THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT’S HISTORICAL BLUNDERS AND REMEDIES TO RECTIFY THEM
By Dr. Khomdon Singh Lisam
This article was originally published by e-pao.net on Oct 23 2012
We can start our discussion from the statement of G.K. Pillai, former Union Home Secretary, which was published on 27 September, 2011 in the Telegraph. According to him, the repeal of the draconian act AFSPA -1958 was one of the first steps towards resolving the vexed conflict of Manipur's valley and hills. He said that "the ancient kingdom of Manipur had a constitution even before India wrote her own and had a proud history and was overnight turned into a C-category state in 1948. He further added " we have to build trust by dealing with the core issues . An apology , say by the Prime Minister or the Home Minister, for the past mistakes could be a start. "
We feel that an apology is not sufficient. We want the Government of India to make amendment of the article 371 C of the Indian Constitution to incorporate the vital interest of Manipur.
History has shown clearly that the Government of India had committed some serious blunders to Manipur which are the beyond the scope of International law during 1947-1950 which led to illegal annexation of Manipur to India These blunders generate a sense of betrayal in the psyche of youths of Manipur today . G.K. Pillai said " Naga political problem in the hills and the Meitei militancy were intricately enmeshed . It was after Nagaland was formed that the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the oldest Meitei insurgent group in Manipur was formed in 1964.". Till today, the past betrayal by the Government of India remains as the source of all perpetual conflicts in Manipur . If the Government of India genuinely wants a long lasting solution bringing peace, prosperity and development to Manipur , they should come out with some concrete solutions in the form of constitutional amendments .
1. Did Maharaja Bodhachandra had the authority to sign the Instrument of Accession without consultation with the State Council ?
According to the Government of India Act, 1935, a princely Indian State may accede to the Dominion of India by an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler thereof. Maharaja Bodhchandra signed the Instrument of Accession on 11 August, 1947 with the Dominion of India. However, on this date , the Dominion of India was yet to be born. The dominion of India came into existence only on 15 August, 1947 and Maharaja Bodhchandra , unlike other kings of princely states was not an omnipotent monarch on 11 August, 1947. He became a constitutional ruler since 1 July, 1947 when he devolved his powers to the newly established State Council.
Maharaja Bodhchandra himself said in his inaugural address of the first Manipur State Assembly held on 18 September, 1948 " I now bring to the notice of the people that I had transferred my powers and responsibilities other than the constitutional ruler of the State Council since 1st July, 1947 before the lapse of British paramountcy and since then I have already remained as a Constitutional Ruler". My argument is if that is the case, Maharaja Bodhchandra had no authority to sign on his own the Instrument of Accession on 11 August, 1947 without the approval of the State Council or the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharajah on 11 August, 1947 needs to be ratified by the State Council or State Assembly on a later date . Unfortunately , this had never taken place . Therefore , the Instrument of Accession on 11 August, 1947 should be declared null and void.
2. Legal validity of the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharajah of Manipur on 11 August , 1947
According to the sub-section (1) of section 6 of the Government of India Act-1935 (2nd August, 1935). " an Indian State shall be deemed to have acceded to the Dominion if the Governor General has signified his acceptance of an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler thereof . The original copies of the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement signed by Maharaja Bodhchandra are currently with the Union Home Ministry under file no. F/375/48-Public and marked " Secret". In case of Jammu and Kashmir, the Instrument of Accession was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on 26 October 1947 , accepted by Lord Mountbatten of Burma, Governor-General of India on 27 October 1947. The Humanist Party, Manipur had requested the Union Home Ministry, Government of India to provide a photocopy of the Instrument of Accession but till date they remain silent about it .
People are speculating that probably, Lord Mountbatten , the Governor General might not appended his signature on the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Bodhchandra due to technical reasons or otherwise.. The Section no 6 b (4) of the Government of Indian Act -1935 mentioned " Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring His Majesty (Governor General) to accept any instrument of Accession or supplementary Instrument unless he considers it proper so to do or as empowering His Majesty to accept any such instrument if it appears to him that the terms thereof are inconsistent with the scheme of Federation embodied in the Act.". Could the historical experts and legal experts in India may kindly enlighten in this area and help in getting a copy of the signed document ?
