By Heigrujam Nabashyam
The woes of Leibaak-meeyaam – the common man in Manipur never go away – while Leibaakki Luchingba-sing, the leaders are coolly ensconced in their Shanggai- Bhavan – and in all likelihood it may never go away rather it may get worsened, in the coming days or till the present political dispensation is in place in which the SPF government behaves like a local self government.
This observation has been arrived at after taking into account the records of the last eight years or so of the SPF rule under the undisputed leadership of O. Ibobi Singh, the chief minister, whose only virtue is the very liberal funds given by the centre for the development works – we may remember, only 10 years ago, the annual budget for example, of the Forest Dept. was just Rupees two crores only, which is only a tiny fraction of the SPF’s budget.
Now, take any problem of the last eight years – students’ agitations, teachers’ strikes, Mayek agitation, employees’ strikes, roadways’ drama, AFSPA protests, ethnic strife and agitations, etc. and recount how the SPF government handled the problems. Or take the District Council issue which had rocked the state only one-and-a-half months ago from which the market, the public distribution system including POL and LPG have yet to recover costing the mixed-up public very dearly. And now in continuation of “District Council” another chapter of 20 – days blockade has started since a few days back; this time UNC is the striking agency, pressing the government of India, not the government of Manipur – for the UNC Manipur government is a disconnect entity – to concede to its demands, which are the by-product of the theory of Nagalim and the wisdom of governance of the SPF leadership.
In any of the problems or the issues, the first thing the SPF government did was to let the problem magnified and complicated, by its muting tactics. And ultimately it was the unquestioning public who always paid for the “successful conduct of problems and issues”, by the SPF government or else they would blame Delhi for all the ills of Manipur, not knowing that their own SPF government fails to do the homework. Or the scheme of things for the SPF government may be the age-old tactics “meepum khuding phi maanghanba” – make everyone who has a voice, guilty by sharing a piece of the pie, so that no one raises a voice against its wrongdoings, for which examples are aplenty.
Now take the example of the running problem of the District Council issue, the first thing the SPF government did was it kept the problem simmering and let it mixed with T. Muiva episode – maybe it is its time-tested strategy of solving a problem by causing another problem, or hopefully waiting for another issue to crop-up to divert the earlier one.
However the government again failed to bring the agitators to the negotiating table. It also failed to expose the agitators – if the government felt it so – for their illogical and intransigent approach. The government should also have let every single person know – the media was and is there eagerly waiting to carry the message of the government to every single individual – that their demand was inconsistent with accepted norms of governance in a democracy. And after months of its heroic deeds getting accolades from the confused public, the SPF government ultimately sent its ministerial team to the UNC to seek peace – a master stroke of diplomacy only to be spurned.
Now apart from the SPF governments amazing performance to handle District council issue there is another aspect the UNC have raised. They stand for the exclusive land ownership rights of 90 percent of Manipur – the present provision of the law – in the name of protection of tribal rights, a government of India’s project to protect the extremely weaker sections of the society with a mind especially for scheduled tribes or tribal of the mainland. Fact is, these mainland tribal have pathetic conditions with extremely little prospect to come up in life, for whose cause the Maoist insurgents are supposedly fighting for. Reserving certain areas of land – less than 10% of the area – exclusively for these tribal which count more than 20% of the population of the states concerned or even Jharkhand is a tribal majority state, is a genuine matter; nobody would have any valid argument against this reservation.
However, the reality in Manipur is the other way round. 90 percent of Manipur is exclusively reserved for those communities listed as tribal in the fifth schedule of the Indian constitution and the remaining 10 percent is kept for every kinds of human being settled without any legal hitch, including the scheduled tribes, the unscheduled Meitei tribes, Meitei Pangals, etc. who together constitute around 70 percent of the total population of Manipur. This indeed, is a bizarre case of miscarriage of justice and I truly believe, the Apex Court of India would take cognizance of this gross injustice, if a PIL is taken to it. The point is, any civilized human being would appreciate the spirit of equality which is thoroughly misplaced in the case of Manipur. It is a terrible legal blunder which would not be able to stand the scrutiny of a judicial review if the issue is free from politics.
Of course there may be arguments that this provision is handed down from the past to the present because of the nature of livelihood in the hills, etc. but we may remember that we do not and cannot live in the past, however glorious our past was. The more we push the past into the present, the more we hurt ourselves and ultimately we may destroy ourselves by our own madness for our love of history.
In the last Assembly session, on the last day a private member bill was introduced by the opposition seeking domicile rights for the indigenous peoples of Manipur in any part of Manipur. It may be a beginning. Hopefully every honorable member would understand that much of the communal conundrum would find good alternative if this archaic piece of legislation is done away with. Every member of the August House would also be able to appreciate the spirit of equality and fraternity evolved from the French Revolution in the 18th century. And barring propaganda every member would have understood that the immobile majority community – the Meitei tribes are not a threat to the scheduled tribes too.
However, one understands that such realization would take time; and it may do good, if sensitization of the leaders of every community is also initiated from among the leaders because opinion for such issues would better flow from the top down to the bottom – to the leibaak meeyaam – the public and not the other way round.
As for the sensitivity for such sensitive issues the best way to go about is to do honest and frank discussions among the honorable leaders and understand that we all have a long way to go; and it is all a win-win situation for all of us provided we understand that we all have interests which is best served, if we live together peacefully in this Hill-Valley land and that no one is going to gain by going against this reality.