Delimitation in Nagaland and Manipur
NAGA SCHOLARS’ ASSOCIATION
Motto: Knowledge Par Excellence
‘Delimitation in Nagaland and Manipur’
Rapportuer: Shimreisa Chahongnao.
Naga Scholars Association (NSA) organized its 3rd Webinar ‘Panel Discussion’ on the topic ‘Delimitation in Manipur and Nagaland’ on 11th July, 2020. The panelists were- Prof.Rosemary Dzuvichu, Mr.Jonas Yanthan, Mr.Elu Ndang and Mr.Worso Zimik. The discussion started with an opening note from Dr Zuchamo Yanthan, President, Naga Scholars Association. He highlighted in brief the legal underpinning of delimitation which otherwise seemingly pictures a vexed political conundrum in the public space. He stated that while the government of India notified that the previous ground for deferring the 2002 delimitation in Nagaland and Manipur ‘has ceased to exist’, he upended on the hypothetical polarity in our society and the impending challenges that the issue could cause. This challenge he reasoned, calls for an inquiry into the merit of the socio-economic and political nuances reflecting voices from different corners concerning the electoral process.
Prof Rosemary gave the opening remark with a very sharp comment on the problem in Nagaland erupted right after the honourable RP Desai Delimitation Commission announced the redacted electoral process on deferment of the earlier Delimitation Act in Nagaland (and Manipur). She also stated that the public space is consumed with the apparent dilemma of precedence, the Naga political solution or delimitation. However, she drew a meridian line between the two. Delimitation, according to her prioritises justice and development. It is a matter of legal rights of inclusivity that entails equitable development. In contrast, the peace process is outside the purview of such sanctions. She observed, rectifying and re-adjusting the blatantly skewed development process demands a just course of the electoral process which significantly hinges on the census data.
Prof.Rosemary, further stated that she recognize the gross violation of rights in the politics of constituency representation in Nagaland which is 1973 census-based. But she evinces that neither does the present 2002 delimitation act present an acceptable rationale as the 2001 census is flawed according to facts. Citing Manipur’s refrain in exercising delimitation in 2005 because of the flawed 2001 census, she expressed the 2011 census as a better option. Therefore, according to her, the need for the hour is sensitisation on justice and development emphasising that the diametrical distance between politics and development should be delineated.
The second speaker, Worso Zimik dwelled, on the legal structure and its functionality in our society. He highlighted the asymmetry between the territorial settlements and the demographic spread in Manipur. The 90% of state’s land occupying the hilly terrain is inhabited by almost 40% STs to the total population, and the valley by the dominant Meteis constituting almost 60% of the population. Pinning down to the politics of representation, out of 60 legislative seats, 40 are reserved for the valley people, and 19 are reserved for the STs and one an unreserved seat. Hammering on the productivity of the minorities, this gross political deprivation, he specifically asserts is the economic downside of the country’s legal structure. The 1976 injunction proclaimed a moratorium on the exercise of the 3rd delimitation until 2001 census in Manipur. Even after the 4th Delimitation Act 2002, with hue and cry in the valley, the Central government acquiesced to the political rhetoric of the Meteis paving the way for 18 years of political deprivation.
Worso, further stated that statistically speaking, there has been exponential population growth in the hills, so, making 2001 as the base year would be tantamount to curtailing the fundamental rights of the hill people. At the same time, waiting till 2031 will add another 10 years of injustice without delimitation. Moreover, with the ‘Govt’s Look East Policy’, various railway projects to Manipur, transnational highway passing through Manipur, by 2031, Imphal’s (Capital city of Manipur) population will spike in geometric progression. He points out that it can turn out worse than the injustice meted out to the minorities when Nagaland was formed as the 16th state of India in 1963. He stressed that since the law has a space of redefinition and readjustment, we should appeal to the concerned authority to bring an acceptable solution for our rights.
