All Tribal Students' Union Manipur announces agitations from April 5, demands Autonomous District Council at the earliest
IMPHAL: Demanding that the elections to the Autonomous District Council (ADC) be held at the earliest, the ATSUM (All Tribal Students' Union, Manipur) has announced that it would "resume agitations" on the issue from April 5, 2021.
Stating that the Union is ''perturbed with the State Government's apathetic attitude towards the ATSUM's charter of demands'', the Union said that there was mutual agreement for materialisation of the demands by both the parties in its parleys held on August 3, 2019.
The Union alleged that the State Government is deliberately paralysing the grassroots-level democratic institution of the hills by procrastinating the Autonomous District Council elections, and demanded that as mentioned in the two Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) -- dated November 4, 2020 and March 14, 2021 signed between the State government and the ATSUM -- the government must issue notification for the general elections to the Autonomous District Councils.
The ATSUM agitations include two-day picketing of Government offices including ADCs of the hill districts, mass rallies in all the hill districts followed by "intensified" forms of agitation.
"In a perfect design to divide and confuse the tribal populace on the contentious ADC elections, the State Government in its Cabinet meeting held on March 27, 2021, dubiously decided to hold the ADC elections including the newly created four districts namely Pherzawl, Noney, Kamjong and Tengnoupal districts," further alleged the apex tribal student body of Manipur.
The ATSUM also stated that the Cabinet decision is ambiguous adding that "it is an ideal mechanism of the State Government to divide the tribal brethren and derail" the ADC elections. Further, the ATSUM said that depriving the tribals of their Constitutional rights, the State Government has been deliberately ignoring the agreed terms of the charter of demands. The charter of demands includes various issues confronting the tribals like reservation, education, health, TA & Hills, land and forest etc., stated the tribal students' body.
While accusing the State Government of continuing with its "traditional deceitful act", the ATSUM asked the tribal people ''to be prepared to stand united to assert their due Constitutional rights.''
The ATSUM also said that it was extremely annoyed with the Government of Manipur "for the traditional deceitful act to further suppress the Constitutional rights of the tribal populace through its (State Government) appeasement and divisive policy".
The apex tribal student body of Manipur also said that the decision of the State Government to conduct ADC election including the four new districts, namely Pherzawl, Noney, Tengnoupal and Kamjong is ambiguous and needs to be clarified by the State Government. It alleged that the decision is nothing but another "sinister design to divide the tribal brethren," and to derail the elections to the ADCs. The ATSUM further said that the State Cabinet's decision is one good "modus operandi to loot the tribal people" of their Constitutional rights.
According to ATSUM, the State Government is accustomed to dismantling the rights and solidarity of the tribal people. "One of such is the present ADC election impasse," it pointed out, adding, "From day one of ATSUM's insistence for timely conduct of ADC election in early part of 2020, we have been placing on record that the Constitutional rights of the tribals for instituting a mandated and popular democratic set up in the hills should not be played at the fancy and whims of any individual including people at the helm of affairs".
The ATSUM further said, "However, the office of ADC was extended for six months at the convenience of the present dispensation with a condition that elections to the six ADCs shall be held in the intervening month of October and November 2020 via an order No. 7/1/2019 – Hills (ADC/ELEC) dated March 19, 2020 issued by Tribal Affairs and Hills, Government of Manipur. "But, contrary to its standing order and with clear intention of delaying the ADC election, the State Government deliberately failed to conduct the ADC election within a stipulated period of time (i.e. October/November 2020) citing an excuse that electioneering processes were not timely processed."
Subsequently, according to ATSUM, after the Hill Areas Committee (HAC)'s recommendation for timely conduct of ADC election and relentless pressure from the apex tribal student body of Manipur, the State Government in its Cabinet meeting dated November 10, 2020 decided to hold ADC elections timely.
Accordingly, the Manipur State Election Commission was intimated to initiate the necessary arrangement for timely conduct of ADC election, said the tribal student body. "And thus, from the official conveyance between State Government and State Election Commission, it was ascertained that the whole process of electioneering including schedules of date for election was finalised but the publication of election notice was halted at the last hour", it alleged.
The ATSUM also said that during this ''whole episode of mudslinging'' for and against timely conduct of ADC election between ATSUM and State Government, the demand of instituting separate ADCs for the newly created four districts did not arise. "However, as perfectly designed, the demand for separate ADCs for the newly created districts surfaced all of a sudden and the State Government with its wit had cleverly grasped it as a tool to paralyse the grassroot level democratic institution of the hills," it alleged.
The students' body then said that ''it is neither against nor in support'' of installing separate ADCs in the newly created four hill districts of the State in this given situation "because it is envisaged that immediate installation of separate ADCs in four districts is far-fetched and technically expensive as the process will be time consuming and ultimately the existing six ADCs will have to be stalled at the expense of demand for more number of ADCs. Clause (d) of sub-section (2) of section (3) read with sub-section (3) of section (3) of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 clearly defines that 'the administration may after consultation with the Hill Areas Committee may, by order notified in the Official Gazette unite two or more autonomous districts or parts thereof so as to form one autonomous district council'".
According to the ATSUM, ADCs of other north-eastern States also followed the same. It pointed out that the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) of Meghalaya covers five districts, Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) covers three districts, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) covers four districts and the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) covers two districts.
"Thus, for the time being, the four newly created districts namely Pherzawl, Noney, Kamjong and Tengnoupal districts can be covered under the existing six ADCs for the convenience of facilitating a timely and consistent installation of grass root level democratic institution in the hills at this given time and the process of bifurcation can be initiated after election," it added.
The ATSUM added, "At this time of confusion, instilled within us (tribal brethren) by selfish individuals, the All Tribal Students' Union Manipur implores all the tribal populace to stay vigilant and be prepared to stand united to assert our due Constitutional rights". (Agencies)