The Instrument of Discord

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(A void document with venom of violence in its lifeless veins)

Photo Courtesy: Telegraph India
Thounaojam Brinda                          Photo Courtesy: Telegraph India

India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948. It adopted its Constitution on 26th December, 1949 which came into force on 26th  January, 1950. Part III of the Constitution incorporates characters of the declarations made in UDHR and non-enforceable duties of the state are laid out in Part IV, the Directive Principles of State Policy. The magnificent UDHR was proclaimed to be the standard parameter on which the fundamental rights of all members of human community are to be protected universally. The signatories vowed that pledge. This Latin Maxim, Pacta Sunt Servanda discourses on principle of keeping one’s commitments. The signatories of the UDHR are bound to work towards realizing the objectives laid in the same. The states that call themselves democracy are the worse perpetrators of war crimes. Look at the United States and India, self proclaimed most vibrant and biggest democracies, respectively.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) is the international law that largely regulates treaties. Its Article 2(i)(a) defines ‘treaty’ as an international agreement concluded between states in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation. It seeks to settle the disputes concerning treaties, like other international disputes, should be settled by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of international law and natural justice.

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) requires Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) wherein manipulation and coercion on the indigenous population are the conditions that should not be present in the process of obtaining their consent. There is issue over consultation and consent in which the later has a higher threshold. In treaties and conventions, the elements of force, manipulation and coercion are to be totally devoid of when the treaty is entered into and one of the parties is indigenous, wherein, the affected indigenous is in charge of the process of the treaty or agreement. Sufficient time for debates and discussions on the nature of the treaty ought to have been given to the affected indigenous wherein they are equipped to form a well informed public opinion depending upon which the people can make decisions on matters affecting them. This is what ‘Prior’ implies in its conditions.

The concerned indigenous population ought to have been given sufficient and satisfactory information, time to deliberate and debate before conveying consent in language understood by the indigenous people. They take part in the decision making process on matters that affect them. In law, nothing less than free consent is lawful consent.

The consent is sought. The domestic definition of ‘Free Consent’ given in the Indian Contract Act, 1872, goes to say: Section 13 is on Consensus-ad-idem, two or more persons are said to consent when they agree upon the same thing in the same sense. Section 14 further adds that the consent is said to be free when it is not caused by coercion or undue influence or fraud or misinterpretation or mistake.

On the Manipur Merger Agreement that has been the bone of contention in this violent Manipur-India conflict, the elements that played active characters in the chain of events that led to the signing of the document by the Constitutional Monarch are vital to decide the legality of an agreement/accord/treaty/document that has affected the lives of the people of the state which was already a democracy.

The Monarch was ‘deceived’ into coming to the Redlands Palace, Shilong. The immediate dispense of the State Police that was responsible for the Monarch’s security and replacement of it by the Indian Military (Jat Regiment), the liberal use of  confinement,  coercion and blackmailing from 18th to 21st September, 1949 on the Monarch, the total absence of consulting and obtaining the consent of the elected government and the people are the lacunae in the Instrument of Discord between Manipur and India. Manipur was a democracy by enacting its own written Constitution (1947) under which election was held under the Universal Adult Franchise by June, 1948.  For India, it was a matter of last bus as the rigorous integration process to solidify a nation called India (Hindu India) under the active policy of the Indian National Congress. India suddenly became an imperial power ready to stop at nothing to spread its new found tentacles. Sardar Patel and VP Menon, under the support and patronage of Mountbatten (before transfer of power), are the heroes of the series of forced annexations that followed. Nehru rightly observed in 1946 that no princely state was in a position to fight the military might of India. He disclaimed the divine rights of the princely states but Manipur was a democracy at the time of its forced annexation. Gandhi maintained silence. Silence is consent too. Silence on the face of injustice is said to be the worse deed according to Hindu scripture.

The process of forced integration was ruthless and engulfed the princely states and an already democratic state. Sri Prakash, Governor of Assam, VP Menon, Minister of State Affairs, Sardar Patel actively forced the seized Monarch of Manipur to sign on the Instrument of Accession without the connivance of the then Manipur State Legislative Assembly. This was done in clear violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations (India has been a member of the UN since 1945) that strictly obliges its member states to strictly refrain from using force or threat against the territorial integrity or political independence, or in any manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.

