The founding fathers of our Constitution including Gopinath Bordoloi, the Premier of Assam and Rev Nichols Roy and Jaipal Singh who were members of the constituent Assembly were of the firm opinion that the tribal Areas and the tribal people in the non-tribal State of Assam should be given a fair deal with autonomy at the district level. Hence, the incorporation of Article 244 (2) which ensured that the provision of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution shall apply to the administration of the Tribal Areas in the State of Assam.
I have asserted repeatedly that during the movement of demanding full fledged State fo Manipur, the Central leaders, particularly, Late Shrimati Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister strongly insisted to know the stand of the tribal people without which they hesitated to handle or deal with the matter. Indira Gandhi’s difficult posers were language problem and district autonomy in the tribal areas (Please note: In this Article 244 the words “Tribal Areas” are used and not “Hill Areas”. The two crucial posers had been thrashed out by the delegate of the Tribal Leaders Council led by me when we met Indira Gandhi on the 18th May 1970 (Monday) twice at 9 am and 12 noon. We also met Jagjivan Ramji and YB Chavanji. Indira Gandhiji announced the conferment of Statehood on Manipur in the Parliament on the 30th September 1971 (Thursday). As agreed upon in November 1971 it was imperative to enact an Act to provide or extend autonomy to the tribal people and to establish District Councils in the Tribal Areas. As the State was under the President’s Rule, Parliament was bound to enact The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971. As such, the existing Act is the Act of the Centre or Parliament and not the Act of the State of Manipur as provided in Article 245 (I) which reads as “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament may make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India….”
Under the said Act, six Autonomy District Councils were established, namely, Chuachandpur, Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel and Sadar Hills. Unfortunately, the State Government superseded (not “Dissolved’) under Section 47 of the relevant Act which is an instance of blatant and wanton act not sparing any one of them. Chandel District Council was superseded on the 17th October 1988, Ukhrul, Churachandpur, Tamenglong and Sadar Hills on the 18th March 1989. Last of all, Senapati District Council was superseded on the 24th November 1993.
In the meantime, the Hill Areas Committee adopted a notorious and suicidal resolution on the 18th July 1990 to the effect that until and unless the provisions of the Sixth Schedule was extended to the tribal areas in Manipur no election to the six District Councils should be held. As consequence therefore, the Sixth Schedule Demand Committee led by Pu K Vungzalian as Chairman launched movement and submitted Memoranda to the Prime Minister, Home Minister and State Chief Ministers. It may be quoted that Shri RK Ranbir Singh Ministry recommended on the 13th May 1991 followed by Shri RK Dorendra Singh Ministry on the 17th August 1992 and lastly, Shri Radhabinod Singh Ministry on the 28 March 2001. The latest development was a direction from the Centre that the State is required to furnish the implication or elaboration of the words “Subject to local adjustment” which is not yet acted upon by the State Government. In sum, the question of the Sixth Schedule has been swept under the carpet by the State Government. It also transpires that the hill Areas Committee has withdrawn the earlier resolution last year.
As of now, the State Government has preferred to held elections to the District Councils after they spent in slumber of twenty years counting from 1988, which reminisces Washington Irving’s character, Rip van Winkle with the help of an Ordinance promulgated by the Governor by invoking Article 213 of the Constitutions which is produced here below:-
Article 213 (1) – If at any time, except when the legislative Assembly of a State is in session, or where there is a Legislative Council in a State except when both houses of the Legislature are in the Governor is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinances as the circumstances appear to him to require:” Corollary to or as natural consequence to the promulgation or Ordinance, Constitution of Delimitation Commission or Committee, finalisation of delimitation after inviting objection and suggestion which may consume at least months after it starts the process of delimitation. Preparation of the electoral Rolls without avoiding the procedures is bound to follow. The most important or pertinent point or question is whether it will be wiser or rather possible to hold elections during monsoon and the working season of the poor farmers which lasts till the harvest is over at the fag of November. When Neil Armstrong step out from the module after landing on the moon he described, “A small step, but a big leap forward”. Likewise, holding elections to the District Council before the next session of the Assembly sometime in the month of October may be called “A small step, but a big leap forward” for the SPF Government. However, nothing short of the provision of the Sixth Schedule will satisfy the aspiration of the tribal people in Manipur.