E-Pao! Opinion - Of plebiscite and sovereignty

Of plebiscite and sovereignty

By: Donn Morgan Kipgen *

The confidentially common watch-word or socio-political subject amongst the general intelligentia of the majority community of Manipur is the term 'Plebiscite'. In layman term, it is a call or proposal for total independence by means of direct votings by the citizens in peaceful manner.

The rare issue called Plebiscite, as we perceived now, is a modern political conception based on the Latin term 'Plebiscitum' (origin C. 1577 AD) meaning 'a law enacted by the Plebs assembled in Comitia Tributa'. Ironically, the Plebs (c. 1835) were the poorer common or under-privileged citizens in the two socio-political division of the ancient roman society; the other being the learned and rich aristocrats.

In an original literal sense, a plebiscite is a decree, an amendment or new law passed by the legislature or elected representatives of the common people and not a seccessionist political exercise by means of mass votings. Such law making voting exercise had been reserved exclusively for the underprivileged Roman Plebeians, i.e. the common citizens.

So, what is the real meaning of modern day plebiscite? It means ascertainment or acknowledgment of general opinion on any socio-political matter conducted peacefully by the federal Govt under the supervision of a third party. Under special circumstances, it can also mean a direct vote of adult franchise of the whole nation on special point and of the general interest of the Federal Govt.

The modern day concept of plebiscite has multiple-factors and important criteria with the direct diplomatic supports from powerful or influential western countries. Some of the main factors and criteria were clearly mentioned in an article: 'Magnificent Obsession' by Lt Col H Bhuban (Rtd), 3rd May, 2006, edition “The Sangai Express”. His politically correct critical observation have been long ignored by the majority community of Manipur the Sanaleibak.

Now, the inevitable probing question is: 'Does Manipur as a whole has the necessary criteria, total consensus and economic resources to become a totally independent sovereign nation by means of plebiscite as of this very period? Frankly and relatively speaking, the answer is a 'No', since the mandatory ingredients and criteria are found very much lacking in present day Manipur.

Yes, indeed, Manipur, like a surrenderee, has every right as a nation-state to become free and exercises its liberty. This universal fact no force on earth can deny it if things are done peacefully in the right manner, for the right purpose.

The spirit of plebiscitary is very much evident in the Imphal valley of late, especially within the elite and learned class. For many a seminars, debates, workshops, meetings, etc have been organised and conducted by learned scholars, academicians, social-workers, politicians et al.

Unfortunately, these intellectual Manipuri Plebeians have not or did not take into account as to why, how or where it should or could be done and what would be the chaotic fall out even if a plebiscite is conducted successfully on majority votes of 51% or above in the State of Manipur in the near future. They do not take into account the numerical and ethnical parts of it and did not bother to keep in mind as to who really proposed, propounded and stoutly idealised it.

One could not explain on what ground the Governor of Manipur uttered the political taboo 'plebiscite' on the record and on what context he had causally used it as a part of his speech. Yes, indeed, the Governor, Dr SS Sidhu, definitely did not call for general plebiscite since he had no authority nor responsibility over the question of sovereignty. However, non-tribal militants latched on to the holy word, i.e; plebiscite, as an unoffered carrot dangling on the stationary stick.

On the other hand, some sections of our patriotic society and Govt institutions inexplicably but understandably rose up to back the call in unison on the justifiable impression that it was a genuine carrot (policy) deliberately left unguarded. Sadly, the majority citizens of Manipur seem to wholeheartedly regard the clarion call for plebiscite just like they did in anti-ceasefire extension and the AFSPA issues, which are very much lawful and within the authority of the State administration.

It is worth mentioning that the Chief Minister, O Ibobi Singh, lifted the disturbed Area Act, thereby the AFSPA, only in the seven valley A/C areas aftermath the killing of Th Manorama; the twin judicial inquiry did not include the killing of Pastor Jamkholet Khongsai who was killed by suspected 28th AR personnel.

The plebiscitary citizens must also have to keep in mind that the State Govt did not accept nor diplomatically honour the ceasefire agreement (suspension of military Ops) between the Central armed forces and 10 CHIKIMS UG as of very this period. Sometimes back the Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh, flatly ignored and cruelly denied mass existence of homeless CHIKIMS of the Sajik Tampak war-zones as refugee status which would enabled CM Emergency Relief Fund and the State Govt contingency fund to be disbursed as stipulated.

