The Indo-Manipur political economy relationship has for long been not favourably good ever since the contentious merger of Manipur to India. Consequent upon signing the Merger Agreement, the democratically elected Government in Manipur was unceremoniously abolished and its political status downgraded to a ‘Part C State in India’ under a Chief Commissioner where citizens had no democratic space. It took more than 22 long years of sustained movement for restoration of full-fledged assembly and fully responsible government, for the centre to grant statehood to Manipur. India, in the said period of time had completed building the infrastructure and laying its development foundation. Whereas for Manipur, in those times, its democratically elected legislative assembly remains dissolved thereby excluding her from the development and democratic process.
The lack of trust due to prevailing democratic and development deficit and the consequent psyche of the masses that people in the state had not been duly treated as a citizen of the democratic country further fuelled the ongoing revolutionary struggle. For long, the struggle in the Northeast used to be between the ‘oppressed class’ and the ‘oppressor’. As long as such revolutionary movement is based on class line and the class struggle pursued in right direction, one could not find such struggle of not being victorious in the pages of history. Among those non-principal and devious means to contain such struggle, engineering ethnic conflicts and inter community clashes is one of them. It is expect for the government to make concerted effort to bring disunity among the oppressed class. This is what which is exactly prevailing at the moment. The people of Northeast are now entrapped in such treachery and intrigues laid by the government. In a way, the government is no longer a party to the conflict. From a party to the conflict, the Government has been successful to become a mediator to the conflict.
That is the reason why, all the eight states of Northeast are beset with ethnic and inter-community crisis in one form or the other. India continues to engage in such intrigues with remarkable success due to the ignorance and not making concerted effort of such ploy and also due to the handiwork of the ‘class collaborators’ from among those who are aware of it.
The GoI-NSCN(IM) Peace Talk which has been ongoing since 1997 affected all the neighbouring Northeastern states is one such part of it. The talks which started with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had further been continued afterwards with the United Peoples Alliance (UPA). As of now, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the biggest party in the NDA, had on August 3 of this year signed the ‘Framework of Agreement’ with the targeted objective of bringing to solution within three month’s time.
It can be observable from the trends so witnessed that, the GoI, though seems to be withdrawing from agreeing or assuring to fulfill the demands of the NSCN (IM). The NSCN (IM) also, on its part seems to climb down from many of its core demands. Earlier, talks used to be in third country at the highest level with the Prime Minister. But subsequently talks started to be held in Delhi, that also through interlocutors, that also changed for so many times. Sovereignty was no longer in the demand. ‘Greater Nagaland’ was scaled down to ‘South Nagaland’, then ‘Supra State’. And now, the demand is ‘Alternative Arrangement’. What indicate it are, what models of Sixth Schedule it could be? Among the thirty subjects in it included, autonomy by having direct relation with Delhi, and Naga Social integration based on ethnic line. All these cannot be agreed upon and consented by the valley based civil society because of the perpetual threat in the territorial integrity of Manipur due to the demands of the NSCN (IM). Even the two rounds of talks with the interlocutor, RN Ravi, have already been held making concerted efforts to bring to the knowledge of the GoI through Ravi the past political status of Manipur, her history and her internationally recognized age-old boundary towards arriving at a final settlement of the issue. The GoI, from its part have assured of not disturbing the boundary of Manipur. But what is apprehensive to the people is, even if boundary is not disturbed, it remains more or less the same with the bifurcation of the state of Manipur, if there is exclusive autonomous Naga administered area functioned in the line of state within a state. In such a prevailing crucial moment, the civil society in Manipur brings to notice and wants the GoI to come to realization that – considering the historical and distinctive political status of Manipur, the collective interested of the people of Manipur is inviolable. Why because, if the ‘unique history’ of the Nagas is recognized, then on what ground if the historical and political distinctive status of Manipur should be ignored and overlooked? The reasons are given below:
1.More than two thousand years old people’s history of Manipur and the political status enjoyed by the state in different epochs of history should be recognized
2.The inseparable and intricately linked organic geographical and socio-economic hill-valley ties should not be bifurcated
3.The culturo-linguistic ties of the collective co-existing brethren communities of Manipur should be recognized
4.Manipur was a South West Asian independent kingdom which has been in existence for more than 2000 years. Even if, Manipur was brought under British colonialism, Manipur was never a part of India.
5.The independence of Manipur was recognized by many of the international treaties. Mention could be made of the – Anglo Manipuri Treaty (1762), and Treaty of Yandaboo (1826)
6. The political and the administrative reforms enacted and implemented after passing the act in the British parliament were enforced and implemented only in British India. Such political and the administrative reforms which were operational in India never came into force in Manipur.
7. Manipur regained her independence on August 14, 1947 by virtue of the Section 7 (b) of the Indian Independence Act.
8. Manipur already had her own constitution under the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947. Under it, much before the first general election to be held in India in 1952, elections on the basis of universal adult franchise was held in the year 1948 for the first time in the history of South Asia. A 53 member assembly of 53 members having multi-ethnic and plural character was elected. Its first session was held on 18 October 1948. Maharaja Bodhchandra also participated in it and addressed the house as the nominal head.
9. By virtue of the existence of duly and democratically elected assembly, the independent sovereign power was vested to the people.
10. There were no representations from Manipur in any capacity in the Constituent Assembly of India, and Cabinet Mission Plan (1946).
12. The existence of Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 and the Manipur State Elections held under it in 1948 are sufficient grounds for extending/granting Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in recognition of her political status
13. None of the duly and democratically elected members of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, 1948 have endorsed the Instrument of Accession Act.
14. For all the reasons stated above, the GoI has the historical and constitutional responsibility to not disturb and protect the territorial boundary of Manipur, and at the same time should acknowledge and give recognition to her ‘distinctive history’ and ‘distinctive political status’.
Considering all the veracity and truth stated above, Article no. 370 of the Indian Constitution should be extended in Manipur.
The reasons for extending Article 370 are appropriate.
Ø It nullifies Article 3 of the Indian Constitution. This will checkmate ethnicisation of ethnic polity.
Ø This will help in maintaining the age-old ties of hill-valley relationship
Ø This will empower the people in the hills in their endeavour for economic betterment.
Ø It will also be instrumental to make the hill people to become politically self reliant by enabling them to take political decisions without the intervention of the external hands.
To conclude, the aspirations of the hills people cannot be realized without the consensus approval and consent of the valley people. Likewise, the aspirations of the valley people cannot be realized without the consensus approval and consent of the hill people. The GoI should realize this. More strikingly put, why is the avenue for inter-community dialogue still not initiated if the GoI really looks forward a genuine solution which will not be at the cost of each other.
(Produced here is the Key Note Speech by Sanasam Sunilakanta Secretary General National Research Centre, Manipur of the 2-Day Public Dialogue on Present Political Scenario in Manipur held at Kuki Inn, Imphal on Dec 8 & 9, 2015 -Translated from the Manipuri by Aheibam Koireng , Former Editor, Orient Vision, ISSN accredited quarterly journal)