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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

/ Published by VIRTHLI
~ John Pulamte

One Romuan (Paite) in his article “Tribal Movement: Bangzaiaka Unity Omlou…?” has directly charged me of being a stumbling block in the tribal unity process and unnecessarily put my name in bad light by accusing me on different concocted and unsubstantiated points which I vehemently deny.

I have had an almost similar finger pointing towards me in some Hmar social networking sites but I refused to react as they are being done by peoples who are even scarred to use their real names and showed their identities. Since it is now being done by a respectable and highly regarded central government IRS officer and over and above by (I am told) a Church leader in another dialect and groups, I think I should put my side of the story once and for all.

In the first place, I was accused of being on the opposite end with his peoples and its student body while I was in ATSUM. Let me make it loud and clear here that, it was not so. I still cherished CAUCUS 2005 (a 2-Days Academic Program), held at Lamka and hosted by CDSU during my first tenure as the President of the Manipur tribal Apex body. The active participation and contribution of SSPP and my Paite brothers as Resource Person, Hospitality, Volunteers, Drafting the Declaration etc, in the said 2-Days Academic program was instrumental, immense and unfathomable. The kind of bonhomie and camaraderie I have with CDSU and its constituent unit leaders those days are something which I wish to recall and remember. Slight differences in approach and opinions on some issues and also, choice in times of elections are bound to happen everywhere. Even in our own family our opinions are not always the same.

I of course, do not deny my association with many Kuki, especially KSO leaders since many years. In fact, I was and still is, associating not only Kuki but, other tribal community leaders of Manipur as well. I do this because we have many common issues and interest, and one cannot afford to fight or pursue the same as an individual or as a particular tribe leader.

It is a known fact that my clan, Leiri-Pulamte has a historical relationship with the Khongsai-Kuki clan. Beyond that, I individually have by blood through my mother and this is one thing which I cannot just write off but which I will always proudly respect and withhold till the end of my life.

Though nothing much was written about the handing over of Hmar Inpui President baton from me to Joseph Lalrothang, I just want to mention here that, the reason of my defeat in the Feb. 13, 2016 HI election was not affected by him but by my own colleague, the one man I trust or had worked with for a full tenure particularly, during the height of the Anti tribal bills. I was first disappointed but latter tilt back as I come to learnt that he was misguided, misused and misinformed by someone with dirty MLA election politics in mind. With this fact, I can now put away the question of me being used by one MLA at his own wishes and whims. I do not want to further go in detail as Manipur MLA election is near and I want to continue and maintain my neutrality with regard to 55-Tipaimukh A/C.

Though I have no leanings towards electoral politics till date, I hardly missed the opportunity to cast my vote (as a responsible citizen of India) in 58/46 Bijang Loubuk (G)/St. Joseph School polling booth where I am a registered voter when election comes. Let me deviously reveal here that, in the last two MLA elections, I vote for Pu Phungzathang and will do so again next time as I still do not find any other alternative - TINA factor. Though I’ve never ever sought any personal favour from him, I do so for Marketing Complex of HSA at Rengkai in 2011 through his MLA Fund. The then DC, CCPur as well as TD Department also do chip in for the same.

I entered into HSA first as a Board Member of its official journal, ‘Inchuklai Nun’ in 1998. I was then nominated as EC Member in 1998; elected as I&P Secretary, Gen. Secy., Vice President one after another and formally took charge of President from 2004 till I relinquished the post in 2011. I was its Assembly Speaker till 2013 but I am now only the nominal Junior Adviser. I am however, not at all related with HSA CCPur JHQ and the question of me dictating on their participation or non-participation in JACAATB never ever arises. In fact, I was one of the first to rebuke them on the blunder they committed in putting their position in writing.

As for my election/selection/nomination as Vice President of Kuki Inpi Manipur, my side of the story is like this. Though I am never consulted in the Alliance for Kuki Reformation (ARK) process, I had morally supported it as I believe that it is another process of unification of Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi (Chikhim/Chikhumi/Chikihzom) kindred tribes who inspite of our closeness in all spheres are still to come together as a strong entity. I even suggest to some friends that the term EIMI may also considered and explore as it sounds less political and also, the rest are already tried and tested. In the process, I also expressed my readiness to be involved in it though not on the forefront. Deep in my heart, I still think that any unification movement among us will not succeed if it is dominated or the main initiative taken up by one particular dominant group.

The rider I gave before I accept any post in the ‘reformed’ KIM will also be only after official endorsement by my parent apex body, the HI. I was not present when new team was announced and the oath taking ceremony held. I do not signed the acceptance paper till today as my tribe’s President had suggest that I wait for some more time and that, he will let me know the decision of HI when they made. That has not come so far, and I am still like this.

My Take
In the early part of August 2015, leaders of HI, KIM & ZC had had a few rounds of meeting and discus our various common issues particularly, the then ongoing ILP movement in the Imphal valley and the upcoming Bill on the same in the Manipur state’s Legislative Assembly. As mutually agreed upon, we invite our Naga brothers (UNC) to join us in the deliberation and perusal as ILP and its proposed accompanying Bills concerns us all. Afterwards, we drafted a Joint Memorandum to be submitted to the Governor of Manipur informing him of a Bill that will passed by the state’s Legislators and sent to him for his assent. We, also request him not to give his assent to the Bill(s) as the same is going to impede on the rights and privileges of the tribal peoples of Manipur.

