, no bill passed by the state Assembly will become a law as the Governor or, as the case may be, the President of India being reluctant to assent to a bill opposed by a large section of the people of the state.

Roles of civil society groups important for building consensus

Having brought the urgent need for a law to deal with the migrants into the state to the notice of the govt. poignantly the JCILPS may now withdraw to the background allowing the govt. to tackle the issue and giving space to civil society groups to build a consensus of stakeholders. Dialogues/discussions in different fora may replace chaotic street rallies and agitations.

Encouragingly some groups are already engaged in the cause. National Research Centre (NRC) in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students’ Welfare, Manipur University organised a public dialogue on ‘Protection of Indigenous People of Manipur’ in MU during 24th- 28th July,2016 where many eminent resource persons hailing both from the hills and plain participated throwing many valuable suggestions.

Apunba Manipur Kanba Ima Lup(AMKIL) organised a 1-day discussion on ‘Apunba Manipur Amasung Phurup Masel Punna Hingminnaba’ on the 31st July,2016 at Lamyanba Shanglen, Imphal. Many other organizations and groups may also be working on this line. Such public dialogues and discussions should also be organised extensively in different areas of the hills and the plain involving as many communities and groups as possible to forge the needed consensus.

Impatience will delay and may foil lawmaking

The new bill to replace ‘the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015’, on which the assent of the President of India was withheld, should be got properly drafted by legal experts with inputs gathered from different stakeholders via wide and inclusive consultations. The bill should be circulated widely inviting public comments and suggestions before introduction in the Assembly. Impatience may kill the bill. In fact, the bill which is destined to become a law ultimately will have tried our patience to the limit. To exercise patience by all concerned may be rewarding.

* Radhabinod Koijam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Radhabinod Koijam is a Senior Advocate and Ex- Chief Minister of Manipur
This article was posted on August 06, 2016.

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