Following expiry of the tenure of the six ADCs of Manipur on 30 November last, the state government superceded the Council bodies and placed them under the care of respective Deputy Commissioners by invoking an irrelevant section of the ADC Act, 1971.
On the other hand, the state government has failed to initiate any steps to pave the way for conduct of the pending elections to the Council bodies, even as there is already power vacuum in the ADC administrations.
Taking serious note of the sorry state of affairs, erstwhile Members of Ukhrul Autonomous District Council (UADC) led by its Chairman Dr Yaronsho Ngalung have questioned the sincerity of the state government towards the six ADCs in the hill districts.
“It was a big fallacy on the state government’s part to have invoked Section 47(1)(d) and Section 47 (2)(b) of Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act 1971, because there were not any such conditions requiring the same,” Dr Yaronsho Ngalung stated, while briefing a press conference at his Phungreitang official quarters in Ukhrul town here on Sunday.
“We are not happy with what the state government is doing to the six ADCs,” he continued, adding that the attitude of the state government is detrimental to grassroots democracy and is against the democratic rights of the tribal populace in the hill districts.
“The government has also flatly ignored the Precedent Order No.21/1/2009/CHA dated 05-05-2015 and placed the administration of the council bodies under the care of respective Deputy Commissioners instead of allowing the respective Chairmen to continue as Caretakers of the Council bodies until new Members of the ADCs are elected,” he stated, flanked by Executive Members of the superceded council Vs Paothing, Edmund Chiphang and Wezope Lohe.
According to Dr Yaronsho Ngalung, the move was a big affront not only to the the district councils but also to the grassroots democracy in the hill districts of the state.
“We will continue to fight for the collective rights of the tribals, we will even resort to democratic means of protest if the state government does not rectify this sorry state of affairs immediately,” the former ADC chief warned, adding that they would not take such discrimination lying down at any cost.
On 30 November, the Governor of Manipur, in an order, superceded the Councils and appointed the respective DCs to exercise all powers and duties conferred upon the Council bodies under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, I971 as part of interim measures.
Questioning if the state government was toying with the fate of the council bodies, Dr Ngalung further stated that if the government was concerned enough, then it should have completed all the requisite election process and set the poll date before the term ended.
“Now, another big question is, is it a conventional practice to dissolve the council bodies and leave a vacuum?, Paothing said, asking why the state government was not willing to extend the term of the six councils for a stipulated period until the elections.
He said that such steps could have saved the ADCs from being rendered void.
“Suppressing democratic rights of the tribals in this manner by the state government is totally against the popular slogan of ‘Chingtam Amatani’. We cannot help but suspect that there is mala fide intention,” Edmund Chiphang pointed out.
“CM Biren has said that ADC elections would be conducted at the earliest, and cited Covid situation in the state as the reason for the poll date being undecided till date. But how long will it take the government to fix the poll date when the councils are already left empty?,” Wezope Lohe said.
According to him, there really was no guarantee if the government would hold the elections in time or delay them for a prolonged period. “If the latter happens, then it would be a repeat of the history of 20 years of defunct ADCs in the hill districts,” Wezope Lohe alarmed.
Dr Yaronsho Ngalung said that the Chairmen Forum of the six ADCs submitted a memorandum to the Governor of Manipur on 5 December urging the latter to look into the sorry state of affairs in the ADCs.