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Unformatted text preview: COMMENTARY JUNE 26, 2010 vol xlv nos 26 & 27 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 10 The Homeland and the State: The Meiteis and the Nagas in Manipur Pradip Phanjoubam What then is the present conflict in M anipur about? First, the immediate man- ifestation began with the Government of Manipur declaring elections to six Auto- nomous District Councils ( ADCs ). This then hardened after the government refused to allow Thuingaleng Muivah, leader of the Naga insurgent group, National Sot Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah faction) – NSCN ( IM ) – to enter Manipur to visit his village, Somdal in Ukhrul district. The ADC s are local self-governance b odies which have evolved as a parallel of the panchayati raj as the latter is not w elcomed by the hill communities. They came into being in 1973 as per The M anipur (Hill Area) Autonomous District Council Act 1971 of the Government of Manipur, when Manipur was still a union territory. The Act hence is of union g overnment vintage. Defunct Councils However, since 1989 the district councils have been defunct because of agitations in the hill districts that against elections to the ADC s demanding that they should be replaced by district councils u nder the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which would give these councils a measure of legislative and judicial powers as per tribal customary laws. This never happened, hence the hills have remained without the benefit of any statutory grassroots local self-governance mechanism all this while. More than two decades later, the govern- ment decided to reinstate the ADC s, but the 1971 Act had in the meantime under- gone an amendment in 2008. This amendment very broadly seeks to transfer some of the traditional powers of the village chieftainship to the elected d istrict council of tribal leaders. This is what the All Naga Students Association, M anipur ( ANSAM ) and the United Naga Council ( UNC ), objected to and demanded the amendment be scrapped before the ADC elections were held. The government disagreed saying the hard-won election process should not be delayed, but it v erbally promised necessary rectifications to the ADC Act can be made after the dis- trict councils have been formed. On this Pradip Phanjoubam ( email@example.com ) is editor of the Imphal Free Press . As the events of the past two months have shown, Manipur is now a divided house. The seeds for this division were visible even before the merger of the state with the Indian Union in 1949. Today, in this insurgency-torn state, the liberation that a section of the population seeks is not the liberation another wants. The politics behind the 68-day economic blockade over the issue of revival of the Autonomous District Councils in the hill districts, which further hardened after the state government refused to allow the Naga nationalist leader, Thuingaleng Muivah, to visit his “home” village located in Manipur revealed the complex and antagonistic nature of ethnic aspirations that seem to make the...
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