ATSUM back with call for ADC Bill The divide still runs
It is obvious that the ADC Bill drafted by the Hill Areas Committee in the last Assembly is still alive and kicking and it is just this that the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) is seeking to wake up in the new Assembly. Perhaps this is where the BJP will need to reach out to the Naga People’s Front and the Kuki People’s Alliance (KPA) and see how to work things out. Incidentally the NPF and the KPA, which made its debut this time, have extended support to the BJP and how this is worked to the advantage of the State Government remains to be seen, but surely the point raised by ATSUM must have reached the eyes and ears of Chief Minister N Biren and his Council of Ministers. The NPF already has one Minister in the Council of Ministers while the KPA, with two MLAs in its kitty, has none. This is for the moment and given that ATSUM comprises the major hill based student organisations such as Kuki Students’ Organisation and All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur, the BJP will need to reach out to MLAs representing people of the two different tribal groups. To the advantage of the BJP, the Chairman of the HAC this time is a first time BJP MLA, Dipu Gangmei and much will depend on how the new Chairman goes about addressing the point raised by ATSUM. Giving more autonomy and more power to the Autonomous District Council should be of no problem, but the politics of the day is such that there is apprehension that this could lead to something more and it has to be seen in its entirety. This is a line which must have haunted the BJP leadership, the last time when the Bill was first prepared and pressure was mounted on the Government to get it presented on the floor of the Assembly. Remember ATSUM had even imposed a 12 hour bandh last year in pursuit of its demand, which is that the Bill should be tabled in the Assembly and discussed. This was and is the stand of ATSUM and soon one may expect other hill based organisations to throw their hat into the ring and get into the debate. Like the BJP led Government in the last Government and maybe even today, civil society organisations such as the United Committee, Manipur (UCM) smell a rat in the ADC Bill drafted by the HAC and this is probably the bone of contention.
In opposing the HAC drafted Bill, the UCM minced no words in stating that the said Bill is sectarian, in a statement issued to the media on December 3 last year. The UCM did not stop there but went on to elaborate that the demand of the Bill is basically a demand to form a State within the State of Manipur. In other words, the Bill seeks to by pass the State Government while addressing issues of the hill districts and this is unacceptable is the line that the UCM took in its statement on December 3 last year and this is what is worrying. In plain words, it is the shadow of a Greater Lim or Nagalim which is haunting the Bill and this is again something which cannot be brushed aside that easily. It is still not clear what course of action ATSUM would adopt in the coming days or even after some months, but the BJP led Government has its task cut out and that is to address the points raised by the student body and the HAC. Former MLA of Ukhrul Assembly Constituency, Alfred Kanngam Arthur was quite vocal in demanding that what is due for the hill districts ought to be addressed via the ADC Bill drafted by the HAC. There is no reason to believe that this line of argument would not be picked up by tribal MLAs this time and Chief Minister N Biren will surely need to do more than just reach out to the NPF and the KPA but sit down with them and sincerely talk things over, else Manipur may see stormy days ahead.