1. No human race/society has ever earned a place of pride and honour in history on structure bereft of Truth and Humanity. A mountain going up in flames and getting reduced to ashes is only proving that the mountain (enormous size notwithstanding) is never stronger than a spark which is at the very root of its’ own destruction. For any society going down the slides of its’ own downfall, takes all titbits of its’ wrongdoings adding up to mountain size proportion leading to unstoppable implosion. Who is responsible for all the unmitigated woes, we Nagas in Manipur have had to suffer for all the ages past particularly from 1972 the year full-fledged statehood was ushered in.
2. What has ushered in since then for the Nagas on socio-economic-political fronts is series of Himalayan blunders one after another. Lately, deafeningly loud and big talks are being heard – loud-mouthing what the political platform holders have done, are doing and would be doing. In all humility, I dare dismiss them as nothing more than empty gong clanging for nothing worth the salt (seen or perceived) are there on the ground to stand out as due to their credit. Without further ado, I would like to have them pinned down to mere basics of Art. 371C of the constitution which, as things stand today, is the bedrock of our progress and security and they are the following:
(a) Hill Areas Committee (HAC) comprising all the 19 MLA (ST) is a constitutionally empowered entity. HAC, however, for no rhyme or reason stands degraded to a non-entity such that the committee is being treated as a state govt’s creation – an extension of the tribal welfare deptt. Who else other than the HAC is to blame? (b) HAC is a miniature legislature within the state legislature in as much the committee stands charged with the responsibility of exercising powers of oversight on any matter that has bearing on tribal areas (hill districts). Series of administrative, executive and legislative actions have been taken even in the last two terms with far reaching consequences for the tribals. What have you (HAC) done to redeem the strength/powers conferred upon you by the constitution? We have no such illusion that you can redeem all that legitimately belong to us on the strength of your physical, intellectual and economic might; nay never, you can only do so on the strength of the truth of our constitutional rights, constitutional safeguards/protections.
(c) Chairmanship of the committee should go to one who enjoys the Trust/Confidence of the members who by majority votes, put him/her on the chair. There is simply no room for the LA to elect any member or for that matter, the CM to appoint any member as the chairman for that simply amount to brazen violation/negation of the spirit and letter of Art 371C. What have the HAC done to uphold and safeguard the constitutional jurisdictions of the committee?
(d) What is clearly envisaged under Art 371C is bifurcation of budget – one for the valley and the other for the hills in pursuit of viable arrangement to secure a fair and equitable distribution and administration of resources between the two. Without meaning to cast aspersion on any member, I dare say most of the members are just clueless as to how much and where are the resources coming from and as to the end-use. This is how huge unbridgeable disparities between the two have come to stay. If you don’t stand on the truth of your constitutional rights and safeguards in executing public service, who on earth can anyone believe, you can do anything worthwhile outside and beyond the constitutional realm except trying one’s luck in the status of begging?
(e) In the event of differences on any issue between the state govt. and the HAC, the matter would be referred to the governor for arbitration. Governor’s ruling on the matter would be final and binding on both. This is one such provision that ensures HAC’s functional autonomy in as much the state govt. cannot ride roughshod over the committee’s domain. Is the HAC not responsible for the constitutionally segregated functional domains getting so blurred and in the process, rendering itself completely dysfunctional?
Having taken the oath to honour and uphold the constitution as the starting point/cornerstone of public service; in no way do we expect the HAC to perform miracles. We limit ourselves to legitimate expectation that you would conscientiously deliver results within bounds of the constitutional mandate as enshrined under Art 371C. This done and the socio-economic-political strength gained at the civil society levels, the goal set would become achievable. In contrast any society that does not command standing and credibility in terms of socio-economic-political strength would remain self-condemned to survival on begging and therefore achieving even the most legitimate goal becomes a far cry. Where are we? Enough is enough of loud-mouthing glorious things done; it is ‘What and How’ we go about doing things that clinches the issue and that is what the world cares for. What kind of standing do we command in today’s world?
3. Last but not the least, the only one way forward to securing legitimate honour and strength due to the people is by unwaveringly honouring people’s choice of their representatives and those representatives in turn, holding themselves accountable to the people. Enough is enough of these farcical elections only to honour and glorify ‘Muscle powers & Money powers’ all in the name of ‘Nagalim for Christ’. Victims of human rights deprivations that we are, do we ourselves dare inflict human right violations of the worst kind on our hopeless/helpless villagers instead of lifting them up to where they deserve to be? Elections are such rare opportunities for us so-called leaders/educated youth to encourage/inspire people particularly illiterate villagers to exercise their God-given right (once in 5 yrs) conscientiously and objectively such that those holding elected positions would remain ever committed to ‘service to the people first and service to the people last’. It is high time, the door is shown to those of them masquerading around as candidates to snatch people’s mandate platforms on the strength of ‘Muscle power & Money power’. Is it too high a price to pay if we truly aspire for a place of legitimate pride and honour in todays’ world?
My humble submission to the Church leadership: For the sake of your lay congregations in the thousand and for the sake of upcoming generations in particular, you ought to take a firm and unambiquous stand against electoral corruptions in whatever form. Until and unless you secure sanctity of public service platforms, be sure days are not far off for sanctity and relevancy of the church platforms getting muddied in the socio-economic-political whirlpool. It is high time, the Church ought to exert moral/spiritual authenticity and authoritativeness on the populace who are in real danger of getting sucked into overarching electoral vices. Hope and pray, we shall not have a repeat of ‘Rome going up in flame while Nero the emperor looks away’!
And now to the educated youth: I ask of you to seriously reflect and introspect on what kind of future is in the making? Yes, the elders/leaders are there by virtue of age and experiences taking charge of your future making. However, it takes vigilance on your part (being no.1 stakeholders) to keep track of what and how they go about conducting themselves in the discharge of public responsibilities. Remember, everything/anything of what and how they say/do adds up to making your future either solid & robust or a future – tattered & battered. 21st century is no time, no age for leadership behaving like herds of rats running helter skelter in hunt for anything coming their way for grabs & snatch. If you allow such leadership to take the centre stage of public mandate platforms, our future is clearly headed for doom & gloom. I remain wishing I am proven wrong! Will it or will it not? The ball is in your court!! Hope you are ready to take the call on proving yourselves stronger than challenges and worthy of opportunities.
Thank you all and God bless.
Sword Vashum. Retired additional deputy comptroller and accountant general. Views are personal.