The situation in Manipur is chiefly characterised by the divide between the Meities, Nagas and Kukis or similarly a minority struggle from the majority over the devolution of power and which has led the tribal people for more assertion for autonomy. The issue of self-governance has become the chief issue.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) defines ‘governance ‘as the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country's affairs at all levels. It comprises mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.
Ever since the extended period of ADC incumbent members of the six Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) expired on December 31, 2020, there has been hue and cry from the tribal populace, especially from the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) for the resumption of the Autonomous District Council election.
Despite the series of talks held between the Manipur government and ATSUM, the unsatisfactory assurance from the state government has led the students’ body to intensify its’ agitation.
ADC election should be able to empower the tribals as per the extension of the Sixth Schedule to the hills of Manipur. However, the GoM twisted by inserting a rider that the Sixth Schedule would be extended after certain local adjustment and amendment.
Article 371 A and Article 371 G enhanced the autonomy and power of Nagaland and Mizoram State legislature vis the Indian Parliament Article 371 C limits the power of Manipur legislature vis the Hill areas of Manipur which signifies a constitutional recognition of the hill /plain divide in Manipur.
There is a strong feel that without the proactive role of the GOI (Ministry of Home Affairs) it won’t be able to break the deadlock, and for this to happen the Union will have to exercise its special power under Article 371 C (to give direction to the state on the matter) or else the issue would become unreachable to its’ intended and appropriate destination.
The Manipur (Hills Areas) District Council Act was passed by Parliament on December 26, 1971 when Manipur was still a Union territory and subsequently the Manipur (Hills Areas) District Council rules 1972 was enacted by the State Legislative Assembly of Manipur.
Different amendment to the ADC bills were done by the Manipur government in 2000, 2002 and 2008 though the election to the members of Autonomous District Council were not conducted since 1987and for which subsequent elections were conducted by the then Congress government under Obobi Singh in 2010 after a gap of more than 22 years after the passing of the Manipur (Hills Areas) District Council Act, ADC 3rd Amendment Act ,2008.
Knowing that the power and functions of the ADC are set to be declining with different amendment by the state government, the HAC adopted a resolution on July 18, 1990 (as well as in 1978,1983 and 2002) that no election to ADC will be held until and unless the provision of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India is extended to the hills of Manipur.
As per the provision for the HAC which has four legislative functions and has purely given an upper hand to the Manipur Legislative Assembly: The Bill recommended by the HAC may be passed by the Assembly with variation. (Local Adjustment).
It has been seen time and again that unless the good and positive faith of the valley legislatures give in towards this important constitutional safeguard to the HAC, nothing much can be done. Nothing less than the extensions of the Sixth Scheduled provisions of the Constitution of India will protect the interest and aspiration of the tribal populace in general.
The state has accumulated all the sickness of the past corruption and unless the Central government intervenes and sets the system in order, we are afraid more chaos and problems comforting the society will cropp up for many more years in the days to come which will have more bitter confrontation of violence and chaos that the past has never experienced.
The hills districts in Manipur inhabited by the tribal population needs a lot of development and progress for the people to sustain themselves in the long run and empowering the people at the grassroots level governance will surely alleviate the pains and suffering of the general tribal population.
The election which was conducted by the then Congress government in 2010 after a gap of more than 20 years was vehemently opposed by the Naga civil organisation like the UNC, ANSAM, etc.as the content of The Manipur (Hills Areas) District Council Act, ADC 3rdAmendment Act, 2008 was meant to suppress and deny the rights of tribals.
Today the same ADCs elections have become a bone of contention between the state government and the All Tribals Students Union ,Manipur (ATSUM) a conglomeration of All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) and Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO) .
Power, development, progress, positive discrimination is all synonymous together with backwardness, oppression, discrimination, subjugation, inequality and the likes.
The Constitution of India has envisaged positive discrimination for the upliftment of this community.
The Government of Manipur should endorse the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution or the HAC recommended ADC Bill 2021 for the tribal people to progress and feel empowered.
I will give you a talisman.... Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test… Recall the face of the poorestand the weakest man[woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him[her], will he [her] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to control over his [her] own life and destiny? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melt away. -Mahatma Gandhi
(The views expressed are personal)
Also Read: 'HAC Bill is a misnomer and misleading'