3. The Instrument of Accession signed by Maharajah Bodhchandra of Manipur on 11 August was never ratified by the Manipur Constituent Assembly and therefore not valid.
In case of Jammu and Kashmir , the Instrument of Accession was ratified on February 15, 1954 . The assembly members of Jammu and Kashmir who were present cast a unanimous vote ratifying the state's accession to India. The Indian Constitution was drafted which came into force on January 26, 1950. All the provisions mentioned in the Instrument of Accession of Jammu an Kashmir were incorporated in the Indian Constitution under article 370 whereas in case of Manipur (Article 371C) , nothing is mentioned about Instrument of Accession or Merger Agreement. This shows gross discrimination against and utter disregard to Manipur . Since the Instrument of Accession was never ratified by the Manipur Constituent Assembly, it should be declared as "null and void "
4. According to the Government of India Act-1935 (6-(9) , as soon as may be after any Instrument of Accession or Supplementary Instrument has been accepted by His Majesty under this section , copies of the Instrument and His Majesty's acceptance thereof shall be laid before the Parliament and all courts shall take judicial notice of every such instrument and acceptance. Could the Government of India or the State Government or historians or members of the Judiciary or legal profession may kindly enlighten whether the accepted copies the Instrument of Accession of Manipur by the Governor General were laid before the Parliament and all courts of India ?
5. Signing of Merger agreement on 21 September, 1949 was done by deceit and forceful tactics contrary to international laws.
Even after signing the Instrument of Accession, Manipur did not lose her sovereignty as the Union Government was to look after Defence, External affairs and Communications. The signing of the Manipur Merger Agreement was therefore between a sovereign state called Manipur and the Government of India. It should therefore free from coercion or force or undue pressure.
In September, 1949, the Maharaja Budhachandra was summoned to Shillong, capital of Assam . Maharaja Bodhchandra, together with his ADC Gourahari , Andamohan and escort departed from Imphal on 15th September, 1949 and reached Redlands, his personal residence in Shillong, on 17th September, 1949. He immediately sent his ADC to the Governor's residence to inform Mr. Prakasa, Governor of Assam of his arrival, only to be told that the latter was away from Shillong. The meeting with Governor Mr. Prakasa on the first day, 18 September, 1949 ended abruptly, as the Maharaja got emotionally upset, when Nari Rustomji, Advisor to the Governor of Assam unceremoniously and abruptly produced the Manipur Merger Agreement for signature.
On his return from the meeting, Redlands was found surrounded by a strong contingent of the Indian army, who pitched their tents within the grounds. Plain clothes police also appeared and refused to allow anyone in or out. Attempts by the Maharajah's staff to send out telegrams were refused, and since there was no telephone in the building the Maharajah's party found themselves virtual prisoners. Requests to withdraw the security police were ignored.
On 18 September in the evening , he wrote to Mr. Prakasa , the Governor " Now that the sovereignty of the State has been vested in the people , it would be in the fitness of things to hear the people's voice and learn their sentiments so that the time of action may not in any case be unconstitutional". The Maharaja also wrote " I am merely a Constitutional Head of a full responsible Government under the Constitution Act approved by the Government of India (British India) and the voice of the Majority is my voice and it shall be constitutionally and legally binding on me not otherwise."
On 18th Sept. 1949 Mr. Prakasa sent Telegram to Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon:
" Manipur Maharajah detained under regulation III & any other means ' (code language of house arrest of King under military siege) - King as captive, mental torture and coercion by Indian forces. "... HH (sic. Manipur king) must not under any circumstances be allowed to return to Manipur with his advisors and I have accordingly instructed police to detain here his party if they attempt to return before signing of agreement (1949 Merger Agreement). Please telegraph immediately repeat immediately authority for detention of HH and advisors under Regulation III (sic. abduction and kidnapping of the king by foreign Indian security forces) or by whatever other means you consider might be appropriate. Have already warned sub-area to be prepared for any eventuality (sic. Covert military aggression and coup) in Manipur. Grateful for further instructions. Ends." Sardar Patel, who was by then seriously ill. When Prakasa ventured to suggest that the Maharajah might not agree to sign the merger document, Patel's reply left him in doubt as to the course of action he would need to take in such an eventuality.
