Collateral Damage ?

Haolenphai village in Chandel district, Manipur is once again in the news. The village is about 5 kilometres from Moreh town, an important Indo-Myanmar border trade centre.
Earlier, tension had been shimmering in this border village after Myanmar Army tried to open camps in their village, claiming the area lies within their country. According to the villagers the neighbouring country’s troops were frequently patrolling the area and have even asked the inhabitants of Haolenphai to leave the “encroach area”.Moreover, it was reported that the Army personnel were in the process of shifting the Myanmar border pillars into Indian territory in  Haolenphai and adjoining villages.Villagers also alleged that Myanmarese farmers were felling large number of tress in area for Jhum (shifting) cultivation.
 Following this developments, last year the Centre government halted the controversial India-Myanmar border fencing exercise which had been taken up along the Moreh sector by Border Roads Organization (BRO).
Now, Hoalenphai dwellers are yet again faced with another challenge of losing their village land, as the new government pushes its way forward in taking up development ventures.
Stiff opposition came from the village chief , the Thadou Student  Association (TSA)  and other civil bodies against the setting of  a 3,000-acre smart city in this border area in and around Haolenphai village.  Several forms of agitation have been taken out such as blockade of national highway, bandhs and Peaceful demonstrations were taken out in several art of Manipur including in New Delhi.
The said border area have also been earmarked for setting up of “New Commercial Town ship” The master plan 2012 – 2032 is undertaken by Town and Country Planning Organization, MoUD , GoI and Manipur government.   
Though the proposed smart city is yet to take its form, media reports in Manipur had quoted the state Industry Minister Govindas Konthoujam as saying that the required 3000 acres of land had been acquired for the smart city. 
This led to a stir with village chief and villagers coming out in defence of their rights and law of the land. A village of about 100 households,  Haolenphai is inhabitanted by the Thadou – Kuki tribals who were dependent on agriculture and natural resources from the surrounding forest produce. 
In fact, if land acquisition take place, these villages will be physically bulldozed and the dwellers be displaced , not only from the land but from their basic livelihood. Further, for indegineous tribals , land is not only an emotive issue but a political one too.
According to the Thadou Student Association the proposed plan for smart city nor the said land acquisition, if any, was not in the knowledge of the village Chief. The move against the consent of Tribal Chief is a disrespect and suppression of the right of the indigenous tribals which is also against the very basis of democracy.
The TSA’s memorandum submitted to the State Chief Minister and Prime Minister demanded to revoke the said land acquisition.
"Concept note on Smart Cities" was unvield in September by Urban Minister Venkaiah Naidu. According to the Ministry , the important feature of the smart city is access to information, such as city datas, information related to various service providers , transports and information for potential investors, through multiple channels – internet , mobile, apps, radio Tv etc.

Setting up 100 Smart City in several regional locations across the country is a concept of taking urban middle class living into a new level , where 24/7 utilities services with technology-based governance and monitoring of services to be provided to citizens.  Earlier during the Budget session Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had promised an allocation of Rs 7,060 crore.    

Meanwhile the new Government is keen on pushing pending development projects in North East India. The Minister for DoNER, has assured for time bound completion of major infrastructure projects of Rail, Road, Telecom, Inland Water Transport, Airports and Power in the North Eastern Region.   
As gateway to South East Asian countries , the North East region’s  economic and strategic advantages hold a important role and is the key to advancing regional influence. Look East policy have also been re-termed “Act East Policy“ recently by Prime Minister Modi in his addressed  at the East Asia Summit at Nay Pyi Daw in Myanmar. Government of India has also taken steps for the development of road and port projects in Myanmar, improvement of customs facilities at the Indo-Myanmar border, development of road and rail connectivity in Bangladesh for access to sea ports and appropriate customs facilities at the Indo-Bangladesh border.
But for people living in the periphery, this creates fear and insecurity. The slogans say it all. Thadou Students who held a demonstration recently in Delhi called to “ save Hoalenphai village” “ save our tribals lands”.

Asserting that tribals in the hills have their own system of land holding based on customary and traditional practice, the student demonstrators alleged that their rights have been systematically violated and that the proposed project is an attempt to grab the tribal lands. 

For people in the village their utmost need are basic amenities and facilities such as hospitals and better education. Opposition to projects that are not viable for people is not anti-development per se , said Thangpimang Kipgen one of the Student leader.  According to him ,in the present situation and context , where Villagers were  dependent on the forest land and forest produce their livelihood would be wiped out. The main concern , the student leader stated is that villagers  do not have the required skills and knowledge to take advantage of such “smart cities” and therefore the benefit of such development will automatically go to “non- inhabitants/villagers” and that none of the villagers will make it to the new city. Another concern being , that  displacement will further led to being wiped out completely as a community, thus their very core existence is at stake. Demonstrators also cautioned that the said proposed lands are areas of thick forest lands. Destruction of the forest lands will pose grave threats to the eco diversity and environment. 

Will the poor tribal villagers be considered a mere collateral damage in the process of development and progress is something that needs a serious re-thinking. While displacement of 100 household may be ‘insignificant’ in the larger concept and vision of development and economic advancement , it may also be noted that huge investment as far as north east is concern have not yield any desired output, let alone profit. Mega dams in the region are such examples where mega projects stands as mere physical infrastructure. 

November 2014 

Ambiguous Autonomy

MAHATMA GANDHI , THE FATHER of the Nation who dreamt of Gram Swaraj or self reliant model villages would have been really disappointed given the sad situation of Manipur hills autonomous councils.

