By Rajkumar Bobichand
The most vexing issue before the government of Manipur and its peoples particularly the Meiteis is the charge of the United Naga Council (UNC), Naga People’s Organisation (NPO) and All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) etc that Manipur government is dominated by the Meiteis and is communal and biased towards the hill dwellers. This is not once a blue moon that the UNC, NPO and ANSAM etc are alleging Manipur government and the Meiteis as communal and biased. They are consistently charging and campaigning against the Meiteis.
On the other hand, the Government of Manipur (GOM) appears neither taking the charges seriously nor tries to make it clarify. Few people on their own efforts try to make it clear and help the hill dwellers that the Meiteis are not communal and biased as they perceive.
There is one reason why the UNC, NPO and ANSAM etc are charging the GOM as dominated by the Meiteis and against the Meiteis as National Socialist Council of Nagaland – NSCN (IM) leader Thuingaleng Muivah organised his movement on anti-Meitei foundation. Therefore, the UNC, NPO and ANSAM etc have to work under Muivah’s design.
There is another fact that the NSCN (IM) leader Thuingaleng Muivah does not know today’s Meiteis are not the Vaishnavite Meiteis of the 1960s when he faced humiliation. The Meiteis also faced a number of humiliations from the despotic kings whose political powers were taken away by the British colonial rulers; nobles and Brahmins.
Though UNC, NPO and ANSAM etc know, they deliberately act as if they don’t know who have been ruling Manipur since the coerced merger of Manipur to the Dominion of India. Not only the UNC, NPO and ANSAM etc but also all the ethnic groups of Manipur need to know the simple facts of the history of Manipur.
All the democratic institutions of Manipur were abolished and so also all the democratic rights of the people of Manipur after 15 October 1949. Government of India abolished the Manipur State Assembly constituted by the elected peoples’ representatives of Manipur. The first Manipur State Assembly was elected on adult franchise in July 1948 – the first of its kind in South Asia and Southeast Asia. “The representative returnable from General, Hill and Mohammedan constituencies were in the ratios of 30:18:3 respectively with an additional two seats for the representatives of Educational and Commercial interests”. The whole valley of Manipur was divided into 29 constituencies. Three of them were plural constituencies. That is each voter had two votes, one for the Mohammedans and the other for the non-Mohammedans. “The special constituencies from which one Muslim and one Hindu were returned were Lilong, Mayang Imphal and Yairipok”. The Jiribam (Rajbari) (Hill area) was allotted a general seat. The whole hill area of Manipur was divided into 18 single member constituencies. The hill man residing in the valley demanded that one seat should be allotted to them in one of the valley constituencies. Accordingly, “Moirang constituency was made a special constituency from which one Hill representative and one valley representative were elected”. Therefore, the Manipur Legislative Assembly consisted of 53 seats.
However the democratic lives of the peoples of Manipur were short-lived after the coerced merger. A Chief Commissioner appointed by and from Delhi was ruling Manipur as representative of the President of India. Manipur continued to be a Part C State and the State continued to be administered by the President through a Chief Commissioner or a Lieutenant Governor who acted as his agent. There was an Advisory Council appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Commissioner. The Council met once in three months presided over by the Chief Commissioner. The Council was an advisory body and as such its advice was not necessarily binding on the Chief Commissioner. On 1 November 1956 Manipur ceased to be a Part C State. Manipur became a Union Territory under the Union Territorial Council Act, 1956. The Territorial Council consisting of 30 elected Members and 2 nominated Members was constituted on 16 August 1957. The Territorial Council was later converted into the Territorial Legislative Assembly in June 1963. The Territorial Legislative Assembly consisting of 30 elected Members and 2 nominated Members started to function from 23 July 1963.
Only after a prolonged democratic and peaceful struggle of all the ethnic groups, Manipur became one of the States of India in 1972. However, the democratic space provided by statehood was short-lived with the proclamation of national Emergency by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1975-1977). While the rest of India was savouring the taste of democracy once again, the Manipuri people were lurching towards a nightmarish existence. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) was enforced in the whole of Manipur in 1980. This was to counter the armed political movements that became very pronounced in the late Seventies.
The first Chief Minister of India’s newly granted State of Manipur was Mohammed Alimuddin who belongs to Pangal (Manipuri Muslim). Yang Masho Shaiza who belongs to Tangkhul was also Chief Minister of Manipur for two times. Present Member of the Rajya Sahbha, Rishang Keishing who also belongs to Tangkhul was also Chief Minister of Manipur for three times. Rajkumar Dorendra, Rajkumar Jaichandra and Rajkumar Ranbir were only the Chief Ministers in the league of Chief Ministers of Manipur from 1972 to 1997 during which there were direct President’s Rules for six times.
More importantly, the Civil Secretariat which is making plans, policies and programme of Manipur is Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers’ arena where few Meiteis could enter. Civil Secretariat is the arena and backbone of the government where non-local IAS officers; IAS and Civil Service officers who originate from the hills as they are given the constitutional privilege. Only now few Meiteis fighting one their own merit can now enter the arena.
So, it is very simple who is ruling and administering Manipur. Who are making the plans, policies and programmes for the welfare and development of Manipur? Who is communal and who is biased?
The Government of Manipur instead of being silent on the charges needs to come out with a white paper to make not only the UNC, NPO and ANSAM etc but also all the ethnic groups Manipur understand who have been really administering Manipur. And also to help all the people of Manipur understand who is communal and who is biased. It will also help to clear the misunderstandings and misperceptions.