Even as the last session of Indian Parliament which began on July 20 and ended on August 11 had failed to discuss the core issue of the ongoing violent conflict in Manipur between the Kuki-Zomi militants and Meiteis, the peole of Manipur had a little hope in the Manipur Legislative Assembly.
However, unfortunately, the one-day session for the fourth session of the 12th Manipur Legislative assembly was not only disappointing but also an insult to the general population of the state. It was just like adding salt to the wounded.
The seasoned politicians, political observers and analysts understood that the one-day session for the fourth session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly slated for August 29, 2023 would not deliver the result, the people of Manipur had been expecting from the government.
Notably, Manipur’s veteran politician and former Law Minister Okram Joy said that the one-day assembly session will remain as a ‘dark day’ in the history of parliamentary democracy.
Joy already told the media at his Kakwa residence on August 27 that the assembly session to be conducted on August 29 would be a controversial assembly as the sitting was scheduled against rules of procedure and conduct of business.
He said that it is unfortunate that the sitting would be conducted for only one day while Manipur has been burning for the last nearly four months.
Moreover, it was already understandable that the one-day session for the fourth session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly would not discuss about the violent conflict that has been going on for four months now.
The Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of Manipur Legislative Assembly on August 26 decided to limit the Assembly Session to a single day, focusing primarily on obituary references.
Normally, after the obituary references no business is taken up for the day.
The Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s government proposal for a one-day session drew criticism and it prompted Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Okram Ibobi to walk out of the BAC meeting held on August 26 in protest, leaving a dissenting note behind.
Ibobi proposed an extended sitting of the Assembly for at least five days. Speaking to the media at Congress Bhawan in Imphal following his departure from the meeting held at the Speaker’s office chamber, Ibobi highlighted the need for more time to deliberate on the unprecedented incidents that have occurred in the state over the past few months.
Pointing out that when obituary references are discussed, other agenda items are usually set aside, he said this decision effectively leaves no room to address the pressing issues affecting the state within the confines of a one-day session.
Ibobi strongly criticised the one-day session, asserting that it serves only the purpose of avoiding a constitutional crisis rather than prioritising the interests of the people of Manipur.
Earlier, the State Cabinet had, on August 4, recommended to the Governor of Manipur for summoning the 4th session of 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly on August 21.
The One Day Manipur Assembly met just before the stipulated six months after the last session on March 3. It may be mentioned that Article 174(1) of the Constitution mandates that sittings have to take place within six months of the end of the previous session.
However, the one-day session for the fourth session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly session held on August 29 was adjourned sine die just after 11 minutes of business session, with only nine minutes of actual business conducted amid protest by the Opposition members of the Congress.
The session began with the CLP leader Okram Ibobi’s impassioned outcry, denouncing the nature of the Assembly and the state of democracy. “Is this mockery? Let us save democracy, let us save the constitution,” the leader shouted, as the Speaker took the chair.
The confusion over the nature of the session and the absence of a rule of law were strongly highlighted by Ibobi.
The Congress MLAs, numbering five stood up in unison to criticise and protest the Assembly’s proceedings, raising slogans and displaying placards that read, “Save democracy, save constitution.”
The Congress demanded extension of the session to five days and include the present crisis as an agenda.
Amid the protest, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren, as the leader of the House, carried on with an obituary reference and called for a two-minute silence, which was observed by all members except the protesting Congress MLAs.
The Chief Minister, addressing the Assembly, pointed out that according to Rule 132, discussions on matters that are currently before the court are sub judice and do not need separate consideration in the House.
However, discussion on the current violent crisis which has damaged the inter-etnnic relations in the state cannot be sub judice. Sub judice is only when case specific. This explained his stance against a separate discussion on the ongoing crisis in the House.
Amid the opposition protest, the Chief Minister could take a moment to commend the recent successful mission carried out by ISRO expressing gratitude to the scientists and the Prime Minister for their contributions.
However, the protest by the Congress MLAs demanding discussion on the current violent crisis persisted. Consequently, the House was adjourned for a 30-minute interval after just 9 minutes of business.
Even after the resumption of the session, the Congress protest was gaining momentum, leading to the Speaker’s announcement of adjournment sine die, merely two minutes after the session had resumed.
Thus, the much-awaited Assembly Session was wrapped up in 11 minutes with the Chief Minister bulldozing any attempt to raise the ongoing crisis as an agenda with the opposition Congress MLAs shouting hoarse in protestation.
The failure of the Manipur Legislative Assembly to address the ongoing Manipur crisis has prompted seasoned politician Okram Joy to denounce the proceedings as a dark canvas setting on Manipur’s reputation and one of the most disheartening parliamentary in history.
Okram Joy demanded that the governor reject and disapprove of the proceedings, alleging a violation of constitutional and parliamentary norms.
Speaking at his residence in Kakwa in Imphal West, Joy highlighted several irregularities in the assembly’s approach. He pointed out that the inclusion of the Business Advisory Committee Report in the agenda was an unprecedented move.
Additionally, he emphasised the absence of an agenda titled “Business (if any)” to accommodate discussions beyond the listed business items.
Expressing concern over the ongoing turmoil, the loss of innocent lives, internal displacement, and the continuous attack by “narco-terrorists”, Joy asked why the assembly failed to deliberate on these crucial matters.
Given the way how and why the one-day session of the Manipur Assembly was summoned and what transpired on the day, it is difficult not to term the functioning of the government and the legislature is an insult to the citizens of the State disrepecting the expectations of the people.
The use of parliamentary debate by conducting proper legislative sessions is a must for a government and the legislatures to at least discuss a way out to the deterioration of ethnic relations since the eruption of violence on May 3 in Churachandpur by Kuki-Zomi militants against the Meiteis.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics