The All Manipur Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) has once again called for a complete shutdown in the entire hill areas of Manipur from 5 am to 5 pm on December 18. The shutdown has been called to demand the introduction of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) recommended ADC Bill 2021. Manipur tribals in Delhi are also planning to bring the issue to the national capital by organising a mass protest rally on December 18 in support of the collective tribal movement spearheaded by ATSUM, the KSO general headquarter and the All Naga Students Association Manipur. The attention of national media is of course the target. It seems both ATSUM and the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly has dug in its heels on the demand for calling a special session of the assembly to consider and pass the legislation Manipur (Hill Area) Autonomous District Council Bill, 2021 recommended by it. An agreement was signed between the state government and the ATSUM delegation on November 25 in which it was agreed to hold a discussion between HAC and the government on the draft ADC Bill, 2021 within five days. After the agreement, members of ATSUM who were arrested by the police were released while the blockade was suspended.
Does BJP have any promises?
IFP Editorial: Everyone wants to know what promise the BJP has with regard to the ADC bill.
Updated 17 Dec 2021, 9:38 pm
In the follow-up, the Additional Chief Secretary in charge of Tribal Affairs and Hills Letkhogin Haokip issued a meeting notice on November 27, 2021 inviting the HAC Members to attend a discussion with legal experts in addition to the members of the new committee constituted by the government. While terming the meeting notice as "ultra vires" the HAC demanded a special session of the Manipur assembly to table the pending Manipur (Hill Area) Autonomous District Council Bill, 2021. The HAC communique signed by its Chairman K Leisiyo said that the meeting notice directly contradicts the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly and breaks all conventions as followed by the legislature since the creation of the state in 1972. The HAC resolution asserts that as mandated by the Presidential order of June 20, 1972 and as unanimously decided by the Committee on August 16, 2021, the Hill Areas (Autonomous District Council Bill, 2021) as adopted was recommended for introduction in Manipur Legislative Assembly by the state government under Para 4, Function of the Hill Areas Committee.
We had earlier suggested that either the Law Secretary or the Advocate General or the Secretary of the Manipur Legislative Assembly to give their official legal position on whether the state assembly is empowered to amend or repeal the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 or to the legality of the amendments made in the past, so as to clear the air in the minds of the general public. A debatable issue has come up as to whether the HAC is acting within its mandate or beyond it. Its mandate was given by Article 371 C and the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972.
The question now is whether that mandate also empowers the HAC to amend or expand its own mandate? Well, the 1972 Presidential Order does give it the power to recommend any legislation with respect to any scheduled matter. But, it does not necessarily mean that it can amend its own mandate. In the statement of objects and reasons of the proposed bill, it is clearly mentioned that it aims to provide more autonomy to HAC and ADCs with regard to administration and management of the hill areas of Manipur. Now, the ultimate question is, what is the BJP going to do about it? Everyone understands that it is its ally NPF which is making the moves on the chessboard with an eye on the 2022 assembly elections. None of the political parties wants to antagonise the voters in the hills and that is exactly why they are keeping mum with regard to the controversial bill. On the other hand, they also have to take care of the sensibilities of the valley voters where territorial integrity is a very emotive issue. In the 2017 assembly elections, BJP promised to end the indefinite UNC economic blockade and resolve the Churachandpur embroglio and it delivered. So, everyone wants to know what promise the BJP has with regard to the controversial bill.
First published:17 Dec 2021, 9:38 pm