It was way back in 1989 that elections to Autonomous District Councils ( ADCs) in Manipur Hill areas were boycotted in demand for extension of 6th Schedule Provisions of the Constitutions of India ( Article 244) . In 2010 fresh elections were held under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council 3rd Amendment Act 2008.  A total of 156 elected representatives took oath on 26th June 2010. The existing 6(six) ADCs in Manipur were Churachandpur; Chandel; Sadar Hills; Senapati; Ukhrul and Tamenglong. 

Thus the ADCs were revived with renewed hope and aspirations. But the road had been not been smooth for the ADCs, as they complete their fourth year. Several representations and memorandums on their grievances such as non devolution of power have been placed before the state as well as Centre Government. Last week ( on 5 September) an odd twenty seven member delegates of the ADCs sat in demonstrations in New Delhi to reiterate the demand for implementation of 6th schedule; a “pending solution for over 30 years” according to the ADC delegates .

After 25 years the ADCs are back to square one as they remain in the same state of affairs. They were bounded with limitations as they became a mere implementers of a few of the development projects ( if any) of the state government . Most of their activity comprise of monitoring rural primary schools, implementing welfare schemes.  

According to the 2008 (amendment ) Act, there were 26 subject and a new section 29 (A) listed in  the Principal Act that provided the ADCs the power, functions and responsibilities, which the ADC members alleged till today have not been devolved. . This include welfare, resource management and development, while there is no mention of policy matters, finance, judiciary and legislation. 

In complete violation of the Constitution article 371 (c ) the Hill Areas Committee ( HAC) decision were not consider in full spirit and deed. Successive Hill Areas Committee, Manipur state government had adopted resolutions for 6th schedule implementation. Beginning from 1978, under the Chairmanship of Shri S.Adani the resolution was passed. A re-affirmation followed in 1983 under Chairmanship of L.S John the then HAC chairman. In 1990 it was placed before the State Assembly again under Shri Dijuanang.

The role of the Governor of the state, who is the care taker of the hill areas, is altogether another story.

Even as the ADCs remain non-existent with neither election being held nor implementation of 6th Schedule, the State Government under Shri R.K Ranbir Singh, the then Chief Minister, in 1991 came out with a new recommendation stating that the state government has no objection for extending the 6th schedule provisions in the hill areas with “certain local adjustment and amendments”.

This, according to the present ADC members caused further setback to the members and the hill population at large. The ADCs and the civil society in the hills questioned the details of the new addition in the clause and its intention. The centre government had consistently been seeking for explanation of “ local adjustment and amendments” .   In 2003 LK Advani , the then Deputy Prime Minister and earlier other MHA officials have sought for furnishing details regarding the matter from the state government. As of now, the reply of the said queries or subject is not known nor report of the “explanations” available in the public domain.  

Given the already apprehension of the Hill dwellers upon the non implementation of the said 6th schedule it became even more imperative to raise doubts and their concerns over the State Government’s intentions and silence over the demands by the ADCs.   As Shri Mangchinkhup Guite , ADC member in his speech at the Jantar Mantar  demonstration laments  “ a memorandum of understanding for Oil Exploration in our lands have been signed between  Jubilant Oil and Gas Pvt. Ltd and the Government without our knowledge, let alone our consent” In the recent years the issue of land records caused a stir in Churachandpur Hill district in 2013 with the revelation of a total of its 134 village land record being maintained by the  Bishnupur valley district.   

As a matter of fact, the functioning of ADCs , the local self government in the tribal hill areas is weak and abysmal. As it stands, the implications of such a situation, the almost defunct key  governance structure is indicative of a weak democracy , rather a non existence of  governance in the hill areas and Manipur as a whole.

It may also be mentioned that subsequent to the ‘The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act 1971 passed in the Parliament, Manipur was granted statehood in 1972. The first District Council elections were held in 1973 with 18 elected members and 2 nominated members in each council. Today each district councils comprise of 24 elected and 2 nominated members. 

Beside the political suppressions of these grass root representation, basic infrastructures of the ADCs are minimal and absent. Many of the ADCs in Manipur hill areas do not have an office. Moreover most of them could not carry out their responsibility due to security reasons. Nevertheless, they function under high security cover from the capital Imphal.

It remains to be seen as the District Councils are renewing their hope of some kind of a change and improvement in their status and condition with the new Government in the centre.
While the Union Government is equally responsible for the state of affairs of the Local Governing Bodies, the key matter lies in the state government, as per Schedule seven of the Indian Constitution, local government is a state subject. Moreover, according to the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments 1992, ratified by the State Governments, therefore the state is accountable for implementation, monitoring and reforming structure of the local self government.  
In a democratic country like India, the key to development of rural areas and subsequent progress of a nation lies in vibrancy of this local self governance, more commonly known as grassroot democracy. The unrest in the Tribal Hill Areas in Manipur is basically due to the none functioning of this very basic structure of governance, thus one of the key to a solution ( if not all) lies in bringing this local self governments into the forefront as a foundation of administration and governance.

North East Sun 
September 16-30, 2014

Rida’s Musical Folks Sing For Planet Earth

She is only in her 30s but her music is ancient. Inspired by nature and wildlife, she composes tunes along with her band of gifted folk artistes from her home state Meghalaya, many of whom are in their 50s and 60s.

Meet Rida Gatphoh, founder, songwriter and lead singer of 'The Musical Folks', who tries to reach out to her people by studying and documenting their work while writing and composing songs.

