Govt does not suppress tribal rights: N Biren
Source: Hueiyen News Service

Imphal, July 04 2010: Manipur government spokesperson and cabinet minister N Biren has said that the allegation by Naga civil society groups that Manipur government suppresses the rights of Nagas are false and unfounded.

Talking to newsmen in New Delhi recently, the Minister said that while the Naga Students' Federation (NSF) and the All Naga Students' Association, Manipur (ANSAM) claimed that the Autonomous District Council (ADC) Act suppresses the tribal rights; the reality is however completely opposite.

Biren said Manipur government couldn't do anything directly or independently in regards to framing any policies of tribals or hill districts, as it is not permitted by the constitution of India.

The article 371 (C) of the constitution provides a special provision for the five hill districts of Manipur inhabited by tribals like Nagas, Kukis, Paites, Hmars, Mizo, Kom and Chiru.

The article reads "Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the President may, by order made with respect to the State of Manipur, provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of members of that Assembly elected from the Hill Areas of that State, for the modifications to be made in the rules of business of the Government and in the rules of procedure of the Legislative Assembly of the State and for any special responsibility of the Governor in order to secure the proper functioning of such committee.

The Governor shall annually, or whenever so required by the President, make a report to the President regarding the administration of the Hill Areas in the State of Manipur and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of directions to the State as to the administration of the said areas" .

Biren said as per rules, the state government cannot do anything in hill districts unless the policy framed by the government is cleared by the Hills Areas Committee (HAC) comprising the 20 elected tribal MLAs.

"Even the state assembly cannot pass a bill relating to hill districts unless it is cleared by the HAC," the Minister said and added "This is a mini assembly inside Manipur Assembly to safeguard the tribal rights and interests" .

The government spokesman said the government went ahead with the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils(Third Amendment) Act 2008 after the HAC passed it after studying it for six months.

The state assembly finally passed the act on October 10,2008 and the elections follows.

"If the tribal population of Manipur did not like the bill, no tribal MLAs could have the courage to clear it in the HAC.

As the HAC cleared the bill, it shows the support of tribals to the act," he argued.

"Even on the day of passing the said bill in the State Assembly, an MLA from Ukhrul district participated the discussion on the bill and stated that consideration of the bill from any other perception rather than for the upliftment of the hill people would not be right and wanted the bill to be passed," the Cabinet Minister Biren recalled.

Biren said the voice of tribals who support the ADC elections are being suppressed and the government will not allow this to happen.

He said that blaming the Congress and Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh cannot hold any ground as there are only 5 Congress MLAs in the 20-member HAC, while the rest are in opposition.

"The HAC also include the 7 Naga MLAs who are backed by ANSAM and United Naga Council (UNC)," he added.

ANSAM and UNC had called the economic blockade since April 11 mid-night in protest against the ADC Act and elections.

Of the 20 tribal MLAs, 11 are Nagas including the 7 backed by ANSAM and UNC, 2 independents and 2 Congress.

The other 9 MLAs are from Kuki, Paite and Hmar tribes and among them there are only 3 Congress legislators.

"Though the ADC bill was initiated by the Congress government, it could have been easily rejected by HAC as the majority are with opposition.

Blaming the Chief Minister and Congress for it would amount to telling lies," he added.

He even questioned the ANSAM and UNC on why the 7 MLAs who are backed by them cleared the ADC bill without any opposition.

"This is a doublespeak," he said.

The Manipur Government spokeperson said that Manipur is not only for Meiteis alone, it comprises of many ethnic communities including Kuki, Naga, Muslim and others.

He said that the ADC polls has been stalled for over 20 years on one pretext or the other.

"We cannot allow these forces to deprive the tribals of their due rights," he added.

During the period, even the then HAC opposed the elections when the State Government wanted to hold the elections.

But, when the tribal population who supported the elections calling Manipur Bandh by Tribal Indeginous Forum to hold election as well as the present HAC supported the elections, the government decided to conduct the elections.

"We cannot allow any forces to deprive the tribals of their due rights," he added.

"Today, the mouths of those Naga leaders who wanted the elections are being gagged, their houses destroyed and their lives threatened.

This cannot be called a democracy," he said.

The cabinet minister said that of the total 25 lakh population in Manipur, the tribal population is about 7 lakhs.

And, of the 7 lakhs tribals, around half of the tribal population are non-Naga tribes.

All non-Naga triubes and majority of Naga population support the elections, but those who hold the guns and organizations like ANSAM and UNC are managing to silence their voice.