United People’s Front | Press Communique
The United Peoples Front (UPF) is appalled and distraught at the propaganda set forth by the United Committee Manipur (UCM) during the rally on October 31, 2018 against what they presumed as a threat to the territorial integrity of the State, including administrative alteration, extension of Sixth Schedule provision, Art. 371A, etc in Manipur. While expressing our understanding over the apprehension of the valley community, the UPF would like to assert that non-alteration of its administrative structure and maintaining the status quo is a blatant disregard for the historical plurality of Manipur, denial of administrative justice and gross violation of the political rights of the Kuki/Zo kindred tribes in particular and the hill tribes in general.
Historically, the Kuki/Zo kindred tribes have their own republic villages with exclusive territorial rights and administered their own affairs free from British, Indian or Manipuri interference. Treaties of Manipur including Treaty of Yandaboo, 1826 and Agreement for Kabaw Valley, 1834 or the Merger Agreement, 1949 did not affect the hill tribes. Alexander Mackenzie pointed out, “The (whole) tribes seem to be practically independent and not have been affected at all by the Treaty of 1834” (History of the Relations of Government with the Hill tribes of the North East Frontier of Bengal, 1884: p.173). And while Manipur was annexed in 1891, the tribesmen were annexed separately by the British.
It is, however, unfortunate to observe that the territorial areas of the Kuki/Zo kindred tribes were bifurcated by the Manipur Chin State Boundary drawn by the Boundary Commission in 1856 without any consultation or consent of the people. When the British colonialist seek to exploit the Kuki/Zo kindred tribes fought valiantly to protect their rights and territorial land during Kuki/Zo Gal during 1917 to 1919. Succumbing to the might of the British colonial might, geo-political appropriation was adjudged curtailing their inherent political rights and status. Politically, therefore, within the Indian Union, when the Manipur Maharajah signed the merger agreement in 1949, the tribal chiefs were not part of it and retained exclusive hold over their territories whose records were originally given by the British. An attempt to compensate and amend these injustices was experimented in the form of Article 371 C, the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) and Autonomous District Council. As it was tested and tried, these pseudo-autonomy does not suffice to restore or compensate the historical rights of the tribal people. To this effect, the Hill Areas Committee had taken resolution thrice to extend the provision of Sixth Schedule in the Hill Areas of Manipur on 15th March 1978, 8th June 1983 and 18th July 1990. Whereas the Manipur Government had also recommended for extension thrice on 13th May 1991, 17th August 1992 and March 28, 2001.
In view of these historical realities and political circumstances, and in the interest of peaceful coexistence, the UPF relentlessly pursued for an inclusive and non-communal political autonomy for the Kuki/Zo kindred tribes that does not infringes on the territorial integrity of Manipur and is constitutional in the tripartite talk under the Suspension of Operation Agreement signed by UPF and KNO, Government of India and the Government of Manipur. And the Government of Manipur should be reminded of its prior commitment that “… [it] shall extend all possible help and cooperation in the tripartite talk with SoO Groups …” (Agreement Point No. 2, MoU of Government of Manipur and JAC-AATB, dated 10th May 2017) and be cautioned against any attempt to sabotage the prior agreement in favour of the selfish agenda of one community.
In the midst of these promising peace negotiations, it is unfortunate that the UCM, acting the devil’s advocate, attempted to subvert the on-going peace negotiations in the guise of safeguarding the interest of Manipur. It only exposes their communal centrism and oblivion on the plural historical narratives of Manipur. And it is time that the historical and political discourses differentiate the millennial long history of the Meeitei community against the history of the present idea of Manipur – a colonial construct which was 200-300 years old – subsequently taken over by India that didn’t serve justice to none. And that only administrative realignment and restructuring based on historical realities, constitutional sanction and peaceful negotiation is the only way forward to attain peaceful coexistence in Manipur.
The UPF, therefore, request the Government of Manipur and general public not to be swayed by lopsided agenda that infringes on the historical and political rights of the hill tribes. And appeal all to continue to support the on-going peace negotiations that is inclusive, non-communal and constitutional which will usher in peace and progress, and refrain from voicing agenda that may stoke communal hatred and hostility.
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