“Even though most youngsters in my state are into high voltage music, like rock, pop hip-hop and reggae, I have always preferred traditional music. It’s been an intrinsic part of my life ever since I was a little girl, as my mother, Preciously, is a folk singer.

“I grew up listening to folk instruments, poetry and song and started singing early in local bands. This continued even when I went to Mumbai to pursue a degree in fashion designing,” shares Gatphoh.
After she finished her studies, she did stick on for a few years in the Maximum City designing clothes, but as she says, “I was not happy. I longed to get back to my original passion, music.” And she did. Bag and baggage she went back to Shillong.

But instead of staying put there Gatphoh embarked on a journey of the tranquil and lush Meghalaya countryside. “I travelled across different villages in a bid to better understand my roots and connect with nature.

“I soaked in the sounds of birds and other wild animals, and heard countless folk tales and poems. All these inputs served as inspiration and I began composing and writing songs,” she recalls.
Along the way, Gatphoh made many friends, many of whom are now a part of the band, The Musical Folks, which she put together in 2010.

Her motley crew of musicians includes Bah Rojet Buhphang, a recipient of the Ustad Bismallah Khan Yuva Pushkar in 2007 for his contribution to traditional music of Meghalaya; Bah S. Malngiang, co-founder of Sieng Riti Institute for folk music in Wahkhen, East Khasi Hills; Peter Marbaniang, a ceramic artist and a duitara and guitar player; composer and guitarist Amarnath Hazarika; Sean Menzies Nongrum, who plays bom and brass; bamboo flautist Benedict Skhemlang Hynniewta; Risingbor Kurkalang, who plays the duitara maryngoh; and Shaun Nonghuloo Morehead, the drummer and Ksing player.

The crew combines their creative energies and talent to put up an authentic Khasi show, complete with a Pyrta Shnong, or traditional announcer, who kicks off the proceedings that include a Phawar Mei Mariang (fable for mother nature), Kshaid Nohsngithiang (song), U Sier Lapaing (a musical story-telling session) U PhiangJyrngam (poetry recitation), Ka Sohlyngem (ballad), Leitphaishaiing (children’s song), Shad (Khasi dance) and Kyntanglawai (farewell poem) – all of which are set to the tune of traditional instruments.

Gatphoh feels fortunate to have found so many traditional music practitioners for her group although convincing them to join her in her efforts to revive the forgotten styles was not easy. Usually, village music groups are quite informal and non commercial, which was how they were all used to playing. Moreover, many of them are old and hail from remote locations so getting them to open up to the idea of transforming their approach took time. “Some of my team members are around 60 years old. It took some time for them to wrap their heads around the concept of a formal band that would travel and showcase our local fare to the outside world,” she reveals.

According to Gatphoh, The Musical Folks is always searching for “the ideal way to create a meaningful experience for the new listener while retaining a high degree of artistic integrity”. She says, “The stories we share are open-ended making our interaction spontaneous and giving us an infinite range of expression. They are an intimate exploration designed to reveal the natural communication of music and art and highlight a specific form of nature as a subject of celebration and inquiry.”

The artiste’s works are weaved around nature and the environment. “I strongly believe that mankind must take its cue from nature. Through our music, we are attempting to encourage people to think of the world in which we live today and see how our collective actions are affecting planet earth.”

She feels that everyone must take time out from their extremely busy schedules to connect with nature. “Have you ever heard the sound of frogs? Noticed that every bird has its own distinct chirp? If you observe intently, there are many different sounds and tunes in nature. And they all vary from place to place and depending upon the time of day. Music is there and will always be there in all things natural,” she adds, thoughtfully.

Folk music truly captures the essence of the bond between man and nature and while many may call this style raw and lacking in sophistication, Gatphoh argues that there is “purity, originality and beauty in its complex notes”.

She elaborates, “What we present through our shows is just the tip of the iceberg. Our repertoire of indigenous musical practices is vast. There are many aspects that simply cannot be performed on stage and we haven’t tried to do that.”

Unlike many of her peers, Gatphoh has delved into the realm of history to spark a revival. “In a sense, I am going backwards,” she laughs, “I insist on bringing the old and forgotten musical trends back into vogue. Sadly, today’s generation is hung up on newer, more western styles, which is not bad but one does need to preserve one’s past as well,” she days.

Gatphoh admits that there are no huge crowds at her shows, rather a loyal group of followers. But that in no way deters her from pursuing her goal. On their part, however, the band and she make a conscious effort to remain relevant. “Though we do not have much monetary support,” she says, “our works have become popular through word of mouth, and we have performed in several cities in India. I have understood the fact that we don’t belong to the commercial world. The team’s instruments are handmade, our music is not digitised or polished, which is a statement in itself.”

Ultimately, for Gatphoh, her music is very personal; “it’s a feeling, a journey and a connection with my audiences and, of course, with nature”. Here’s her ode to Mother Nature:

“Let’s have a meaningful interaction,
And reason out with balance
Have a natural healing
Healing for the human, non human
Healing for the soul
The ocean and the sky
The mountains and the valleys…"

 Women's Feature Service

October 2014

Malicious Mainland

People from the North-east continue to feel unsafe in Delhi and other metropolises despite the Centre’s assurance to provide them helplines. This month alone three incidents took place.  An engineering student from Manipur and two friends were beaten up in Bangalore for not speaking Kannada. Two students from Nagaland were assaulted in Gurgaon. A girl from Mizoram was found dead in her rented Munirka room under mysterious circumstances.

