Prerequisites of a new Bill: Negotiation and reconciliation

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A right step in the right direction, we would say. If we must add, it should have been the stepping stone before enacting any legislation or for that matter any political decision which would have its bearings directly or indirectly on the people of the State. After an all-party meeting presided by the Chief Minister agreed to draft a new Bill in place of the now almost rejected Protection of Manipur People’s Bill 2015, Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam has gone on record stating that the Government will consult leaders of both the hills and the valley to avoid loopholes while drafting a new Bill for protection of indigenous people of the State. As assured by the Deputy Chief Minister, all stake holders (of both the hills and valley) must be consulted before going to the crucial task of drafting a new Bill. If any such Bill is genuinely meant for protection of all the indigenous people, there should not be any voice of objections, leave apart violent uproars. But what we saw at Churachandpur in the evening of August 31, 2015, hours after the Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015 and two associated Bills were passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly told a very different story. The violent outburst left no doubt that a sizeable section of the population did not interpret the three Bills in the line of the ILPS proponents. To put in a nutshell, one may say there was no consensus over the three ill-fated Bills.
To our understanding, absence of consensus could have been due to communication gaps, trust deficits or in the worst scenario political rivalry fuelled by ethno-centric political aspirations and concomitant policies of exclusivity. As we have written repeatedly, ethno-centric political aspirations are suicidal in the context of the tiny State of Manipur and its minuscule population who are under serious threats of being overwhelmed by non-indigenous people. If, on the other hand, consensus remains elusive on account of communication gaps and/or trust deficits, we can certainly bridge the gaps and build trust among different communities through dialogues, negotiations and closer physical interaction. It was rather disappointing that the pro-Bills group and the anti-Bills group were taking two parallel paths which had no meeting points. This time, we hope, there will be a meeting point. Sitting on either side of the wall and vindicating the three Bills through volumes of arguments and rejecting the Bills with an equal volume of counter arguments would only create trouble and turmoil. All civil society organisations camping on either side of the three Bills should also make sincere endeavours to reach out to each other otherwise any headway in either direction would remain as elusive as ever. Hill-valley dichotomy cannot always run parallel. As hinted by the Deputy Chief Minister, each and every community should be taken into confidence before enacting any legislation which has direct or indirect bearings on the life, rights and collective interests of any community. It is now more than clear that there are differences in reading the Bills which have been withheld by the Government of India. Now the only viable option left is negotiation and reconciliation. The majority community should never try to browbeat its way and the minority communities should shed the concept “whatever is yours is for all of us and whatever is mine is exclusively mine”.

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