Facts about Article 371-C : Attempts to tinker with it could trigger bigger ramifications
- Part 2 -

Ngaranmi Shimray *

(The Presidential Order dated 20th June 1972 and section 2 and 29 of the Manipur (Hill Areas) Act, 1971 are not reproduced here as it is very lengthy and interested persons may download it from the internet)

A plain reading of section 52 of the Government of India Union Territories Act, 1963 will show that almost all the provisions have been suitably incorporated in Article 371-C of the Constitution, the Presidential order dated 20th June 1972 (including The First Schedule, The Second Schedule, The Third Schedule and the Fourth Schedule) and the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971.

For ease of understanding, sections of the Act of 1963 corresponding to Article 371-C, paras of Presidential Order dated 20th June 1972 and the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971 are given below:-
“Standing Committee” under section 52(1) has been substituted by “Hill Areas Committee” in the Orders dated 20th June 1972 and mention of such a committee has been made in Article 371-C. It is also defined under section 2(g) of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1972 as “Hill Areas Committee” means the Standing Committee referred to in section 52 of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 (20 of 1963)” Section 52 (1) & (2) are suitably incorporated under Article 371-C of the Constitution.

Section 52(3) is suitably incorporated under para 3(2) of the Orders dated 20th June 1972.
Section 52(5) is suitably incorporated under para 4(2) of the Orders dated 20th June 1972.
Section 52(6) is suitably incorporated as a proviso under para 4(2) of the Orders dated 20th June 1972.
Section 52 (10) is suitably incorporated under para 4(3) of the Orders dated 20th June 1972.
Section 52 (7) is suitably incorporated under para 5 of the Orders dated 20th June 1972.
Section 52(12) is suitably incorporated under para 9 of the Orders dated 20th June 1972.

As provided in the “Explanation” given under Article 371-C, the “Hill Areas” of Manipur is notified under “The First Schedule” appended to the Order dated 20th June 1972.

Paras (3), (4), (5), (6), (7) & (8), (9), (10), (11) and (12) under “The Second Schedule” of the Order dated 20th June 1972 corresponds to the provisions under section 52(4)(a), 52(4)(b), 52(4)(c), 52(4)(d), 52(4)(e), 52(4)(f), 52(4)(g), 52(4)(h) and 52(4)(i) of the 1963 Act respectively.

Rule 12A of the Rules of Business of the Government of Manipur, 1972 brought out under Para (2) of “The Third Schedule” of the Order dated 20th June 1972, is extracted from section 52(11) of the 1963 Act. Similarly, Rule 157 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, 1964 brought out under Para (5) of “The Fourth Schedule” of the Order dated 20th June 1972 is extracted from section 52(8) and 52(10) of the 1963 Act.

Likewise, some functions of the Standing Committee under “The Government of India Union Territories Act, 1963” are extracted from section 52(4)(a), 52(4)(b), 52(4)(d), 52(4)(e), 52(4)(f), 52(4)(g), 52(4)(h) and 52(4)(i) and they correspond to section 29(1)(xiv), 29(1)(xv), 29(1)(xvi), 29(1)(xi) in respect of public health and sanitation, 29(2)(a), 29(2)(b), 29(2)(c) and 29(2)(d) of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971 respectively.

These facts that the origins of Article 371-C and its concomitant documents emanates from section 52 of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 are pointed out to show that the idea for having a special provision for the Hill Areas preceded the insertion of Article 371-C of the Constitution. The genesis of this policy for a special provision for the Hill Areas of Manipur in 1963 is derived from the perception of threat of exploitation of the Hill Areas and the tribes by the relatively more advanced Meiteis and this fact was not lost to the policy framers that they had provided safeguards in the Act of 1963.

This provision of safeguards were merely extended, without any substantial modifications, to ensure that similar protection continued for the Hill Areas after Manipur was granted a full fledged State.

The assertions made in the article by Captain Singh can be viewed as an attempt to suggest policy changes for grabbing lands of the tribes in the Hill Areas. Similar suggestion for modification of Article 371-C was made by the Union Minister of State Dr RK Ranjan Singh who wrote a letter to the Hon’ble Prime Minister suggesting removal of the safeguards given to tribal lands to enable non-tribals to buy tribal lands in the Hill Areas.