The third speaker, Elu Ndang emphasized on the distinction of delimitation and the Naga peace process and his practical proposal for a solution at a personal level. While delimitation deals with proportionate representation and equitable development, the Naga peace process is distinguished by its demand for sovereignty and the amalgamation of the Naga tribes. The former works within the mandate of the Indian constitution, whereas the latter is ultra vires. He opined that compounded by the current Covid-19 fiasco and debacle, and the delimitation scenario is concomitant of perilous social unrest if we are not cautious enough. His concerted appeal to the Naga people was to act in tandem with the demand of the time in the same manner the institution of delimitation was that of need-based. He reasoned on the need to avoid the nitty-gritty of our past inactions but make the most of the present looking at the posterity’s need. For instance, he noted, 2001 census in Nagaland was never an issue in development matters (like government schemes) until the delimitation announcement. Even the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 which was based on the 2001 census was not questioned. For him, merit lies not in going back to those issues but in a practical step of a way forward that acknowledges our past indifferences and readjusting to work for an inclusive change.
The fourth speaker, Jonas Yanthan, argued that there is an attitude problem by some sections on the issue of delimitation, and that these groups of people see the delimitation exercise only as “transfer of seats from one district to another, or from one tribe to another, loss and gain of seat etc”. However the main purpose of delimitation is not to deprive any district or tribe, rather, it is an exercise to bring proportionate representation of the people for equitable development. Therefore, to oppose delimitation would mean to perpetuate the prevailing disparity among the people in the state. He further stated that linking the issue of delimitation and Naga peace talk is demeaning to the very sacred issue of the Naga cause. Very often the Naga political issue is used against women rights, delimitation etc, only to serve vested interest, which is dangerous.
Jonas Yanthan, on the issue of 2001 census, he pointed out the contradiction underlying the stand of the government of Nagaland and Manipur, and stated that Census enumeration was done by dedicated government officials, and enough time have been given inviting claims and objection before it was approved and published. He stated that the Central government even awarded the Census department for successfully undertaking the census enumeration in 2001! Now therefore to reject this census is to show the double standard of the government. He also added that the misgivings against the census 2001 by some section is unfounded as nobody was aware that the Parliament would conduct the fourth delimitation exercise in 2002 based on the census 2001, after freezing it for so long.
The panelists concluded with their respective brief remarks on the way forward with the delimitation. Prof.Rosemary reiterated that seeking a way of peace should be attached to justice. And one should be clear that wanting equitable justice is no less patriotic when it comes to the issue of nationalism. Jonas reaffirmed that if Nagas discretely rejects delimitation, they are the most unjust society. Worso gave a clarion call that ‘issue has arisen at the prime time; it is up to us to decide what legacy we leave behind’. Elu exhorts on inclusivity in our practical approach and with that, he assures that the time is not far when we can take actions in our convenience, desire and belief.
The panel discussion came up with some findings and observations:
- The main purpose of delimitation is not to deprive any district or tribe; rather, it is an exercise to bring proportionate representation of the people for equitable development.
- Facts and figures indicate that there is discrimination against some sections in the distribution of seats not only in Nagaland but also in Manipur.
- Exercising delimitation is not only necessary but also important for rectifying past mistakes for bringing social justice.
- Delimitation exercise is a constitutional exercise, and it does not violate the special provision of the Article 371A
- Naga solution and Delimitation are two very different issue, hence, both issue cannot be linked together. By linking the issue of delimitation and Naga peace talk is like demeaning to the very sacred issue of the Naga cause.
- The use of 2001 census in Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 is an indication of its recognition and validity by Government of Nagaland.
- There is an urgent call for justice, peace and understanding among the Nagas to uplift one another and not to look at each other as rivals.
The panel discussion was followed by questions and observations from many participants. The session concluded with vote of thanks to all the esteemed panelists, technical support team ‘Prahlad Jadav & Team, Russell Humtsoe for flyer design and to all the participants. The rapportuer of the panel discussion was Shimreisa Chahongnao.
(Dr. Zuchamo Yanthan), President
(Dr. Lungthuiyang Riamei), General Secretary.