TODAY -

Article 371A is sui generis

Free Thinker *



At the outset let me start with a query , whether Article 370 of the Indian Constitution can be extended to other parts of the country ; or in other words can this very special provision of the State of Jammu and Kashmir can be gifted to other States like Sikkim or Goa etc?

According to my humble understanding of the Constitution, it is not possible, for the simple reason that, Article 370 is specially meant for the State of Jammu and Kashmir that too conferred under certain circumstances and made operational only from 17th November 1952.

On the same premise, it is not feasible to extend Art 371A to other parts of the country . That means this specific Provision for Nagaland cannot be imposed on other States.

As a matter of fact Article 371A is a very powerful Constitutional arrangement which comes next to Art.370 considering the fact that it provides considerable autonomy to the State of Nagaland; for instance no outsider including the Centre can tinker with their land-ownership & resources, religion, customary laws, social practices etc; that is why even the Panchayati Raj system cannot be implemented in Nagaland.

Article 371C though inserted as late as 1971 and w.e.f from 15-2-1972 is a special provision for the State of Manipur; it contemplates that the administrative arrangement within the State vis-a-vis the hill areas ought to be within the ambit of Manipur Assembly making the elected Members of Hill areas more responsible. Moreover the President through the Governor must ensure proper function of such a dispensation.

Today we have that system in place with the nomenclature the Hill Areas Committee.

But the only thing required is to strengthen and further empower it. If the Federal Government desires to replace 371C with either Art 370 or 371A, people of Manipur won't mind. People may prefer 370 to 371A, for obvious reasons. These are speculations and conjectures that will never happen.

The status of Manipur stands out in the entire northeast for the simple reason that it was an independent Monarchy before it joined (perhaps reluctantly) the Indian Union in 1949. So the sanctity of this erstwhile Kingdom ought not to be disturbed in terms of its territory, ethnic composition of the people, traditional cultural and customary practices.

This time around the Federal Government might be so happy for the simple reason that everyone in this part of the world is talking about the Indian Constitution and Indian boundary and Central University.

This is a sea change in the attitude of the people. Another very striking and caring attitude towards other Indian States has cropped up which is evidently found from the expression 'we don't want to export alcohol (injurious to health) to other neighboring Sates'.

This kind of love and affection was never seen before. These are very positive thoughts. What is bad for us is also equally bad for others. This is equally applicable to land (territory) and people; don't break ours we won't break yours. The top Executive of the country has assured us umpteen times that there will be no change in the territorial status of all the NE States in the final agreement, no infringement on the rights of others , no harm to the people of adjoining states.

The only assurance left is that all the benefits of the Nagas expected from the Final Agreement ought to be extended to the Nagas of other states through their respective Governments (and also not at the cost of other ethnic communities of the region).

Their empowerment, enrichment, education, employment, etc. must be expedited through the respective Sate governments. Hope we are moving in that direction. No one is against an amicable settlement to the already protracted Naga imbroglios.

Last but not the least we must learn how to read a Parliamentary report. Prime importance should be given to the recommendation parts which are normally written in bold letters.

There is hardly any significance of the narration part or the background notes which are just obiter dicta of the report. When there is nothing obnoxious in the recommendation part, what is the concern? And moreover the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committees are not binding on the Government.

At the same time we must also understand that a 'negotiation' cannot proceed further when we stop exploring the possibilities. But the caveat remains that the geo-political entity called 'Manipur' is collectively owned by 39 ethnic communities; physical balkanization of this land and psychologically dismemberment of its people should not happen while exploring the possibility of a grandiose political settlement.


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 02 , 2018.



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