Here is a list of incidents in the national capital over the years, drawn from media reports:
On 8 May 2005, a 20-year-old Delhi University student and her friend were abducted from Daula Kuan (South Delhi). While her friend escaped, she was gang-raped in a moving car by four men. Only one person, Ajit Singh Katiyar, was arrested. He was sentenced to 14 years’  rigorous imprisonment  in December 2009.  The defence counsel is said to have  challenged the order in a higher court.

On 24 November 2010, a 30-year-old BPO employee and her friend were abducted at gun point on their way home in Moti Bagh, South Delhi. While her friend escaped and alerted the girl’s relatives, the victim was gang-raped by five men in a truck. The court reportedly ordered payment of Rs 1.5 lakh as compensation for the survivor in May 2014. A Delhi court sentenced the five men to life imprisonment. Except these two cases in which the accused were punished, many others are pending.
In the wee hours of 3 December 2008, the landlord and his men knocked on the door of the room rented by two women from Manipur, asking them to pay rent. This happened in Sikenderpur, Gurgaon (NCR). Their plea that payment would be made early the next morning was of no avail. The landlord broke into the room, abused and assaulted them. Somehow the two managed to ring up their friends who lived nearly and they came to their rescue. The status of the case is not known.
 On 17 April 2009, a six-year-old girl from Manipur was allegedly raped and murdered at Mahipalpur, South Delhi. At noon, she was said to have gone to the terrace of their rented house to dry clothes. When she did not return her mother went up to look for her. After more than half an hour’s search, the mother found her daughter’s body inside the water tank of an adjacent building. The body was sent to Spinal Injury Centre, Vasantkunj, where it was confirmed that she had been raped and murdered. The case is pending.
On 4 October 2009, around 11.20 pm, 19-year-old Ramchanphy Hongray  from Manipur was raped and murdered in her sister’s rented room in Munirka, Delhi. She had come to visit her sister and when the latter had left for work, Pushpa Kumar, an IIT student, forced his way into her room and allegedly raped and murdered her.
To make it look like a case of suicide, he reportedly poured kerosene over her body and set it on fire. In July 2010, the court framed charges against the accused for murder and tampering with the evidence. The case is  pending.
 On 29 May 2013, a 21-year-old beautician from Manipur was found dead under  mysterious  circumstances in her rented flat at Delhi’s Chirag. No one was arrested. The case was handed over to the CBI following strong protests. 
o In January 2014, teenaged student Nido Tania from Arunachal succumbed to injuries after being beaten up by some shopkeepers of Lajpat Nagar. Nido had gone to the area with three friends and was looking for an address when someone at a sweet shop began mocking his hairstyle. Nido responded by breaking a glass door of the sweetshop. Twenty-two-year-old Farman, 27-year-old Akram and 27-year-old Pawan were booked. In May, the CBI dropped charges of murder, saying the accused had no intention of killing him. The status of the case is not known.
 In February 2014, two women from Manipur, Chonmila and Jajo, were assaulted and abused by a group of youths in South Delhi’s Kotla Mubarakpur area. According to complaints by the two women, when one of the culprits tied the leash of his dog to Chonmila’s boots, she panicked and in a bid to free herself she kicked the dog. Seeing this, the men started beating her up. When Jajo tried to intervene, she too was  thrashed by the men who allegedly passed racist comments. There are no reports of any arrest and the case is pending.
 On 7 February 2004, a 14-year-old girl from Manipur was raped by her landlord’s son in South Delhi’s Munirka. It was reported that when she  was making some purchases the culprit — Vicky — allegedly accosted her and forced her to a nearby room and raped her. The girl is said to have received compensation but it is not known whether the culprit has been booked.
 On 22 May 2004 at 10 pm, when a woman from Nagaland was returning home after alighting at Vishwavidyalaya Metro station, a man followed her, passed lewed remarks, caught her and started molesting her near Delhi University.  When she resisted she was slapped. Some passers-by overpowered the molester and handed him over to the police. At the police station, it was revealed that he was a lawyer from Tis Hazari Courts.
The next day, some NE students accompanied the woman to the Tis Hazari Court to record her statement. But they were attacked by a group of lawyers. Naga Students’ Union president Maivio J Woba, Zeliangrong Students’ Union president Rachubui Pamei and advocate Liyi were assaulted. The matter is yet to be placed in the court.
 On 30 June 2014, a woman entrepreneur living in Gurgaon was harassed and intimidated by a man who identified himself as a RAW official. He allegedly barged into her room, interrogated and accused her of indulging in anti- social activities.  The status of the case is not known.
 On 5 -6 July 2014, 28-year-old Wilungbou Chawang was found dead in the Chirag Dilli area. The body was fished out from a nullah after locals reported the matter to the police. His younger brother filed a complaint at the Malviya Nagar police station. Investigation is yet to begin.
 On 21 July 2014, a Manipuri youth was beaten to death by a group of youths in South Delhi’s Kotla Mubarakpur area.
Incidents in other cities include:
 On the evening of 13 August 2005 in Mumbai, a man attacked two girls from Manipur while they were taking pictures and feeding pigeons at the Gateway of India. Twenty-three-year-old Leishichon died on the spot while her friend Ngahuimi Raleng was severely injured. According to the police, the attacker, 27-year-old Juner Patel, was mentally unstable. The Maharashtra government reportedly paid compensation to the victim’s family.
 In October 2010, the Goa police rescued 11 Naga and Mizo girls from a beauty parlour at Povorim, alleging that the owner of the parlour was running a flesh trade. According to the police, the case came to light after the girls fled the parlour and informed their parents back home, who in turn informed their respective state forces.  Both the girls and the owner have denied charges against them.
Following this incident, it was made mandatory for people from the North-east  to report to the police for verification, particularly those women working in beauty parlours and private enterprises in Goa. Some who went to report alleged that they were asked weird questions, some with innuendos such as “whether you are from Nagaland in connection with the case or whether you have come to Goa for the same job”.
 In August 2012, Bangalore witnessed a mass exodus of North-easternes following  threats via social media networking telling them to leave. Thousands working in Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad left.
Legislation, quick disposal of cases and stringent punishment are desirable to effectively curb racial violence against North-easterners.

