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Politics of Divide in Law and Its Remedies in Manipur

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By: Dr. Sapam Dilipkumar
The little civilization of Manipur had flourished on the fertile soil of tiny valley surrounded by nine ranges of hills where the first seed of civilization was sown. It was proved that indigenous peoples of Manipur including the Meeteis were first settled on the lap of resourceful green Hills after they had came out of the caves. It is also believed that Lai Haraoba – the most sacred indigenous ritual cum festival of the Meetei expressing the creation of the World, Man and human settlement, in the form of dance -was first performed at the Koubru Hills which is considered as the Jerusalem of the Meeteis. Manipur had been an Asiatic Sovereign having history of more than two thousand years recorded in her own script spreading its territory as far as the southern portion of China in the north, the gold mines in the Sibasagar valley, the river of Chindwin in the east and south, and Chandrapore ( Cachar) in the west. Both hill and plain people were the real strength of Manipur in those days. Maharaja Bodhachandra made his proclaimation before the members of First the Manipur Legislative Assembly on 18 July 1948 in which he declared that the present area (Manipur) is 8,650 square miles plus 7,000 square miles of Kabaw valley, including 7,900 square miles. The same territory was merged into Indian Dominion when the Mararaja of Manipur signed the controversial Merger Agreement in 1949.
Manipur After Merger
Manipur merged into Indian Dominion on 15th October, 1949. Many historians and eminent scholars of Manipur denied the term “merger” but preferred to “annexation” which is not a legitimate method for acquisition of territory under international law. Thereafter the Asiatic sovereign was downgraded to Chief Commissioners Province governed by a chief Commissioner. It was an insult to the people of Manipur as the sovereign state was relegated to the lowest status among the Indian states. Those who were sent to govern have little knowledge of Manipur. It were instances where new chief secretary who is coming to take his new post send wire reading how far Imphal is from Manipur. Then, the state was granted the status of union territory in 1956 having no power of legislation. People of Manipur were not satisfied with the delay in granting statehood to Manipur. People had decided to launch non- violent agitation against the indifferent attitude of the Union Government demanding for early granting of Statehood. The movement was known as Statehood movement in the contemporary history. Thereafter, Manipur was granted statehood in 1972 under the North East State Reorganization Act, 1971.
Contentious Legislations
During 1956 to 1971 (i.e. sixteen years of union territory,) Parliament enacted various laws for the union territory of Manipur. To name a few are the Armed Forces Special Powers ( Assam and Manipur) Act, 1958. The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960, the Manipur Hills House Tax Act, 1966, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971 and the Constitution (Twenty- Seventh Amendment) Act 1971. Except the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, all the legislative policy above mention laws is based on the politics of divide. Legislative history tells that before granting the status of Union Territory and attaining statehood, the Parliament enacted the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, which has been a bond of contention for the people of Manipur and Government of India. In the two hour summary debate in the parliament, both M.P. from Manipur namely, Laishram Achaw and Rungsung Suisa argued against the Armed Forces Special Power Act. People of Manipur led particularly by Meira Paibis have been protesting to abrogate the Act from the statute book of India for decades. Hundreds of civilian lost their lives under the shadow of the Act in the past 65 years.
The Indian Parliament enacted the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 as a part of ambitious mission of egalitarian land reforms in India which even led to a serious constitutional crisis in India. Instead of unifying hills and valley, the Act rather facilitate in broadening the line of hill – valley divide in Manipur because of the fact that the Act has been enforced only in valley area. Even though there is a proviso which empowers the state government to extend the whole or any part of any section of the Act to any of the hill areas of Manipur, no government could enforced the Act to the whole of the state irrespective of hill and valley because of oppositions from various quarters.
Legislative process of MLRLR Act, 1960
Land or territory is the condition precedent for human existence. It is also one of the important factors for production without which there shall be no development. Ensuring social and economic justice particularly for minimizing inequality in income and wealth has a reciprocal relationship with land reform. With a grand vision to bring about social and economic equality in post Independent India and to achieve the goals sets out in the preamble and part IV of the Constitution of India, Land reformation was started through legislation. Indians studied in England had been influenced by Harold Laski’s view that political equality … is never real unless it is accompanied by virtual economic equality. Land reforms in India have turned into constitutional crisis leading to various constitutional Amendments and evolution of the doctrine of basic structure of the constitution.
In this backdrop, Government has undertaken the most urgent steps for land reformation in Manipur as well. The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms was introduced in Lok Sabha on 9th December 1959 and the Bill was referred to a Joint Committee of the Houses on 15th December, 1959. The joint Committee headed by the than Home Minister Govind Ballabh Pant, consisted of 30 members – 20 members from Lok Sabha and 10 members from Rajya Sabha. Three MPs from Manipur namely Laishram Achaw Singh, Rungsung Suisa and Laimayum Lalita Madhav Sharma were present in the Committee. The Committee held 5 sittings in which Laishram Achaw and Laimayum Lalita Madhav Sharma were present in all sitting while R. Suisa was absent in all sittings.
