A Brief Note on Various Issues of Manipur
By Hareshwar Goshwami
Today, history becomes victim of contentious interpretations to the extent that good academic works has been over shadowed by thick clout of mis-interpretation and anachronous polemical propaganda to fulfill their respective agendas. Mention may be made of some historical events that occurred in Manipur, during colonial and post-colonial period. Most of these claims and counter claims appeared to be politically motivated.
2. On Inner-Line Permit System
There is a widespread misrepresentation that the Congress Party had lifted the Inner Line Permit System from Manipur in November 1950 [vide Notification No. 8537-601 H. D., dated 18thNovember 1950]. This misrepresentation is a product of a malicious political intention to misguide the common sense of the general people. The reality is, the Inner Line Permit System (under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873) had never been enforced in Manipur. Congress cannot be held responsible for abolishing something which had never been there. What the Congress did in 1950 was the abolition of an obsolete British Colonial Permit System which had been enforced in Manipur from 1897 to 1950.It became obsolete in the wake of a more systematized and universalized toll collection system that we continue to see today.
The Congressmen in Manipur are the children of the soil. The Congress values and supports the ongoing movement for the protection of the indigenous rights of the people of Manipur. In 2015, in response to the demand of the people, the Congress-led Government passed the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015 along with two other complementary Bills. Unfortunately, there was a political conspiracy against the initiative of the Congress. As a result, the Bills were rejected by the BJP Government at the Centre. After two years the BJP led Government of Manipur was forced by the people, leading to the adoption of their version of Manipur People Bill’-2018. The Congress party, without any reservation, supported the Bill in the interest of the people. The BJP led Central Government, however, have not responded positively.
3. On Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 is a replica of the British Colonial repressive legislation known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance 1942. The then Dominion of India, in the order to control the disturbed conditions prevailing in the immediate period after Independence, converted the Ordinance into an Act in 1948. The Act was enforced in all the provinces of India, until it was declared obsolete and repealed in 1957. Before the repeal, however, the situation in Northeast became very tense due to armed militancy. As a result, a prototype of AFSPA, called the Assam Disturbed Areas Act was enforced in Assam in 1955. This was followed by enactment and enforcement of the Armed Forces (Assam & Manipur) Special Powers Act 1958.
The Act was rechristened as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in 1972. From 1958 onwards the Act has been enforced to control insurgency demanding freedom from the Indian Union. Under the provisions of the Act, an area can be declared ‘disturbed’ and all provisions of the Act are automatically enforced in that disturbed area, i.e., a declaration which had to be reviewed every six months. The Act automatically become obsolete when the law and order situation are improved. In regards to Manipur, the entire Manipur became a disturbed area in 1980. However, in 2004, taking note of the improvement of the law and order situation, the then Congress-led Government had lifted disturbed areas tag from the seven Assembly Constituency areas of Greater Imphal. The BJP could have done more if it thinks that the conditions under their governance have been more improved than what the Congress had achieved.
4. On Part ‘C’ State Status of Manipur
Manipur was accorded Part C State Status reportedly from 15th October 1949 to 31 October 1956. The Congress has been negatively portrayed for this, as if an edifice of status and identity was permanently destroyed. It is true that “for administrative reasons or strategic necessity and in view of its position in the border it was decided to take over Manipur as a Chief Commissioner’s Province.” That was history. But to misinterpret it as an irreparable lost is academically obnoxious and misleading in the light of the Statehood that we enjoy today.
Historically, Manipur was a British Protectorate State from 1824 to early 1891. From 1891 to 1947 there was an indirect rule. Throughout this period Manipur was under the supervision of the Chief Commissioner of Assam. Manipur achieved independence from British rule under the Indian Independence Act of 1947. The rulers of Manipur conceded to an arrangement under the provisions of the Standstill Agreement and the Instrument of Accession. When the Merger Agreement of 1949 was enforced, Manipur entered into a new structure of an all India political arrangement. Part C status was not restricted to Manipur alone but was applied to other regions such as Ajmer, Bhopal, Bilaspur, Coorg, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Cutch, Tripura, and Vindhya Pradesh. In the case of Manipur, the Part C State Status was a temporary political arrangement strictly adhering to the principle of a linear political progression, from more centralization to subsequent up-gradation to Union Territory Status in 1956 and statehood or self-rule in 1972.
5. On Kabo Valley Issue
The Congress is not responsible for the transfer of the coveted Kabo Valley to Myanmar. The transfer took place in 1834, i.e., about 51 years before the birth of the Indian National Congress. It was transferred under the provision of a treaty known as the “Agreement Regarding the Kabo Valley,” dated 9thJanuary 1834. To compensate the loss, the British Government paid annual compensation to the King of Manipur under the provision of an agreement known as “An Agreement Regarding Compensation of Kabo Valley,”dated January 25, 1834. The British stopped paying the annual compensation after the lapse of the British paramountcy in 1947. The Congress is responsible neither for the transfer of Kabo Valley to Myanmar nor for the stoppage of paying the annual compensation after the Independence. Those who continue to blame Congress are deliberately ignoring history with a bad intention.