The writer is A Delhi-based freelance contributor
The Statesman, NE page, October 27,2014

For Rini and Valentina Singing is their Job , their Life

They enjoy performing live, in a group or solo, at music concerts and in star hotels across Delhi and the National Capital Region. For many, it is a profession that has ensured them a decent living in the city. But even though music comes naturally to the youth from the north east - they do not need any formal training as there's usually a vocalist, guitarist or drummer in the family whom they have grown up watching - there are various challenges that they have to contend with as they move from gig to gig.

Singing is in Valentina Gangte’s blood. A native of Lamka in Manipur, she spent her childhood in Mizoram where her Sundays were dedicated to singing in the church choir along with her elder sister. During those days, her aunts were popular as professional crooners and today her sister, cousins and she have followed in their footsteps. In her mid-thirties, Valentina has been in Delhi since the late 1990s, ever since she moved here to pursue higher education. She started her singing career at 20 as part of a local band, ‘Illusion and West Wind’, and then went solo from 2008. Apart from being a superb vocalist she is proficient at the keyboard as well. “I have been singing for 16 years now. In fact, I am pretty sure that I am possibly amongst the first professional female solo performers from the north east in the Capital,” she says, her voice ringing with immense pride.

Being one of the leading female singers from the north east Valentina has no paucity of work these days. However, that does not mean that it’s been easygoing for her. Unlike most of her friends, who are employed in more formal jobs, her schedule as well as her earnings are erratic, she has to keep a close watch on the contracts drawn with hotels and resto-bars that book her shows, she needs to keep abreast with the tastes of the audiences and, in a city like Delhi, she cannot hope to get home before the wee hours of the morning, which increases her vulnerability to violence and abuse.

Though there are quite a few singers, musicians and bands from the north east in the city, according to Valentina “many have been forced to put an end to their musical dreams, as just one’s love for music is not enough to keep things going”. 

Rini Fanai, who hails from Churachandpur district in Manipur, agrees with Valentina’s observations. In her late 20s now, she had moved to Delhi in 2007 as a student but very soon found herself well entrenched in the local musical scene. She has been in demand as a vocalist since the last six years even though she has had no formal training. “My father is a musician so I guess my talent is a gift from him. In Delhi though, one cannot survive on talent alone. There is a lot of competition and one needs to be updated on the latest songs. Moreover, safeguarding ourselves from unfair contracts is also important. We cannot afford to be lenient there,” she shares. 

For Rini and Valentina, their daily schedule is fairly straightforward: for six days a week, every evening they make their way to the resto-bar or hotel that has hired them to perform. Rarely do they get to call it a day before late at night. Obviously then there are serious safety issues that they contend with on an everyday basis, which is why drawing up a formal deal is crucial. “I always make sure that transportation is included in the agreement. There may not be pick-up if the venue is close by or if I am performing in a group, but I ensure that there is a drop provided after the show,” reveals Rini.

Money and the number of shows are pre-decided as well. Says Valentina, “I work out an arrangement for a minimum of six months to a year and manage to make a decent monthly income .Initially, when I had started out, there were times when I used to get paid even a month or two after the show but experience has made me wiser. I insist on a time limit nowadays.”  Of course, no amount of caution can mitigate all the problems. Rini can recall numerous instances when she started working before the official signing of a contract only to later find herself out of work and without payment for the performances rendered. 

Valentina and Rini agree that the managements in three- and five-hotels are very professional in their dealings. “Whether it is about the payment, the ambience or crowd control, the hotels manage things well. On the rare occasions that someone misbehaves with us or passes an indecent remark, they immediately take care of the situation,” elaborates Rini. 

Apart from these external pressures, personally they have to pay attention to various aspects on which the course of their entire career is dependent. For starters, they have to diligently maintain their voice quality. Only with the utmost care and regular practice sessions can this work out well. Then there is the need to be constantly in sync with current music scene. “We have to be abreast with the flavour of the season and include newer songs in our repertoire. This requires a lot of practice and careful market watching. Performance-wise I do make a conscious effort to get the tune and pronunciation as close to the original as is possible,” says Valentina. 

While mostly their work is well-received Rini admits that sometimes there are complaints from the managements. “It does happen but we always take feedback in a positive way and try and do better. What I do keep in mind is that I am presentable at all times and in-sync with the hottest trends. Personally, I prefer performing at a resto-bar where the crowd is more chilled out and encouraging. It makes the experience that much more rewarding and fun,” she adds.

They are like mini rock stars – they have an image to uphold, songs to prepare, shows to conceptualise and fans to fend off. But it comes at a price. “Being a singer and musician can be quite creatively fulfilling. Nevertheless, this career comes with a lot of peripheral baggage that can really overwhelm the artist in me. Will I give it up for a more stable opportunity? Never!” signs off Valentina, with a gentle smile. 

