Kind attention 'Your Lordship' CJ of India

Yambem Laba *

I think that it was at the height of the ongoing turmoil in Manipur last year that Your Lordship as the Chief Justice of India had remarked that “apparently the provisions of the Indian Constitution does not seem to apply in Manipur.”

Thereafter you had appointed a high level committee to oversee the developments and the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India had begun monitoring the steps being taken up including the 6000 plus FIRs that had been registered.

Upon your directives the State has been quick to respond at least in two cases notably that of the parading naked of two tribal girls by Meitei youths and the abduction and subsequently killings of two Meitei students, a boy and a girl by the Kukis.

The culprits have since been booked and accounted for one of them in the later case in a place as far away as Pune. We are thankful to you for providing succor to these two sensitive cases.

But some 200 plus deaths, thousands of houses burnt and over 60000 people displaced in the trouble is far from over and those deviating from the Constitutional path are still active. Here one is not talking about the gun totting youngsters on both sides or the odd men in uniform making ethnic affinity override his sworn allegiance to the State and the Constitution but people in high places duly sworn in to hold posts to safeguard the Constitution of India.

To start we have the Chief Minister the head of the Government of the State who was duly sworn in by the Governor. He is on record stating that Article 355 of the Constitution of India has been invoked in the State.

Pointers to this statement are the facts that the Chief Minister N Biren Singh had been stripped off from his position as the Chairman of the Unified Command the apex body comprising of the Army, Para-Military Forces and the State Police to monitor and oversee the Law and Order situation in the State of Manipur and in his place one Kuldiep Singh had been appointed holding the post of Security Advisor and the Director General of Police was replaced without notice to the Chief Minister. Finding a landing place was Rajeev Singh a Tripura Cadre IPS officer and said to be favorite of Kuldiep Singh.

Then we have the Governor of Manipur Anusuiya Uikey who was also sworn into office by the Chief Justice off the Manipur High Court stating that Article 355 of the Constitution of India has not been invoked in Manipur. This was stating that the Law and Order situation in her State has not been completely broken down to initiate such a step whereby the Centre takes the issues of Law and Order in its own hands.

She did not bother to explain the circumstances leading to the appointment of the Security Advisor as the Chairman of the Unified Command and the Director General of Police without notice to the State Government. It appears that Article 355 of the Constitution of India had been invoked in Maanipur by proxy.

Whether the Constitution of India has such provisions is for Your Lordship to examine. Then came the meeting on the 17th of June convened by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah at New Delhi’s North Block. Present were the Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau of India Tapan Kumar Deka, the Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi, the Security Advisor Kuldiep Singh and DGP Rajeev Singh of Manipur, the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army General Manoj Pande and others who matter in dealing with the Law and Order situation in India.

And although the meeting was conveyed to discuss the Law and Order situation in Manipur, conspicuous by his absence was the Chief Minister of Manipur N Biren Singh or any other elected representative from Manipur.

The moot point that emerges here is the fact that the Union Home Minister seems to have overlooked the fact that Law and Order is a State subject in the Constitution of India and he chose to ignore the presence of a Chief Minister in Manipur and that too belonging to his own party the BJP.

This is notwithstanding the fact that the BJP had lost both the seats in Manipur during the last elections to the 18th Lok Sabha elections and CM Biren Singh had already owned responsibility for the fiasco, but the fact is that he still remains the Chief Minister. It appears that apart from Article 355, Article 356 of the Constitution whereby the elected Government is dismissed and President’s Rule is invoked by proxy also.

The meeting is said to have deliberated upon the on goings in Manipur at length and had concluded that more troops would be stationed in Manipur and would take action against anybody using violence and that steps would be initiated to open up talks between both the warring sides. But on the surface it appears that it is aimed at disarming the odd couple of thousands of Meitei youth under arms now with guns taken away from Police armouries earlier last year.

No mention was made about the role of the Assam Rifles who have since abandoned the role of being referees in the ongoing conflict and have emerged as the coaches of the Kukis hence the massive mistrust amongst the Meiteis inter alia India’s oldest Para-Military force the Assam Rifles.

Nor was there any mention about the Centre scrapping the Suspension of Operations (SoO) with the 24 odd Kuki Militant groups, a step which has already been adopted by the Manipur Legislative Assembly but since it is tripartite agreement the Centre agreeing to it is also mandatory to bring into effect the resolution of the State Assembly.

What was apparently not mentioned was the fact that as early as January of this year the Chief Ministers’ office had notified both the Security Advisor as well as the DGP about the impending attack by Kukis at Jiribam the district bordering Assam.

The input was kept under wraps and then the explosion happened earlier this month when Kuki militants beheaded a Meitei farmer and and began attacking Meitei villages in the fringe area of the district burning down houses in the process. The Chief Minsiter was in New Delhi at that time and was scheduled to visit the district upon his return to Imphal.

But his advance security team was ambushed enroute by Kuki militants and the convoy had to turn back. CM Biren upon arrival at Imphal then decided not to venture out to Jiribam for reasons best known to him. But militarily speaking such an act of dereliction of duty is a Court Martial offence but who bothers in Manipur anyway.

On the peace parleys there will definitely be hard liners on both sides who would call for a complete annihilation as the only solution. But this reminds me of the Track-2 Meetings the Meiteis had with the Nagas in 2000. Tension was running high then between the two indigenous communities of Manipur then.

Present as mediators were Lt General VK Nayar (Rtd) former Governor of Manipur, Chaman Lal former DGP of Nagaland, Jayant Madhav former Chairman of the Assam Finace Corporation. The Nagas of Nagaland were represented by Church Leader Wati Aier, Gandhian Niketu Iralu, Rev Shishak Principal of Patkai College. Nagas from the Nagas of Manipur were PA Thekho then Editor of the Horn Bill Express from Senapati and Naga academic Dr Gina Sangkham.

Representating the Meiteis were writer and author Pradip Phanjoubam, noted social commentator Dhanabir Laishram, Arun Irengbam former Media Advisor to the Chief Minister, this writer and a former Editor and currently Chief Minister of Manipur N Biren Singh.

The move initiated by former Consultant Editor of the Statesman Sanjoy Hazarika had three rounds of meeting first at Shillong then at Barapani and then at Kaziranga.

Both sides spoke their hearts out and a lot of good will was earned on both sides. We did not agree on anything but that we would have a friendly football match at Senapati between the Meiteis and the Nagas at Senapati. The rest is history but we broke the tension between the two sides.

I am making this point that there could be a start somewhere not necessarily in Manipur, but a start has to be made somewhere, sometime by somebody.

I pray that Your Lordship would be pleased to take note of this little representation of facts and note it and place on record on the ongoing inquiries inter alia those who are taking the Constitution in their own hands.

* Yambem Laba wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 20 2024.

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