Looking beyond the proposed ADC Bill The ‘greater’ demand
The great ADC Bill divide. It should be obvious to all those who have been reading between the lines and the BJP led Government at Imphal, which interestingly is in a coalition with Naga People’s Front, and the number of civil society organisations see beyond the proposed ADC Bills. It is also obvious that to the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur and the numerous other student organisations and the CSOs in the hills, there is something much more to the proposed ADC Bill prepared by the Hill Areas Committee. And it should also be more than obvious that the opposition to the proposed Bill cannot be seen without the demand for a Greater Lim and the demand of a Homeland raised by the SoO groups which are in dialogue with the Government of India and the State Government. It is not as simple as devolving more power to the ADCs. Not everything can be read in black and white. It has all the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India, is one line of argument put forth by CSOs which have strongly opposed the proposed Bill. In other words, no part of the State can be or should be allowed to be administered after bypassing the State Government, is the line put forth by the said CSOs. On the other hand, the stand of ATSUM and other CSOs and student organisations which backed the 24 hours bandh called in the hill districts, see nothing wrong in demanding what the Constitution of India has put on offer for the hill areas. The divide is stark and add the term Lim or Homeland before the word Divide and one can see the idea of Manipur as a distinct geo-political reality being pulled apart. Given the political reality of the day, no Government at Imphal can afford to overlook what 6th Schedule or Article 371 (C) may portend for the place and the people, especially when such a demand for a Greater Lim and a Homeland has been raised so audibly and so vociferously.
The interesting question is whether the proposed ADC Bill was drafted and prepared with the sole intention of giving more power and authority to the ADC or is a stepping stone towards something more. Take 25 paise or 50 paise first before getting the whole one rupee is a line that comes to mind and surely no one can expect the seasoned political leaders and the Government of Manipur to overlook this possibility. The shadow of Greater Lim and Homeland indeed looms large and it is this which the Congress party had highlighted in a series of meeting some time back after the 2017 Assembly elections here. How things will unfold is not yet clear, but it wouldn’t be surprising if preparations are not being made to pile the pressure on the Government on the proposed ADC Bill. It would do good for the State Government too to think ahead and try to think what agenda may have been rolled up by the CSOs in the hills. It is also only right to understand the spirit behind the coining of the term ‘With Local Adjustment.’ Autonomy, as is generally understood can and should be given to a fraction of the total size of a State. With 70 to 80 percent of the total geographical areas of Manipur falling in the hill region, it would not make much sense for the existence of the State Government if autonomy is granted to 70 pr 80 percent of the total area of the State. This will not make sense.