Women's Feature Services 
September 2014

Bio-Pic Blues Etc

A film on the life of Mary Kom is all set to hit theatres on 5 September. The five-time world boxing champion from Manipur will be played by Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World. 

Given the already overwhelming responses in social networking sites, the film is expected to be a major box office success. On the distaff side, however, were reactions pouring in from several quarters questioning the choice of the lead role by director Omung Kumar and producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The obvious questions and reactions are why was no actress from the North-east chosen for the role; Priyanka  Chopra does in no way  look like Mary Kom! 

Ironically, in Mary’s home state of Manipur cinemas cannot screen Hindi films after militant outfits in September 2000 issued diktats to this effect. The reason?  Bollywood is undermining the state’s cultural values.

Another completely different and intriguing story of cinema lies in Mary’s native place, the hill district of Churachandpur,  in south Manipur. She was born in Kangathei, where her parents still live, and spent the best part of her childhood there. Two theatres — Churachandpur Cinema Hall and Lighthouse — were closed in June 1997 following ethnic clashes between Zomis and Kukis. When violence broke out on the fateful day of 24 June, paramilitary forces were rushed to the area. Life stood still — schools and markets were closed and work in hospitals was affected. According to official records, the violence claimed 352 lives, left 136  injured and over 4,670 houses were set on fire.

Paramilitary forces occupied both the cinemas. Until then, Churachandpur — the second largest district — was peaceful, vibrant and the most diverse, with over 20 ethnic groups living in peace and harmony.  For over a year, curfew was enforced. Gun-shots, gas cylinder explosions and wailing sirens replaced the guitars and music the locals were fond of.
After a year of violence, the district limped back to normality, but the two cinemas never came alive. While one of the halls has become a busy market complex, the other is still under occupation of the BSF.

Today, Manipur’s hills and valley are more or less quiet and there is no major upheaval over the banning of the screening of Hindi movies. Until now, despite several attempts by filmmakers and the Mary Kom film crew, they are yet to receive any response from the state government for screening of films.

There is a mixed response. People have applauded the initiative to bring Mary’s life to the big screen and are anxious to see how Priyanka Chopra justifies the role.  The  first of its kind in Bollywood, it may not be wrong to assume that the film is experimental.

Before the start of the actual shooting, Chopra went to Imphal, visited Mary Kom’s house and met her family. Mary’s pictures, with Manipuri-Kom traditional attire, and her twin boys were quite a sensation. The visit, however, did not make an impression.  Several stills of the film, however, show that Chopra made serious attempts to “become” Mary. As things stand,  the film is unlikely to be screened in Manipur, but hoardings have already come up on roadsides and the main markets. Girls enjoy taking pictures with the posters and hoardings in the background. And even if the film cannot be screened, it is bound to be popular on the Internet. 

Meanwhile, movie-lovers in Churachandpur fondly remember the Hollywood and Bollywood movies they watched in the cinemas in Lamka town. Many still recall the last movie they watched in Churachandpur Cinema Hall or Lighthouse. Those evergreen Bollywood melodies still bring back nostalgic memories for many of the district’s inhabitants.

The most important message in the Mary Kom film is the struggle of a less-advantaged woman from the remote periphery of the North-east. The stronger message is the grit and determination of Mary Kom who, despite these disadvantages, made it big in the world of sports and became an ambassador of her state and the country, touching the hearts of thousands across India. 
Perhaps the biggest question — not to forget the overriding message — is whether the film based on the iconic Mary Kom’s journey will see the reopening of cinemas in Churachandpur.

The writer is A Delhi-based freelance contributor

Japanese filmmaker’s ‘Imphal 1944′ set for Imphal premiere

 “Imphal 1944″, a short film based on World War II by London-based Japanese actor and filmmaker Junichi Kajioka, will be premiered at the closing ceremony of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Imphal (WWII) here June 28.

What do you think?

The Battle of Imphal and Kohima (between March 8, 1944 – July 3, 1944) was among Britain’s greatest battles in the Second World War.

The story carries the message of friendship between old enemies, said Kajioka. Later, the film, about Manipur and its people who helped the soldiers thus helping many of them survive the battle, will be shown at other film festivals around the globe, informed actor-director Kajioka in an email interaction.

The film, inspired by the life of Japanese war veteran Masao Hirakubo, OBE (Order of the British Empire), who fought in the battle of Imphal, is dedicated to the people who lost their lives there, said the first time director.

Hirakubo, who joined the Japanese Army in 1942, fought the one of fiercest struggles in World War II – the Burma Campaign – before retiring as a lieutenant.

Kajioka, who researched and wrote the story, was touched by Hirakubo’s words: “We are made alive by the wishes of the war dead. It doesn’t matter whether they are British or Japanese, those who survived are members of the same group. Survivors from both sides can share the same grief for their fallen comrades.”

In an interview to BBC in London, Hirakubo in 2004, probably his last interview, recalled the epitaph on the memorial in Kohima in the neighbouring state of Nagaland – “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our today.” – that summed up his sentiments on martyrs.

The battles of Kohima and Imphal battles, which marked the highpoint of the Japanese forces advance into India, claimed the lives of 30,000 Japanese, left 23,000 and 600 were captured. Among the 50,000 support troops, there were 15,000 casualties.

On the other hand, the Allies suffered 17,500 casualties.

When he returned home to Yokohama in 1946 after the war ended, Hirakubo found his family home destroyed by Allied bombing. He then went to London and rebuilt his life.

But the war veteran did not just retire from life, he revisited Burma and northeast region in India several times, not for war but for peace, re-building lives and carrying out re-conciliation works. This led to the conferring of the Beritish award to him.