We also expressed our opinion in the Joint Memorandum by stating that, “the peoples’ government succumbing to the violent protest and pressure tactics employed by the Meiteis under the JCILPS will also definitely sent a wrong and negative signal to the peoples of the state and country”. We further opined that, “The consent and approval of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) may also be sought as the same is very much related to the welfare of the hill areas and peoples of the state” and that in the event of the proposed ILPS Bill being consented by the Governor and processed to make it an ‘Act’ to be enforced, we suggest that, “it should cover the Valley Areas of Manipur only as it is being proposed and propagated by the valley peoples alone”.

Towards the end of the Memorandum, we also state that, “Because of all these designs and programs of the majority Meitei peoples, the need for Constitutional Protection with Special Administrative Provisions specifically and exclusively for the hill tribes of Manipur have also been felt all the more necessary and therefore, beseech the sympathetic and immediate intervention of the good office of the Governor of Manipur in this regard”.

Unfortunately, that Joint Memorandum did not reached its proposed destination as one of the four proposed signatories refuse to sign for reason best known to him and the rest of us thought that it will send a wrong signal if only the remaining three signed and submitted. I still believe that things might be slightly different today had that letter reaches its intended end and the carbon copy received by all tribal Ministers and MLAs.

I still somewhat console myself on the issue of ILP vis-à-vis tribal land rights with the declaration of Hmar Inpui Executive Council held on 28 August 2015, at Rengkai, Churachandpur which, “Resolve and reaffirm its position that the Hmar peoples shall ever stand united to protect, promote and preserve our rights over our lands, culture, development and survival from various forces of overt and insidious attempts at assimilation. The amendment designed for the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reform Act (MLR & LR), 1960 should not be detrimental. It should, under no circumstances, infringe upon the rights and dignity of the Hmar peoples and other tribal communities of Manipur. No legislation should be introduced nor amended to alter or threaten our rights to a secure and dignified future or alienate us from our ancestral lands for all time to come. Doing otherwise would be considered gross and undemocratic infringement upon the rights of the Hmar and other tribal communities in Manipur and therefore viewed with utmost unease. In the larger interest of security and peaceful co-existence by taking into account varied differences, diversity and interest, the Government of Manipur should be just and fair in adopting new legislations. As expected of a democratic government, its actions should be accountable and responsible”.

What happens on August 31, 2015 in Churachandpur and Sadar Hills in particular has happened and everyone knows it. It is unfortunate. I salute the ‘brave hearts’ who have laid down their lives and also those who are maimed or injured in the process. I appreciate the efforts given by the leaders of JACAATB and also various Students, Youths, Women, Church and tribe-based Apex Bodies from day one till today.

Meantime, I once again boldly state once again that, I am one who favored to give the Martyrs a befitting tribute in a mass burial ceremony and lay them to rest with the highest honour and give them the respect they deserve as the cause of their sacrifice to me was against the 3 Bills and not 6th Schedule, Separate Administration, UT, State, etc. I also feel that our Martyrs have made Supreme Sacrifice and it is for those who are living to pursue the cause. But, rooms must also be given to our political leaders and our armed groups (KNO/UPF) who are being officially recognized as the party who are fighting for our political causes. The role and responsibilities of provisional committees/bodies, civil societies, mandated tribe or community based organizations must be clearly defined as too many players in the process may not help but jeopardize our movement in the long run. There are also chances of un-mandated and seasonal organizations coming up in the process and that will never be a healthy sign.

The few decisions the joint meetings of Inpis (tribe’s apex bodies) we took during the early stages of ‘tribal movement’ in Churachandpur and elsewhere are never that of mine of all the leaders and are collective in all respect. I am also very sorry to see two tallest leaders among my Paite brothers leaving the field unceremoniously in the early part of the movement for no individual fault of theirs. The first 2 months after August 31, 2016 were the periods when not just the leaders of different tribes but even the general public of the whole Churachandpur speaks in united voice and share a common political dreams. Those days are the days when localities inhabited mostly on tribe or dialect basis have more visitors outside their communities. Leaders of different tribes who hardly mixed up with each other met, eat, drink, talk and share their ideas with each others on a daily basis. I missed those days and wished it come backs someday!

PMP Bill is now gone and Manipur Regulation of Non-Local People Bill, 2016 is round the corner. I do not wish to predict how in will rolled up in the coming few days. I am however quite confident to say that the kind of united and collective voice shown by peoples of Churachandpur districts will not be heard or seen in the immediate future. The other 2 of the 3 Bills are just an ‘amended version’ of the Principal Bill/Act and are of not much relevance for the time being.

Whatever, I am no more in the arena to practically fight the bought as a community representatives. But I hope to continue to work for the tribals of Manipur in my capacity as Member of the newly formed ‘Manipur State ST Commission’ atleast for the coming 3 years. My appointment in this august commission is again commented by someone to be the reason for my moderate stand on the 3 bills movement. Well, ‘those who can, do it; and those who can’t, criticize it’.
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