On 19 September, again Maharaja wrote " If I am compelled to work independently of my people , my action will be quite unjustifiable …… It seems to me that the best course would be to allow me to go back Imphal and arrange to bring about a very speedy solution of the matter ". Mr. Rustomji, Military Advisor to the Government of Assam reportedly threatened that if Bodh Chandra did not sign the Merger Agreement, he would never leave Shillong. Maharaja Bodhchandra was so deeply upset that he reportedly wept profusely on the way back to Redlands, and Gourhari feared that he would 'behave insanely'
Mr. Prakasa continued to pressurise Maharaja Bodh Chandra by sending him a written message to the effect that he had now been instructed that the merger had to be signed by the 30th September . The Maharajah, by now composed, again responded that it would be unconstitutional for him to sign the merger agreement , since sovereignty in Manipur had been transferred to the elected Assembly. Mr. Prakasa immediately cabled Sardar Patel that since the Maharajah was intending to return to Imphal for consultation he had instructed the police to detain him and his party if they attempted to leave Redlands. He requested the Deputy Prime Minister immediately to telegraph instructions for Bodhchandra's detention under any orders whatsoever . Both the police and army guards on Redlands were doubled Sardar Patel demanded " Is there no Brigadier in Shillong ?
The sequence of events vividly portrays the deceitful and forceful manner in which the Merger Agreement was extracted from the Maharaja . Such kind of Agreement under threat and coercion and through deceitful means which are the beyond the scope of international laws should be declared as " null and void " as this was done against the popular voice of the people .
7. The 4th sitting of the 3rd session of the Manipur State Assembly in its session held at the Johnston School on 28th September, 1949 at 2.30.p.m. in protest against the "Merger Agreement signed on 21st September 1949" declared the Merger Agreement was invalid as the powers and authorities of Maharaja had been vested with the State Assembly . The excerpt of the Assembly proceedings was published in the Manipur State Gazette, part IV, dated 14 October 1949. Mr. T.C. Tiankham Speaker , Mr. M. K, Priyobarta Singh, Chief Minister amd 6 other Ministers and Hon'ble 43 Members were present and adopted the resolution . The copies of the declaration signed by P.B. Singh, Chief Minister, T.C. Tiankham, Speaker, Arambam Ibungotomcha Singh, Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs. was sent to the Government of India. But the democratic India has no time to give a reply to democratic Manipur on this issue during the last 65 years.
From the foregoing , it is clear that the process of signing the Merger Agreement could never be justified and accepted by people of Manipur. The sense of betrayal by the Government of India is still in the psyche of the masses particularly the young generations of Manipur .
7. Once Manipur became part of the India, the Government of India dissolved the State's Constitution Assembly in October, 1949 without repealing the Manipur Constitution Act-1947 . This is another blunder The Government of India placed Manipur a part C state . This was a disgrace to the state and the people of Manipur . Further it was degraded to the status of the union territory from 1956 onwards. In 1972, Manipur was elevated to the status of a state (or province) after a long and protracted struggle. Nagaland was raised from a village republic to Statehood on1 December, 1963 as a part of appeasement policy of the Government of India towards the Naga underground movement. Manipuris took it as an gross insult to the state and the people of Manipur perpetuated by the Government of India.
8. It is fact that Maharaja Bodhchandra said " the voice of the Majority is my voice" whether they prefer accession to India or not . . He was expressing his opinion to have a referendum of the voters. The question of the accession of Manipur to India should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite or referendum as admissible under the U.N. The Government of India had conducted two referendums in case of Junagadh princely state and Sikkim state .
Junagadh , a princely state joined India on 9 November 1947. but the referendum held on 24 Feb 1948 approves and confirmed its accession to India. When Sikkim achieved independence in 1947, a popular referendum for Sikkim to join the Indian Union was held but it failed and the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. However, on April 14, 1975, another referendum was held, in which Sikkim voted to merge with the union of India. Sikkim became the 22nd Indian State on April 26, 1975. On May 16, 1975, Sikkim officially became a state of the Indian Union.