The founder of Burma Campaign Society (BCS) tirelessly devoted his later life to reconciliation between Britain and Japan. He died in 2008 at the age of 88.

Kajioka says “Imphal 1944″ aims to be a symbol of peace between Britain, Japan and Manipur.
The actor-director feels the 150-year-anniversary celebrations of Japan-Britain diplomatic relations is a statement of peace and friendship.

“The desire for peace is universal,” he said.

The battle of Imphal brought to Kajioka’s attention many untold stories of the battle between the Japanese and Allied forces and now he is bringing lesser known battles of the World War II to a wider audience.

Kajioka feels that there is a growing international interest in good cinema, whether it is a story of the periphery or mainstream. “A good film can capture some of the unique essence of a culture and a place and tell very powerful stories,” he said, stressing war films are not only about killings, but also about powerful messages of peace and reconciliation.

Kajioka acted in films such as “47 Ronin” starring Keanu Reeves and “The Flowers of War” starring Christian Bale. He will also be the leading actor in “My Japanese Niece”, a film by Manipuri filmmaker Mohen Naorem, currently in pre-production stage. 

June 2,2014

Naga Women Farmers Become Expert Organic Food Entrepreneurs

Though women in the northeastern state of Nagaland have traditionally enjoyed a high social position, within their family as well as the community, a strong prevalence of patriarchy has ensured that they are not just kept away from key decision-making but are also barred from inheriting ancestral assets like land and other property.

In fact, while it would not be wrong to say that Naga women are chiefly responsible for keeping the state’s agrarian economy going, especially since the menfolk migrate in large numbers to nearby towns and cities in search of better paying work, they do not have any ownership rights over the land they till. The female members invest a lot of time, energy and money into the jhumland farms – community lands where any member(s) of a village can practice shift cultivation – that dot the countryside. From selecting the right seasonal crops to cultivate to sourcing input for the land to managing the harvesting, their hands-on approach has worked wonders as they produce high-quality yields of indigenous grains such as Tshube (millet) and Truta (maize) besides varieties of soya bean, Kashu (rice bean) and Kholar (kidney beans). Today, they have gone a step further and transformed themselves into successful entrepreneurs by forming Self Help Groups (SHGs), where together they convert all the organic, fresh foods they have grown into marketable goods. 

Kohima-based Lochimi Lotha, 48, is one such happy farmer-turned-entrepreneur. She founded Khuben Thera (meaning flower) SHG in 2013 with 13 other women and jointly they have been working tirelessly in their fields and later going all out to sell the harvest in the local market. Says Lotha, a mother of four, “What binds all of us is the ambition to do well in life and give our children a better future. We are poor and have to find ways to supplement our family income. Nowadays, it’s impossible to run a home on a small salary of a single member. My husband, a Grade Four government employee, will be retiring soon and so it will be up to me to keep the kitchen fires burning. The SHG enables women like me to stand on our own feet.” 

Aranla Longchar and her young daughter, Akokla are member of Eleos SHG in Dimapur. The duo is completely sold on woman power. Says Akokla, “I have realised that if women join hands then they can achieve anything. In our SHG, we are our own bosses. We decide on what vegetables to grow and when to harvest them. Everything is organic. We form teams that undertake door-to-door sales and also supply to the nearby vendors and local stores. I have been handling the marketing side of the work.” 

Of course, creating an SGH and running a small business is not as simple as it may seem. The women farmers have to convince the village council of the merits of forming the group and then take permission to use the common village land. Moreover, all members have to spare some seed money to start operations. Mary Khiamniungan, a member of Shurun (meaning unity) SHG in Tuensang district, recalls, “When we had decided to set up our group in 2011 we were confident that we would be able to reason with our village council. Our SHG’s founder president Yinsola Yimchinger was a respected woman leader of the local church and she assured them that we would follow the rules of the council and work in cooperation with them. They had no objection after that.”

Shurun SHG has a membership fee of Rs 100 and it has members from five villages. “Our main objective is to provide equal opportunity to all women. They get the chance to work, earn, take decisions and manage their own affairs,” elaborates Khiamniungan. According to this skilled farmer, all of them practice either terrace or jhum farming and they “do not use any chemicals to boost production”. Of course, the hardships they face are many, “Inclement weather is our main challenge as it adversely affects the crops. Moreover, we do not have any storage facility. At the time of harvesting, we hire a vehicle, collect the produce and then stock up in the homes of a few members,” she shares. After this, the women branch out to sell the fresh produce like maize, rice, millets or tree tomatoes (locally called tamarillo) to vendors in the market. The items that need to be dried before packing are put through a set process. “We do house sales and approach the neighbourhood shops too. In addition, we set up stalls at social gatherings and during festivals,” adds Khiamniungan.

Recently, Khiamniungan, Lotha, Longchar and several other cultivators-cum-businesswomen, had travelled all the way to Delhi to sell a variety of local delicacies like pounded puffed sticky rice, wild apples, yam leaves and canned items such as bamboo shoot and the infamous Raja Mirchi, as part of a special organic food festival. For Lotha this was her first trip to the Capital and although she did face some difficulty in communicating with her customers, in general she was happy that she could manage to interact with everyone with “thoda, thoda Hindi”. She shares, “Our products were such a hit with the people that we had sold over 50 per cent of the stuff by the third day. Just goes to prove that if women get equal opportunities to work and earn they can achieve a lot.”