The Committee received 8 memorandums and one representation submitted by the following individuals and associations:
1. The Protest Committee on the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill, 1959, Khwai Singjabung, Imphal;
2. Shri L.M. Ibungohal Singh, Imphal;
3. Manipur Rajkumar Association, Imphal;
4. Shri M.K. P.B. Singh, and Shri L.M.Ibungohal Singh, Imphal;
5. Shri S. KrishnaMohan Singh, Administrator Palace, Imphal;( representation)
6. The Protest Committee on the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill, 1959, Khwai Singjabung, Imphal;
7. Manipur State Council, Communist Party of India, Imphal;
8. Manipur State Congress Committee, Imphal;
9. Manipur Land Reforms Pratibad Sabha, Imphal
Dissenting Opinion
Elements of truth bury in the dissent. The Committee recorded minutes of Dissent. Three members of the committee – Kamata Singh, Dasarath Deb and Laishram Achaw have expressed dissenting views. What is interesting and worth to study is the dissenting opinion of Laishram Achaw – an M.P from Manipur. He argued that Manipur is situated in the distant corner of India and all there measures of land reforms have not been introduced at all and some of the provisions are altogether unknown in that part of the country. There are no intermediaries and no Zamindari or Inamdari system in Manipur. He further observed that in Manipur, we are undertaking this legislation without any data or statistics as such and any one can quote any data to suit his own purposes. In other parts of India, when legislation is undertaken, some committee is set up to enquire into all aspects of agrarian situation and to recommend ways and means with a view to cope with the local conditions. Here, he has highlighted indifferent and negligence on the part of the committee when they were performing a task which would have serious repercussion in future.
He lamented that it is strange that while the census of land holding and cultivation has been carried out in all the states, the proposal for census of land holding and cultivation for Tripura and Manipur was dropped. He predicted that immense difficulties and undue hard-ship may result at the time of implementation of these provisions. It should have been better for the Joint Select Committee to send a fact finding team to Manipur for ascertaining the true facts. It is rather difficult to believe without seeing. His views accorded with American Jurist Roscoe Pound theory of law who propounded that preliminary investigation into social facts is condition precedent for legislation. Quoting a proverb “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”, he placed that what is best for the more developed and industrialized areas of India may not be suitable in some respects for a backward and economically underdeveloped territory like Manipur. However, The Committee, after having considered the draft report, adopted it and announced that the report would be presented to Lok Sabha on 8th Feb,1960, and laid on the table of Rajya Sabha on the Same day.
It is worth and need to have further investigation into the matter that when the joint committee has submitted draft Bill, Article 1 (2) of the Bill clearly provided that the Act extends to the whole of the Union Territory of Manipur. Surprisingly, when Bill was transformed into Act after the completion of legislative process, it was stated that the Act extends whole of the state of Manipur except the hill areas thereof. Hence, there is cloud of suspicion on how the extent of the Act has been changed. There might have been amendment of the Bill when it was discussed on the floor of the house. Further investigation is required.
District Councils and Hill Areas Committee
No sooner than attaining Statehood, the Parliament has passed the Constitution (Twenty- seventh Amendment) Act, 1971 inserting Article 371C as special provision with respect to the state of Manipur. On a close look, it follows the British path of divide and rule policy in the sense that it has the potential to divide the administration of the state and ample room for interference of the Central Executive to internal affairs of the state thereby undermining the power of the state which may amount to violation of federal principle upon which the Constitution of India is erected.
In the same year the Parliament has enacted the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 for the establishment of District Councils in Hill Areas in the union territory of Manipur. The Act seems to be the soft version of the Six Schedule of the Constitution of India that originally draft and apply for schedule tribes of erstwhile undivided Assam. As Manipur was outside the preview of the Government of India Act, 1935, there was no question for application of Six Schedule of the Indian Constitution in Manipur.
British did not annexed Manipur after they defeated Manipur in Anglo- Manipur War, 1891 and kept it as protectorate state ruled by the king who, in fact, was under their control. However, they have introduced and strengthen the politics of divide and employed it as an effective political tool and the same was allowed to penetrate into the functioning of the Manipur State Durbar. They have directly interfered in the Manipur hills administration drawing a sharp divided line between hill people and plain/ valley people. The politics of divide which British played tactfully for centuries seems to have been inherited by the Dominion of India/ Indian legislatures that is reflected in laws made for the people of Manipur by the Parliament. But, Now, India – as the largest democratic country in the world; as one of mightiest military strength in the world; as emerging economy of the world; as a country which can be member of elite group of space science and as one of the leading propagators of peace and tolerance – ought to change and rectify her politics towards the North- East people particularly people of Manipur. Rectification would be possible if those laws which foster division of the people and land of the state are amended or scraped from the statute book of India because as long as those laws are in force there will always be turmoil in Manipur. Alternatively, Government may design a constitutional scheme which would foster peaceful co- existence among various communities of Manipur and it will undo past injustice as well.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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