The referendum in case of Manipur is pending. As the Union Home Minister, Mr. G.K. Pillai must have studied the files pertaining to Manipur and must have realised the historical blunders committed by India during the last 65 years.
Now , two options are possible :-
1. Restoring the sovereignty of Manipur . This the Government of India will never agree because of so many factors.
2. Amendment of Article 371C of the Indian Constitution. The present Congress Ministry in Manipur may hesitate to take up this issue if they are not very clear about it. Once they know that this is the mandate of the people, then perhaps, they may not hesitate .
What we need to do now :-
1. The Civil societies, Youth clubs , Women's organisations, Students bodies, Meira Paibees etc may consider organising intensive and extensive advocacy campaigns to sensitise the people about the core issues of Manipur.
2. The Media Channels may sponsor various media programmes like Panel Discussions , Hard Talks with the active participation of eminent historians, eminent Lawyers and representatives of civil societies .
3. The Print Media may encourage articles, features , letter to the editor on this topic .
4. A Lawyers Conference may be held by inviting the High Court Judges and other prominent lawyers of the State . The responsibility may be given to the All Manipur Lawyers Association where the legal implications may be discussed .
5. The Universities and Research Organisations may be requested to organise a scientific seminar on this topic in collaboration with the department of Political Science with participation all faculty members and University Students .
6. The advocacy campaign may be targeted to the legislators with a request to adopt an Manipur Assembly Resolution with the preparation of a draft amendment for submission to the Government of India .An All Political Parties Conference may be held with the involvement of Governor, CM, Cabinet Ministers, MLAs to discuss the core issues and have threadbare discussion and taking certain decisions . The key note addressed may be given by some civil society representative .
7. A well thought out Action Plan may be formulated by all Political parties for lobbying with the National Parties to get the proposed amendment passed . No star questions by the MPs should be permitted or allowed . Such approach is one way of sabotaging the plan.
8. All the 60 MLAs may offer to resign if the Government of India refused to consider the proposed constitutional amendments on the same line in which the Nagaland MLAs offered to resign en masse . All the 60 MLAs may be aware that this is a cause which is worth fighting for and worth dying for .
9. A draft constitutional amendment Bill may be prepared by a duly constituted Expert Committee and submitted to the Government for consideration and for the necessary support for referring the Government of India.
The following points may be considered for incorporation in the proposed amendment :-
1. The Article 3 of Indian Constitution regarding alteration of state boundaries shall not apply in respect of Manipur to protect the 2000 year old territorial integrity of Manipur .
2. The Union List and Concurrent list pertaining to Manipur shall be taken up by the Government of India only with the concurrence of the State Legislative Assembly
3. Any person from other states of India shall need an Inner Line Permit to enter Manipur on payment of nominal fees. There will be no bar on entry.
4. Any person from other states of India shall require a Work Permit to work in Manipur on payment of nominal fees
5. Any person from other states of India will not be allowed to purchase lands without approval of the State Government .
6. Business establishments and enterprises shall be opened only in the name of the indigenous people of Manipur .
7. Manipuri women married to any person from outside the State shall not have the right of inheritance to land property and shall not be allowed to purchase lands in her name as done in other states and countries .
8. The rights , identity, customs , culture, traditions , religion , language, script of indigenous people of Manipur will be protected.
9. The rights of the of the indigenous people of Manipur to lands, forest and mineral resources will be protected .
10.The Pakhangba –Sanamahi religion, which is the indigenous religion of Manipur should be recognized as one of the religions of the State.
12. The Constitution should provide establishment of an upper house ( Legislative Council ) with a minimum of 30 members .
13. The Number of Rajya Sabha MPs should be increased to seven (7) on the basis of equal representation of states as done in USA and other countries,.
14. The Manipuri script ( Meitei Mayek) should be included in the coins and currency bank notes
15. The followers of Pakhangba –Sanamahi religion may be put under Scheduled Tribe category of the Indian Constituion.