TODAY -

The ill-logic of ITLF's self-rule declaration
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: November 18, 2023 -



FROM a supposedly peaceful "Tribal Solidarity March" taken out against the directive given by the High Court to the government of Manipur for sending the requisite recommendation to the Centre for recognition of Meiteis/Meeteis as scheduled tribe (ST) to raising the demand for a separate administration, and now the declaration of self-rule, the leaders of Kuki-Chin people have been able to take everyone for a ride and keep the northeastern Indian state of Manipur on the boil for over six and half months.

Without ever giving any clear-cut explanation on how their demand for a separate administration or declaration of self-rule is going to work out, and what would it entail even if such an administrative arrangement is possible at all within the existing Constitutional framework of the country, it is interesting to note that Kuki-Chin leaders have been successful in exploiting the emotion of the people on both sides of the clash divide, even to the extent of making them feel that fighting and killing each other is okay.

But the bitter truth is that Kuki-Chin leaders themselves are at a loss when pressed for explanation on their ever-changing demands and narratives surrounding the current conflict between the Meiteis/Meeteis and the Kuki-Chin communities, the first spark of which was lit in Churachandpur district when the supposedly peaceful "Tribal Solidarity March" turned violent on May 3 last, before it soon spread to other Kuki-Chin dominated areas.

So, it was not surprising that minister Letpao Haokip, one of the 10 elected representatives of Kuki-Chin people in the Manipur Legislative Assembly, who first raised the demand of separate administration for Kuki-Chin people within days of outbreak of the conflict, was quoted as saying "It depends totally upon the Union of India whether they grant us a separate state or a Union Territory," when asked about the nature of the separate administration they were demanding.

The same ambiguity can now be seen in the declaration of setting up a "self-government irrespective of whether the Centre recognises it or not" within a couple of weeks if nothing had been done regarding their demand for a separate administration.

Two days after Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF) general secretary Muan Tombing announced that "if our voice is not heard within a couple of weeks, we will set up our self-government. Irrespective of whether the Centre recognises it or not, we will go ahead. As in a state or a Union Territory, we will set up a self-government that will look into all matters in the Kuki-Zo areas...," spokesperson of the Forum Ginza Vualzong has clarified that it is just a plan under consideration and no consensus or decision has been taken as such for its adoption on a larger platform.

He also begged to differ from the general secretary in using the terminology of'self-government' and said he would choose the term "a local governing body" in line with the Constitution of India to govern the tribal areas.

While this development has shown how certain members from within the ITLF have been speaking out of turn without any consideration of the problem it might create to the cause they are pushing the people to fight, the quick response of the Government of Manipur, which has not only condemned the declaration of "self-rule" which has no legal nor constitutional basis and also initiating appropriate legal action against ITLF is on the expected lines as this declaration appears to be nothing more than another ploy aimed at vitiating the already fragile law and order situation in the state.

Having said that, we can't help but wonder where are the 10 Kuki-Chin MLAs, who started all this nonsense about separate administration, if the logic behind the proposal of self-government or governing body is the failure of these elected representatives to work for the welfare of their respective constituencies, which are located in the hills and not in the Death-Valley Imphal.



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