Currently, there is a demand by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM) for inclusion of the Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST) which will enable Meitei community, if they become ST, to buy tribal lands in the Hill Areas.

There is another letter sent to the Hon’ble Prime Minister by Union Minister of State Dr RK Ranjan Singh asking for a special administrative zone with security arrangement for Moreh including Kwatha Meitei village to protect the commercial interest of the Meitei traders whose cross border business has been disrupted by their evacuation from Moreh border town. The suggestion of continuing commercial activity by use of security force and special arrangement for Meitei business persons in Moreh town could be interpreted as Meitei-centric policy which is becoming a norm these days.

All six demands set by Arambai Tenggol are also Meitei-centric making the tribes who represent about 41% of the State’s population wonder whether they have any voice in the current governance system of Manipur.

The state of current affairs in Imphal city is disturbing as it is common knowledge that the radical elements are in possession of majority of the arms looted from the State police, but no efforts are made by the local police, Central Armed Police Forces and Army to recover the looted guns.

Whatever is happening in Manipur is illegal, but the local police, Central Armed Police Forces and Army are stopped from discharging their duties. This raises the question whether the State Government can informally allow so called village volunteers to be armed with looted police guns ? This has been going on for nine long months without end in sight. It is reported that more guns have been snatched from the police on 13th February 2024. Why is looting only happening from the local police ? At this rate a day may come when all the guns of local police will fall in the hands of radical elements.

The free hand given to the radical elements is beyond comprehension. Why is the Government turning a blind eye to extortion in Imphal which is happening openly everyday. How is it possible that the police, Central Armed Police Forces and Army are not taking any action to recover the looted police guns ? Does the policy of leniency towards the radical elements have the sanction and approval of Ministry of Home Affairs ?

Are the police intelligence, IB, SIB, NIA and RAW not sending any reports to the centre about the state of lawlessness in Manipur. Such state of affairs should not be allowed to go on and it could boomerang on the Meitei leadership of State when looted guns are not returned.

It is also incomprehensible as to why the looted guns are not recovered and handed back to the police to enable them along with other security forces to fight perpetrators of violence. Doing so will transform the conflict into a fight between perpetrators of violence and the State Government. Manipur is sitting on a tinder box which may get ignited anytime if such lawlessness is allowed to linger on. Persons in power should be wary of the high possibility of the current conflict enlarging into a conflict of civil war proportion which could spread throughout the North Eastern region.

Article 371-C, like other Articles under category from A to H and J have been made for different States taking into account their historical legacies, unique circumstances and regional demands of the States. For instance in respect of North Eastern States - Article 371A grants special provisions to Nagaland, protecting social practices, land ownership etc.

Article 371B provides for the special provisions for the State of Assam under which the President is empowered to provide for the creation of a committee of the Assam Legislative Assembly consisting of members elected from the Tribal Areas of the State and such other members as he may specify. Article 371C for Manipur provides for special provisions to safeguard the matters related to the Hill Areas of the State are ensured.

Article 371F gives special provisions with respect to the State of Sikkim as it transited from an independent kingdom to become a full fledged State of the Indian Union. Article 371G - provides the State of Mizoram a special provision to protect Mizo religious and social practices, customary law, civil and criminal justice, and land ownership.

Article 371H - Special provision is given to the Governor with respect to law and order for the State of Arunachal Pradesh. When the Constitution was adopted in 1950 the Hill Areas of Manipur were relatively under developed and backward. Their situation has not changed much compared to that of Imphal valley which has developed by leaps and bounds.

Article 371-C is a special provision provided for the Hill Areas of Manipur as done for other States in the North Eastern region to protect the interest of the vulnerable tribes living in the Hill Areas and any attempt to remove it or to amend it would have severe consequences.

To be continued...

* Ngaranmi Shimray wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a social activist and political thinker/analyst based in New Delhi.
Advocate for clean politics and passionate about tribal rights,
he can be reached at Shimray2011(AT)gmail(DOT)com ; @AranShimray on X
This article was webcasted on March 03 2024.

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