Nari Rustom, advisor to the Governor, unceremoniously forced the redrafted Agreement to the confined Monarch. It may be mentioned here that the Chiefship of Manipur state was hereditary on direct line by rule of primogeniture under the proviso that it was to be approved by the Government of India since a notification made on the same on 18th September, 1891. It is worth mentioning here that Sanad is a deed granted to native princely states rulers confirming them in their states in return for their allegiance to the British India. Churachand Maharaj was put on throne formally by the British on 22nd September, 1891. In the high strung ensuing scene at the Redlands Palace in Shillong in September, 1949, the Monarch was moved by the tears of Das Gupta, who could only have been planted to blackmail the Monarch for ends of India’s premeditated interest.

The questions over the Instrument of Accession with India are over the methodology adopted by India and the nature on how the consent of the Constitutional Head was obtained. The element of ‘deceive’ was present from the moment the King was invited to Redlands Palace on the pretext of a meeting with the representatives of the Indian Government. The military seize made on the cordoned area where the King was confined completes the act of force and coercion. The King was forcefully confined using the military (State Police convoy of the King was dispensed with), ‘threatened’ and ‘coerced’ into putting his signature (under duress) on the document that was going to decide the fate and affect the lives of the indigenous people involved in the agreement. The people nor the Manipur State Legislative Assembly were discussed with. The agreement stands void ab initio, i.e., to be treated as invalid from the outset. The Constitutional Head, the Monarch’s capacity to sign the document without taking cognizance of his assembly and people does not hold good for its legality in a country that was already a democracy. Anything that is void has no legal effect, whatsoever. In any condition, it is null and void. With these vital parameters, the Instrument of Accession is void ab initio, null and void.

Call the Instrument of Discord any name. It was invalid from the start. It is null and void. It violates India’s own domestic, international and natural laws. Manipur was a democracy and had its own written Constitution. The heart and soul of democracy are united, completing a wholeness in the interests of the people, of the oppressed, of the exploited. The free people were not heard and kept in the dark while their Constitutional Head was being seized in a military fortress, coerced, blackmailed and threatened to sign on a document that was murdering democracy and the war was waged on the free indigenous people who were ahead of India in many ways, and we are all worriers and victims of the same. People have been resisting. The onus is upon India to end this war. In that, India is nuclear imperialist, Manipur does not produce its own food sufficiently, it is a colony of India. a colony is the buyer of finished goods. It was India who waged the war, and thus, it is upon India to end the same. Remove military and paramilitary from Manipur, stop militarizing Manipur Police, hold the responsibles accountable for their acts and omissions. The masters who are responsible for the blood bath and genocide must be made to pay. The people of Manipur have paid a heavy bloody toll for the war waged upon them by India. The rulers do not feel safe and the people get slaughtered like farm animals. The Instrument of Accession is just a void document that has violence in its lifeless veins. It is India’s attempt to legitimize its deceitful conquests. It is a void document and India must stop enforcing it in Manipur.

Treaties are said to be foundation/source of international law and thus, a key to the peaceful existence amongst nations. With the elements of deceive, force, coercion and no legitimate ratification of it, the Instrument of Accession remains the Instrument of Discord that is a void document and that has cost the peaceful existence of the people of Manipur and the decades of violence has ravaged the lives of its people. India have promoted itself to a nuclear status without ever signing the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) yet imposing the legality of a void document violating provisions of its own and international laws with impunity. Who stands to judge and bring a legitimate solution to this decades long conflict that erupted when India waged its war on a free indigenous population remains to be seen. The unaccountable bloodbath unleashed by the state will remain etched in blood in the proud history of the people of this land. We may not be taught history, but, we are the history now.  History of bloodbath, the slaughtered, raped, disappeared, maimed, traumatized, generations of indigenous have been systematically wiped out in this India’s multipronged neo-imperialist war through policies that are lethal to the people under its occupation. Violent history is required by the rulers, the people do not need rulers. The people need peace. Time for the people to know the truth to end this unjust war. Time for letting the people decide on matters pertaining their ‘life’. We have paid in blood and dignity raped.

End the occupation

Let the people of Manipur decide

Thounaojam Brinda

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