TODAY -

Fissures grow as indigenes stare at uncertain future
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: August 11, 2022 -



BY suspending its vice president Vanlallien Khaute, All Tribal Students' Union, Manipur (ATSUM) and its federating units have rung out the message that no pact would suffice unless the government of Manipur cedes to their demand for passing the ADC Bill-2021 recommended by the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) even as there is ample evidence of growing anger among the valley-based civil societies over continuation of the economic blockade in the hill areas.

Outright rejection of the memorandum of understanding signed on August 8 by the government of Manipur represented by Tribal Affairs minister Letpao Haokip and Hill Areas Committee (HAC) chairman Dinganglung Gangmei and three student leaders also means that the agitating, ATSUM has taken firm resolve to take the Bill issue to its logical conclusion.

Among others, the agreement was centred on referring the 7th Amendment Bill of Manipur Hill Areas District Councils for devolution of power to Autonomous District Councils to the HAC, the latter to hold consultation with all the stakeholders before recommending it to the Manipur Assembly, and release of the five arrested ATSUM executives after the economic blockade has been lifted or suspended.

However, neither the core point of the pact has been endorsed nor the blockade called off in-spite of the release of the arrested five, thereby implying that the parties in dispute will have to continue negotiation, if any, from the beginning. For the record, the BJP-led government introduced the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council 6th and 7th amendment bills in the Assembly on August 2, which the ATSUM claimed are not in line with their demands.

As ATSUM's agitation, which is limited in areas under the hill districts, for nearly a week now is in pursuance of devolution of more power to the tribal autonomous district councils and it is but natural that any procedure made to amend provisions of the original Bill of 2021 would be interpreted as an attempt to dilute the proposed legislation recommended in August last year by the HAC comprising MLAs of all the 20 tribal reserved seats of Manipur.

While there has been no objection to provisions for realisation of the tribal population's aspiration for equitable development, certain contents in the earlier Bill haven't gone down well with either the government or the non-tribal indigenes of the state, as both fear that unrestrained autonomy to the ADCs would be detrimental to interest and integrity of Manipur as a single entity.

Such apprehension is not without basis particularly in the backdrop of the demand for creation of homelands or formation of separate states on ethnic lines by certain communities.

Amid such varied narratives and uneasy calm, imposition of the economic blockade has started to create fissures in the state, especially at a time when threat to interest and survival of the indigenous people is no more a mirage. As such it is desired that ATSUM and its affiliated bodies understand the prevailing tense situation, keep the door open for negotiation with the government authorities and more importantly take note of the fact that its current mode of agitation is being seen as testing the patience of people settling in specific parts of the state.



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