All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) has reminded the state government of Manipur to respect and materialise the agreed terms of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on April 7, 2021 for issuance of notification for General Elections to ADCs on or before May 5, 2021 and adhere to its (state government) decision of conducting Autonomous District Councils’ elections on or before June 25, 2021 as placed in public domain through its press release dated April 5, 2021by formulating election SOPs as done in previous bye elections to Legislative Assembly of the state and recently held Legislative Assembly elections of other states. The apex tribal student body of Manipur said it is of utmost need in nature to install/institute grass root level democratic institutions in the hills to ensure that the rule of law is administered competently in the state as enshrined in the constitution of India through Article 371 C,
In a press statement issued on Monday, ATSUM said that while the whole human race is reeling under the dreadful Covid-19, the life of the tribal populace of Manipur state is worsened for want of basic amenities including its constitutional rights given by the constitution of India through Article 371 (C ). It further said that the protection of the “tribal communities” in all aspects is posing under threat due to non-functioning of the grass root democratic institution i.e. the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs). According to ATSUM, the concept and purpose of instituting local self-government in the hill areas of the state as envisaged by the framers of the Indian constitution is being belittled and overlooked by the current dispensation to meet its selfish political agenda.
The tribal student body then said that the rule of law in the state is seemingly interpreted and administered in the convenience of people at helms of affairs because as far as Autonomous District Councils are concerned, the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order 1972 issued by V.V. Giri, the then President of India in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 371 C of the Constitution clearly states that the constitution and power and functioning of District Councils in hill areas is scheduled matters of Hill Areas Committee(HAC) and that the state government shall normally effect to the recommendation of the Hill Areas Committee. “However, the Manipur state government is still hesitating to issue Notification for General Elections to the Autonomous District Councils though the Hill Areas Committee had recommended two times for timely elections of ADCs in its meetings held on October 8, 2020 and April 12, 2021respectively,” it pointed out.
The tribal student body then said, “As a matter of fact, demand for timely election of ADCs would have been more appropriate and fruitful if the Hon’ble legislators of the hills jointly push for it as the initiative shouldered by ATSUM as frontliner for the said demand is not encouraged by few section on the plea that ATSUM is an apolitical Students’ organisation”. It added, “However, ATSUM would like to place on record that ATSUM, since its inception, had been vocally advocating for safeguard of various tribal constitutional rights and ADCs being constitutional rights of tribals, ATSUM considers it as rightful to assert tribals’ inalienable rights and thus, the demand for timely election of ADCs was placed before the state government as the tribal legislators failed to articulate it while busy serving the interest of their masters or political party principles”.
The tribal student body then said that “along these days of journey” for demand of timely conduct of ADC elections, ATSUM sailed through a number of turbulence from within and outside manoeuvring to crush the movement and destabilising the organisation through means of threat and appeasement from various corners. It then alleged that substantial means of mechanism had been instrumented by the current dispensation to hijack the movement and which is still continuing. “But, with the constant support of the tribal populace especially the federating units of the hills, ATSUM could sustain thus far with a number of Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) signed with the state government for timely conduct of ADC elections,” it added. The statement also said that the latest agreement was signed on April 7, 2021 wherein it was agreed that notification for general elections to the Autonomous Districts shall be issued on or before May 5, 2021. “Importantly, the state government’s decision to conduct ADC elections on or before June 25, 2021 was also placed before public domain through its press release dared April 5, 2021,” it added.
The tribal student body then said that it is also a matter of concern that COVID-19 positive case is surging while at the same time, there should be no vacuum of governance at the grass root level on account of the surging second wave of the pandemic. “As opined by many experts, COVID-19 will continue to exist and that we should all learn to adapt to live with it following standard operating procedure (SOP) formulated from time to time by concern departments and therefore, either the state government or local self-government should continue function effectively and for which, elections to local bodies and Legislative Assembly of various states are conducted effectively following election SOPs issued by Election Commission of Indiaamid COVID-19 positives cases surging,” it also said. As such, the tribal student body said that the state government should accelerate the vaccination programme in the entire tribal villages of the hills and adopt appropriate SOPs to facilitate smooth and safe conduct of the impending ADC election.