The inhuman attitudes of the State Govt on regular basis are socio-culturally detrimental to total unity which is the binding force of all independent nations. The practical official jurisdiction of the present State Govt is just one-third of the whole State, with its proper administration and law enforcement restricted to the valley areas.

No earnest effort is made by any influential institutions to bring the citizens of Manipur as a one united force on equal terms. Instead things are actually going the wrong way as things stand now. This is the inevitable vice of all multi-ethnic nation states - socio-cultural division on political ground. With this unsettling background, the question of plebiscite is rather optimistic and immature.

Successful plebiscite in modern history is as rare as the famous 'Yellow rain' of Manipur, a mysterious single phenomenon which is known by the whole scientific world except the citizens of Manipur. The 'unsuccessful' Quebec plebiscite was an exception, that of East Timor was a genuine classic plebiscite and that of Kashmir was an acceptable farce.

All of them have one thing in common - same ethnic group sharing one common official language, they have their own economic resource, no multi-extremist groups or bloody insurgency movements. We all know the unsuccessful insurgency movements of IRA in Northern Ireland, the Basque's ETA in Spain and lots of others in South America. Fire-power and extremism are not the best answers to gain independence by means of a rare socio-political phenomenon called plebiscite.

Back home, even the NSCN, ULFA, and other tribal militant groups, like the Kashmiris, have now evidently realised the utopian distant dream of sovereignty. They earnestly invest on table-talks rather than talking guns. However, the optimistic dream of sovereignty is not impossible for those persist for ages with violent means. But that amounts to revolution than anything else.

Indeed, Manipur as a former independent nation can regain sovereignty if all citizens and UG militants fight together united with mental and physical courage. Cuba, US, Bolshevik Russia, Vietnam, the Balkan States, Israel, Maoist China etc successfully gained the freedom or complete independence by directly and openly fighting the regular armed forces of powerful countries in bloody wars with their much smaller popular militia or irregular armies with full support of the patriotic citizens. Small and uncouth as they might be, each of those courageous liberating forces were of the same caste and creed sharing a common faith, belief and principal.

However, here in Manipur, we have different UG outfits in each of the three ethnic groups and the minority community with different views, languages, beliefs, ideologies and exclusive demands; not to mention factional rivalries and communal enmities which regularly kept us on the edge. At this very moment, the Kuki UG outfits have their own different ideas like other CHIKIMS militants.

The Nagas are fighting for their own territorial integration i.e Greater Nagalim, whereas the minority Muslim UG outfits are fighting for separate homeland. So, total unity amongst all ethnic groups of Manipur is, as of now, out of the general equation, and therein lies the number problem.

If by God's grace, an official plebiscite for total independence is held today, would the much needed 51 plus %. 'Yes', votes be gained? Would or should the majority of the CHIKIMS, Nagas and Muslims vote for 'Yes' against the ideologise of their own UG outfits? Well, improbable as it might be, anything can happen, for we are living in the land of liberty, equality and freedom of speech, expression and faith.

No one is bound by any law or faith to withhold, express his own free will. So, should there be a peaceful plebiscite in the near future, it must have to be voting just like that of MLA/MP election: Your choice.

In order to conduct any plebiscite, there ought to be a powerful third party country. Without the backing of influential nations like the US, European nation or economically powerful Asian countries, the Govt of India will never call for a plebiscite. As we all know, Khalistan is now a history, Kashmir a lost cause and independent Nagalim a compromise deal.

Most importantly, like the good old Col Bhuban observed, Manipur has no local economic resources, trade centre, large industries, railheads nor international airport or independent professional institutions etc at present. No heavy import and export product. Economic infrastructures are as good as deserted Govt schools in far flung areas of Manipur. Professional and educational institutions are not up to the mark.

This means that we, the Manipuris, ought to be more realistical in our approach and try make a strong nation out of our own nation. We all need to build our dreams first and then practise our ideologies. We all should try to earn self-respect and respect others rights and give unto ourself an honour that is freedom and liberty.

Until then, we have a long long way to go to keep our promises.

* Donn Morgan Kipgen wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on 10th May 2006.

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