6. On Manipur-Myanmar Boundary Issue
Congress is not responsible for any change to the Manipur-Burma boundary that was well established during the British colonial rule. When the governments of India and Myanmar signed the Indo-Burma Boundary Agreement of 1967, the Manipur-Burma sector of the international boundary was based on the Manipur-Burma Boundary of 1896. The 1896 boundary was based on the Commission Report jointly prepared by Lt-Colonel H. Maxwell, (Political Agent and Superintendent of State, Commissioner) and Captain J.C.D. Macnabb (Officiating Deputy Commissioner, Upper Chindwin Commissioner). However, for more than 100 years, invincible boundary pillars have not been installed. Even after 1967, boundary pillars (BP) have not been finalized at some places of the boundary. As a result, certain pockets are considered disputed or controversial. The BJP Government should stop pointing fingers at the Congress while it will allow the Burmese encroachers to occupy our land and resources.
7. On UNIC-Congress Agreement of 1972
There is a wild allegation that Congress had agreed to the demand of “Naga integration” at the cost of the integrity of Manipur. It is a deliberate misinterpretation of an agreement entered between the United Naga Integration Council and the Congress Party in 1972. Perhaps, the agreement was signed with an intention to defend peace and unity in Manipur. The Agreement was based on the principle stand that “Naga integration problem was to be discussed and settled at Governmental level [Clause No. 1, Para 3].” Subsequently, UNIC was absorbed into Congress, and subsequently became a closed chapter without leaving any tangible threat to the integrity of Manipur. However, there were other Naga organisations that had preexisted the birth of UNIC and many other organisations and their splinter (faction) groups which came into existence after 1972. It is perhaps the BJP that had entered into secret understandings with some of these parties with false promises, and creating lots of confusion, apprehension and instabilities in Manipur and the adjoining reasons. Congress is not a partner to any of this unholy alliance and the diabolic designs. On the contrary, the Congress had repeatedly taken strong resolutions in the Manipur Assembly, in 1995 and 1997, to defend peace and integrity of Manipur.
8. On Citizenship Amendment Bill
The Congress upholds secularism. By secularism, we meant the policy of equal respect to all religious groups that constitute the people of India. However, the BJP is anti-thesis to secularism and peace. It advocates hindutva, that is, the policy of promoting an the most chauvinistic and reactionary elements of crony capitalism, pursued aggressively in the name of Hinduism. Accordingly, after the BJP come to power, on 7th September 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs adopted the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 and the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015 and facilitated the unrestraint inflow of illegal Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians. On 19th July 2016, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 [CAB or Bill] was introduced in the Lok Sabha. It stipulated grant of Indian citizenship to illegal Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The Congress protested the Bill for two reasons, that is, (a) it is a blow to secularism as it excludes Muslim and other religious minorities from providing equal respect and facility, and (b) it will have a catastrophic population invasion in the Northeast region. Despite widespread protests by the Congress and other like-minded parties, organisations and communities, the BJP Government passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, on 8th January 2019. The CAB was listed twice in the revised Business Lists of the Rajya Sabha on 12th and 13th February. The Bill could not be moved due to strong opposition and disruptions. But the BJP Election Manifesto has promised to pass a new version of CAB by excluding the Christians and Parsis from the list of the favoured religious communities. The Congress has taken a firmed decision to defeat the BJP from ruining the country in the name of hindutva.
9. On Law on Asylum
An atmosphere of fear (confusion) has been widely advocated by certain sections, who are determined to obstruct the Congress agenda of enacting a “Law on Asylum.” This fear is politically motivated to override the long overdue demands of the right thinking persons, organisations, and communities. Generally, under any asylum law, the grant of protection to any asylum seeker, which has to be granted to fulfill international humanitarian aid, is to be based on political merit and not on the basis of any particular religious or communal favouritism at the cost of secularism and the national interest. As India has been providing accommodation to asylum seekers through grant of Long Term Visa for many decades, there is an imperative need that India must have a law to regulate the entry of asylum seekers and refugees. This policy is fundamentally different from the hindutva policy of superimposing an unsecular CAB that encourages unrestraint inflow of illegal migrants of certain particular religious group to become Indian citizen and overtake the others including the indigenous peoples of Northeast. The proposed “Law on Asylum” have to be framed through a democratic procedure of the Parliament, so that it does not compromise our national interest. Should India become indifferent to human rights and international law, because the BJP and its proxies do not want it?
Half cooked interpretation of history for political gains is very unfortunate and misleading.
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