TODAY -

Spirit of Plebiscite Vs Spirit of Manipur

RS Jassal *




A meeting on plebiscite underway at the community hall of Kiyam Wangmatama
Picture: The Sangai Express



1. In this conflict-ridden situation, the announcement by Shri RK Meghen @ Sanayaima, UNLF Chief to hold a plebiscite to end Indo-Manipur confrontation has been construed by various individuals and organisations in divergent ways. Mostly civil society organisations (CSOs) are taking it as a means to ascertain whether merger was legal or illegal, people be given liberty for self determination, full sovereignty and so on has echoed out of it.

Day by day, media is puffing it up whatever big or small meetings are taking place with no analysis. No doubt, at certain occasions and under differing situations or difficult circumstances, communities or even Nations were forced to take recourse to plebiscite on matters like applicability of one law for people of those particular communities or Nations though such cases have been very far and few to count.

That is valid only if 100 or so percent participation of the people is there. Here in Manipur 'it' assumes special importance because of multi-ethnical. Without touching constitutionality or sentimentality of a good number of people, I wish to offer my views being a citizen of Manipur.

2. Meghen has not spelt out terms of reference to be contested by people in private since it has to affect all the people mainly Meities, Nagas, Kukis, Hmars, Pangals and non-Manipuris (now Manipuris). One wonders if all adults and above out of the 22.5 million will participate in the plebiscite even if Government of India wishes to give a trial. Will there be some significant outcome in the wake of demand of NSCN (IM) UNC for Nagalim, and UNLF pledges to ensure integrity of Manipur. The political demands and social agenda of various UG groups differ, contradict and imbalance the scales to match with solution thus leaving no room for single point agenda for the plebiscite to achieve.

3. Compare to the differences caused with shift of stand each major UG group has undergone from start of revolution to current period from secession to reconciliation but with conditions India became independent on 15th Aug, 1947. There was no political demand as on that day. Naga Hills was an out district of Assam and out of NEFA administration box.

Manipur was single district administration unit even up to 1960's and there was only one IGP for entire Assam. So roughly speaking, it was treated as part of Assam (erstwhile greater Assam) for National policies and social percepts. In 1964, open skirmishes ended with 6 September signing of SoO in Nagaland after expansion of Naga Hills to Nagaland by clubbing adjacent areas up to permissible extends. UNLF (1964) started its basic operations of mobilising awareness against apprehensions of Manipur breaking into three parts like Naga areas going to Nagaland as per then action plan of UNIC under Rishang's leadership. Manipur however retained its supreme, serene and pristine form as self with dissolution of UNIC in 1972, UNIC mergering with Congress and Manipur gaining Statehood status i.e., nine years later than Nagaland.

4. After six decades of up and down wading through muddy waters of insurgency, Naga UGs have been persuaded to agree to appreciate the typical constitutional position and obligation of India towards its people and has made them almost agree to not to break Manipur. Fat economic packages are under way. UNLF Chief may also have the idea that plebiscite is to regularise the merger to assuage the hurt feelings of a section of hard thinking people so that confrontation may be called off honourably and with dignity.

It may not be for secession, who knows, but the way discussions are going on and political pundits who are acknowledged nationalists also titling in their thinking to plebiscite, it is feared current discussion in the valley may go astray. It may prompt Nagas-Kukis-Zous Hmars and Sadar Hills occupants (where Gorkhas are also in countable numbers) may isolate themselves from plebiscite.

As early as recommendation of State Re Organization Commission during the Premiership of late Jawaharlal Nehru, Manipur was threatened to be stripped of hill areas and valley was to be left as a district of Assam, which was outrightly turned down by him and Manipur remained as it is today. So Manipur tided over that unsuspected threat and moved on and on.

5. Going a bit Century back, in 1891 uprising of Manipur Kingdom against British Power and devastation of Kangla Fort, dismembering of Manipuri armed strength, the recommendation was made to the Queen at London by the British Viceroy, Delhi after a Military Court of Inquiry, that Manipur to be merged into British Indian State. It is on record. Her Excellency Queen refused to do so. It was ordered Manipur - be kept as a native kingdom and King from right lineage be selected and taken to Mayo College, Ajmer for education and princely upbringing. Young boy of 5 years of age Churachand was identified.

Manipur territories thus remained intact and tutor of young prince Mr. Johnstone also moved to Manipur as Political Officer later when same Churachand took over as Maharaja. Coronation was held with appropriate gun salute. Manipur retained its status as it is today when there was nobody to take care other than the Regent. Manipur had faced similar situation of forced hibernation during 1825-1832 known as Seven Years of Devastation caused by Awa men of Burma (recall Chahi Taret Khuntakpa period) but Manipur emerged phoenix like out of Yandaboo treaty ending conflict with Awa permanently.

6. Negotiation table is also lying without activity because what UNLF wants PREPAK, RPF and KCP may not agree to. It is suspected. It is therefore suggested Civil Society Organisations, Frontal organizations, influential intellectuals be organized into pressure groups to contact important UG leaders and suggest solid measures to uphold the spirit of Manipur so that its body culture is not disturbed. I humbly ask, is Spirit of Plebiscite conducive to the body culture of Manipur? What is expected out of it by UNLF from plebiscite without participation from Hills. And Hills firing repeated salvos of various sorts for changing directions cannot be underscored.

If plebiscite is intended for secession (ism), one wonders how public meetings are being allowed to hold discussions on plebiscite in light of Constitutional Amendment No 16 of 1963 under sub head right to secession which clearly says "even discussion of secessionism will invite no protection to freedom of speech", which is guaranteed to all Indians under Fundamental Right in the Preamble of Constitution. However it can be a negotiation instrument for UNLF chief as and when his team sits with Government of India on the table to discuss.

7. For final and close to acceptable solution three (Tarun Gogoi, Ibobi & Rio) political hat scorer including two in line up need to sit together with Hon'ble HM Shri. P. Chidambaram, at Guwahati with Rajkhowa (ULFA), Muivah (NSCN-IM) and Meghen (UNLF) as special invitees and chart out key map for peaceful solution. Other are all wasteful efforts.


* RS Jassal wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 06, 2011.



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