TODAY -

The irony of Manipur's idea of communal harmony

Thangbiaklian Hangzo *



Prior to his Chief Ministership, N. Biren Singh, during his tenure as a Congress legislator was a member of the drafting committee for the controversial Protection of Manipur Peoples Bill, 2015 chaired by the then Law Minister Thoudam Debendra. That very bill which was bulldozed in a special assembly session was what triggered an outburst in the Hill Areas of Manipur causing the death of eight young men and one child, not to speak of the hundreds who are maimed for life.

And speaking as Chief Minister and Chief Guest during the State Level Kut celebration on November 1, 2018 at Thomas Ground in Kangpokpi appealed, ironically, the gathering to “forget the past and the people should forgive everything in order to live together”. It is not clear whether the CM is seeking absolution for his guilt or that of others; we have to find out later.

He also allegedly stated during the tussle with United Naga Council (UNC) in the matter of rollback for the new districts the preceding Congress government had created that the “government acts in continuum” making a very significant succession principle of a democratic government. At this juncture, and in a similar principle, it is of paramount importance to remind that on 13th May 1991 at 11:00 AM under the Chief Ministership of Shri R. K. Ranbir Singh, the Manipur Cabinet had recommended for the extension of Sixth Schedule in the Hill Areas of Manipur.

That very same resolution was again reaffirmed on 17th August 1992 at 9:30 AM with Shri R. K. Dorendra as the Chief Minister. And with Shri Radhabinod Koijam as Chief Minister, the Manipur Government, for the third time, on 28thMarch 2001 at 5:00 PM resolved its non-objection of the extension of the Sixth Schedule provision in the Hill Areas of Manipur. Previous governments of Manipur indeed appear to “act in continuum”.

And if the Chief Minister of Manipur truly believe in the principle of the continuative nature of democratic governments, he obviously has home work to do in matters of the extension of Sixth Schedule in the Hill Areas of Manipur which is constitutional as well as non-compromising to the territorial integrity of Manipur. And the Hill Areas Committee(HAC) too has an yeoman task to review, peruse and pursue what previous committee of the tribal legislator’s institution had done, if they claim to represent the aspiration of the people who gave them their seat of power.

Apart from these precedence, the present BJP government had committed to “extend all possible help and cooperation in the tripartite talk with SoO groups” during the inking of Memorandum of Understanding with JAC-AATB on May 10, 2017 where a Territorial Council based on Sixth Schedule was tabled by the UPF & KNO. This proposed Territorial Council neither compromised the constitution nor threatens the territorial integrity of Manipur. The ink with which the signatures were signed wouldn’t have dried if the Manipur Government wanted to have a relook at their commitment. Unless selective political amnesia had befallen them!

As the Manipur Government is trying hard to mitigate the Hill-Valley divide by introducing a Cabinet Meeting in the Hill Areas or the Go to Village program, on should not be blinded to the fact that having meetings in the Hill Areas matter, but what is more crucial are the decisions taken over there. Go to village is noble, but what matters more is how empowered the villagers are to administer their own affairs.

Amidst these political dramas, the United Committee Manipur (UCM) spearheaded by the valley community on October 31 2018 organised a rally voicing their objection to the extension of Sixth Schedule and other similar autonomy within Manipur. This UCM, a conglomerate of various NGOs, was originally formed in the backdrop of the infamous Bangkok Declaration, a ceasefire agreement “without territorial limits” signed between the Government of India and NSCN (IM) on June 14, 2001. Their original war cry was for territorial integrity harping, “Manipur gi territorial integrity kaiba yaroi.”

In the spirit of communal harmony and peaceful coexistence, and bring about historical, political and administrative justice for the Hill Areas, the NSCN (IM) apparently relented and proposed to settle for a Pan Naga Council and/or autonomy of Naga Areas within Manipur, and the UPF & KNO appears to honour the SoO agreement and proposed for an Autonomous Territorial Council without compromising the territorial integrity of Manipur.

As tribal political stakeholders in the state honours the UCM’s original agenda of territorial integrity, ironically, it was the UCM who shifted their goalpost yet again and vouch for objection to any form of administrative autonomy within Manipur. Strangely enough, the Chief Minister and Manipur Government, as heard from various media outlets over a period of time, appear to buy the agenda of the UCM alone against the explicit and legitimate agenda of the tribal political stakeholders, flouted precedence, feigned ignorance and labelled the dominant community’s agenda with the tag of communal harmony.

In the midst of this conflicting reckoning and interpretation of the idea of peaceful coexistence and communal harmony, the Manipur Government has to cease selective listening, stop misrepresenting the aspiration of the tribal community and refrain from misinterpretation of Manipur’s multiple administrative system and plural historical narrative.

In order to achieve judicious peaceful coexistence and close the existing chasm between the Hills and Valley, Manipur Government should seek not to be swayed by unpredictable and bigoted agenda of a single community and work towards an inclusive solution where each have their fair share of historical and political rights within the ambit of Manipur.


* Thangbiaklian Hangzo wrote this article for e-pao.net
The author may be reached at hangzo(DOT)biak(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 06, 2018.



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