By Jubilate Kazingmei
In appreciation of your editorial 5, 6 and 8 July I wish to write this rejoinder to build mutual understanding. Socio political blame game is the worst game in society because it offers no remedy to any ailment that stunts the societal growth and harmony. In an ethnocentric politics of a state like ours it is easy to blame, envy and ridicule one another as we are not above narrow ethnic emotions and because we owe loyalty to our respective ethnic group irrespective of what profession we are in. unfortunately beyond cosmetics of language often expressed in media it is not difficult to see such emotions that makes readers view it with close mind. Media is other wise one that plays a vital role in making all of us feel as part of the whole. But in Manipur even our esteemed Human Rights activists are bound by such narrow ethnic emotions and that is how our honourable CM father figure of all communities in the state also glorified the violent 18th June uprising. So they say, “what would be expected of iron when even the Gold rust?” It is rather important to understand each other’s position.
The Hindu caste system and the practice of untouchability was largely responsible for the socio cultural and emotional disintegration between the hills and valley. But it may be wrong to entirely blame the valley people for the misfortune of the hill people. Rather democracy being rule of the majority it is inherent in the system that it is difficult to adequately safeguard the interest of ethnic minorities and that is happening in the whole of NE causing a violent awakening of ethnic nationalism in the entire north east. By the scheme of Provincial Autonomy enacted by Govt. of India in 1919 and 1935 the tribal areas of NE was scheduled as excluded area and the longtime administration insulation by the British was responsible for our backwardness. The British who wanted to retain the tribal areas in the north east as imperial colony did everything they could to check emotional integration between the two.
But after India’s independence Jawaharlal Nehru brought hill people of the NE into Indian dominion and in order to win their confidence and promote their closer contact and intercourses with the non tribals, moved the historic objectives resolution in the Constituent Assembly in 1947 which shaped the making of the Indian constitution. This Resolution proclaimed that India would be an independent sovereign democratic republic wherein inter alia “adequate safeguards shall be provided for the minorities, backward and tribal areas depressed and other backward classes”. The constitution makers therefore recognized the necessity of a separate political and administrative structure for the tribal areas of the erstwhile province of Assam by enacting the sixth schedule in the constitution guided by three major considerations; (i). the necessity to maintain the distinct customs, socio economic and political culture of the tribal people of the region and to ensure autonomy of the tribal people and preserve their identities, (ii).the necessity to prevent their economic and social exploitation by the more advanced neighboring people of the plain and (iii). To allow the tribal people to develop and administer themselves according to their own wisdom and geniuses.
Therefore the “Alternative Arrangement” demanded by the UNC is constitutionally legitimate. Now therefore, when one says “not an inch of Manipur territory will be acceded” one is simply making a statement of power relationship between the dominant over the dominated.
Demand for political self determination is not a crime, it is rather legitimized by the United Nations and you will agree this is Birth Right of very people in the world big or small. I’m sure the anti merger lobbyists of the valley will share this view.
When the tribals protest against development disparity it is wrongly perceived as an issue of inequality as ridiculed in your editorial. I wish to remind you Sir, and others who has the same perception about it that it is not an issue of “Equality” but “Equity” that we are not receiving our due share. For instance in all assembly constituencies except two the valley has twenty thousand plus electorates whereas, in almost all assembly constituencies in the hills except six we have thirty thousand plus to fifty thousand, yet. Delimitation was prevented by virtue of being majority community thereby depriving our right to more representation of tribals in the assembly. Competent tribal officials are denied the right to hold official position of Chief of Govt. departments and are placed as OSDs.
True, Imphal is the state capital but does that mean every institutional opportunities should necessarily be concentrated in the valley alone and run educational services in the hills merely to maintain literacy rate in the state? Our job opportunities are deprived, that is how valley people died in Gargil war as tribals, that is how many Ahmeds & Muhamads are recruited as primary school teachers in the hills and protected by authority. It is not the material wealth of the valley people we envy about and complain, but the chauvinistic attitude! Identifying the valley alone as Manipur. For instance “Kangleipak” I guess means only the valley.
True, tribals also live in the valley and in fact? I have been here for the past 16 years, one fine morning my neighbor on the left said “Tangkhuls should not be spared” and he made it sure that I hear it, on another day another neighbor on my right said “Tribalsingna Tampakda laaklaka peishaa daalaka aphao shai”. A few years ago some people went around Dewlahland, Nagaram, Tangkhul avenue and Chingmeirong with blaring loud speaker announcing Tangkhuls should not be given house rents in the valley. Essential commodities should not be sold to them. I understand these things were emotional reaction against offences committed by a few rascals. However with all such happenings we definitely don’t feel at home and we are equally insecure for that matter even in Nagaland, as you rightly pointed out that in such a situation “madness is only a step away”. Empathizing rather than intellectualizing the issue may be more practical to reconcile the issue.
Radical movement on both sides apart, the autonomous district council and the sixth schedule was a gift of Indian Constitution to the tribals of the NE for self governance and reconciliation, the inclusion of which in the Indian Constitution was not without protest even those days in the constituent assembly by the representatives of the plain people in the erstwhile Assam state. However, the sixth schedule has failed to satisfy the aspiration and expectations of the hill people for reasons that is does not confer real autonomy as the word implies. The ADCs have to depend on their respective state governments in matters of financial allotments and assistance. Mere increase of political power or autonomy without reference to financial autonomy and feasibility is considered no good solution. In the event of reorganization of states in North East India in 1971 a number of developmental functions were conferred on the ADCs but even this was considered a fragile arrangement as it did not have statutory support and the ADCs had to depend on the changing political relations with the state leadership. The development activities of the ADCs depends on the political party or leadership that runs the state administration. Even on subjects conferred to ADCs, state could make laws and override legislation made by the ADCs. It can even be suppressed and suspended by the state.
In Manipur the ADCs are not yet given sixth schedule. Sixth schedule is a constitutional mechanism for devolution of power to the hill people for self governance but this constitutional provision require collection of revenues to run the ADCs. Therefore, the hill people are sensitive about their rights particularly over land and forest. There is also the provisions of paragraph 3 (i) (g) of the sixth schedule which requires the ADCs to regulate appointment and succession of Village Chiefs and Headman which is strongly objected by the tribals as it violates their tradition of of heredity. More powers particularly power of access and control over resources are demanded but without converting tribal land into revenue land. There is therefore, confusion among the hill people themselves, while one group demands sixth schedule another group rejects it and in between the state makes no move to solve the deadlock. However, the state cannot be blamed for the stalemate entirely. Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin. If the hill people want more financial power it is fair to realize we also have financial responsibilities to fulfill at least for self governance and it should also be fair for the Nagas to reconcile their own confusion as one group accepting ADC as status quo, second group demanding devolution of more power to the ADCs through sixth schedule, third group demanding alternative arrangement and the forth group demanding sovereignty, all at a time indicates we have no demand at all.