One out of many solutions is not the absolute. Earlier this year, when the Delimitation Exercise was made public, a social worker who intended to contest the election told me that his time had come as the incumbent MLA would be separated in a different constituency. There was euphoria in his camp, but it was short-lived. Vehement opposition against delimitation proposal surfaced, PILs were filed in the courts of law and inspite of support from the tribal areas, all the political parties rejected the proposal based on the faulty 2001Census.
In the midst of the political wrangling of mid-June, when political parties plunged in a battle for the seats of power, a proposition in a theoretical plane entered the public domain: A Reserved Scheduled Tribe Assembly constituency in the valley. Witness how the Delimitation Commission was petitioned in the regard.
The very idea was that there are 50,000 tribal settlers from 30 different communities in the valley, spread over 24 Assembly constituencies therefore the demand for a separate reserved constituency for them. The proposition contends that such a constituency will solve all the problems of the tribals, ignoring the fact that people in constituencies with elected representative do not necessarily progress.
Yes, it is true that the tribals in the valley are suffering from lack of development. But it is for other reasons. The problem of unemployment and poverty has something to do with the discarding of historical realities, or rather giving up old ideas. In protecting age-old culture, which are established ways of living, jobs may be created. Innovations are risky and profits often go unrealised from them.
An assembly constituency and a representative does not reflect development. In our Assembly constituency, the figures of unemployment is alarming. An elected representative cannot provide all the jobs. Some doles from his pocket, and contract works is not always development.
I am sure the proposition will attract opposition from the majority community. The proposed reserved constituency will not have a contiguous area. At a time when the majority community is pushing for tribe status, it may well be a bar across the jaw. Recently, a political observer noted that the theory of Reserved ST constituency rests on the premise of segregationist politics.
Why do tribals sometimes strike notes against integration? Keishamthong village is in Sagolband constituency, I suppose. There, whenever a Meitei weddings ceremony take place, all the friends of the bridegroom sit and drink.
So, it was joked that a pavilion for the friends of bridegroom needed to be erected at Keishamthong. My point is, the present elected representative can be approached for any grievance.
By now, it has become clear that the said constituency is considered a panacea in the effort to leave behind retrogressive stalemate of the tribals in the valley by the tribals themselves. From this viewpoint, separate representation is a step backwards. Really, it’s back to the British colonial days, when the Muslims had a separate electoral system. Separate representation and separate electorate only foment divisive politics.
Not really. The tribals in the valley are being organized under a Demand Committee. We don’t know yet what the Delimitation Commission will say. But the tribals are pushing for it.
However, staying in the valley where there is good transport and communication may be good enough, and looking for progress through a separate constituency may be perhaps too optimistic. Instead, we know the lack of development may be solved through social consultations by remaining in the present constituency.
It will not be justice to the majority community to consider intermingling with them retards progress of tribals. In the days to come, it might become a hot issue. Education and training may well be the panacea for development and not a separate constituency, perhaps.
The chiefs of the villages need to come out and engage in social consultations to discuss the development of the tribals. I suppose, the legislators will take heed. After all, the tribal villages are vote banks of winning candidates. To win, the tribals must have their share of progress.
The writer is a freelance writer and journalist