Mitingliu and Tinghamak are 20-something and part of Wibibi (meaning ‘step by step’) SHG that was constituted in 2013. While they are not into farming, they focus on food packaging and marketing. The young women run a small store in Peren district, where they sell dried, canned food items. Their Delhi experience was “good” as they realised the potential the organic food business has for all of them. 

Assisting women SGHs in the state to overcome the various challenges and expand their work is the State Women Resource Centre (SWRC). Says Ajabu Tungoe, Coordinator, SWRC, “There is a demand for pure organic foods but the production challenges are many. We are constantly trying to come up with ways to make sure that these women can maximise cultivation and tide over the difficult times especially created due to unfavourble weather. The trip to Delhi was quite an eye opener for many. Besides this, the SWRC has introduced various initiatives to give a fillip to the social-economic development of Naga women.” 
Organic farming is their mantra for prosperity – and these hardworking Naga women farmers are going all out to realise their potential and their dreams. 

Women"s Feature Services
May 12,2014

Election Irregularities in 2014: Defective EVMs key reason for repoll

Ninglun Hanghal looks at the range of electoral irregularities reported during the current general election.

One month after balloting in the Gurgaon Lok Sabha constituency in Haryana, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has ordered repolling in 8 booths in the constituency. This follows a complaint filed by the Aam Admi Party listing irregularities in 110 polling booths in the constituency. The repoll will be held one day before ballots are to be counted on May 16, 2014.

Across states, re-polling was held in a number of Parliamentary constituencies in the just concluded polling for 16th Lok Sabha. Out of the total 35 States and Union Territories in India comprising about 900,000 polling stations, repolling has been held in a couple of hundred booths, spread over 11 states, primarily due to faulty or non-functioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Names missing from the voter list was the most significant irregularity this election. Allegations against polling officials, poll related violence, rigging, booth capturing, loss of lives in conflict zones, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and North East Indian states, were other problems affecting voting. Boycott calls and no-voter turn-out were also witnessed in few constituencies.

As many as 34 polling stations in Arunachal Pradesh’s Kurung Kumei, Upper Subansiri , East Kameng, West and East Siang districts went for a re-poll due to defective EVMs. In Bihar, repolling was held in 30 booths, in Katihar, Banka and Supaul parliamentary constituencies. The Election Commission ordered re-poll at these polling stations as the non-functioning EVMs could not be replaced on time.

Due to faulty, defective EVMs, 12 booths in Karnataka were re-polled, in Haveri, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Raichur, Bidar, Shimoga, Hassan and Tumkur  districts. So too in Kerala where re-polling were conducted in four polling stations of Idukki, Alathur, Wayanad and Ernakulam constituencies due to technical errors. In Madhya Pradesh, re-polling was held in one booth in Khandwa district owing to
technical error in the EVM.

At times, pre-poll exercises led to identification of defective EVMs and polling dates were rescheduled in four polling stations of Mumbai North Central and Mumbai North West constituency in Maharashtra. Four polling station went for a repoll in Rajasthan. These are in Barmer and Churu district. Two polling booths went for a repoll due to technical error in EVMs in Salem and Namakkal in Tamil Nadu. Repolling was held in one booth in Malda (South) constituency in West Bengal due to the non working EVM.

In a rare occurrence, one polling booth in Thoubal district in Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency went for a repoll due to mis-match of numbers, where the votes casted were higher than the voter list. Over allegations of involvement of polling officials in malpractices and rigging in Assam’s 15 polling booths in Kokrajhar, Nagaon, Darang and Dispur districts, repolling was ordered besides arrest of polling officers due to their alleged involvement in malpractices in Guwahati district. Malpractices were also the reason for repoll in four booths
in Porbandar district in Gujarat. Two polling stations in Zunheboto and Longleng districts in Nagaland were also re-polled due to allegations of bogus voting and malpractices.

In Gurgaon Lok Sabha constituency, repolling in 8 booths are being held, where the reported turnout was 95%. According to media reports, in 30 booths, the turnout was over 90%. Although it was reported by media persons who found that many people in these areas whose polling finger was not marked with the inedible ink. AAP had accused two other political parties to have engaged in systemic rigging.

Election polling in many parts of the country is also an occasion when grievances were expressed in the form of boycotting the polls, with no voter turn up in support. But, no repoll were held in those polling stations.

In Sisiang village in East Siang district of Arunachal, people boycotted the polls in expression of their anger against the State Government’s apathy to the development of their villages. The polling booth saw no voter turn-out. So too in Khargone’s Satavada village in Madhya Pradesh, electorates did not turn up to vote in protest against the lack of basic facilities in the villages. One polling station in Thoubal, Manipur, people boycotted the polls due to police’s inaction against a threat issued by miscreants. Dates for polling were deferred after the boycott by NGOs an civil bodies in Mizoram against the Election Commission’s decision to allow tribal refugees’ living in Tripura’s relief camps.

This general election also saw violence in different part of the country. Repolling were conducted in six polling booths in Chandel, Senapati and Ukhrul districts in Outer Manipur Parliamentary constituency where EVMs were destroyed and booths captured allegedly by insurgent groups. In Orissa due to massive booth rigging and damage of EVMs allegedly by Maoist, repolling were conducted in nine polling stations. These were six booths under Jagatsinghpur; two other booths in Keonjhar and one booth in Kendrapara district. Complaints of booth
rigging and intimidation of voters and polling officials were the reason for repolling in five polling stations in Firozabad and Etawah districts of Uttar Pradesh as well.

Though this election was relatively peaceful in most states, in sensitive and conflict areas, loss of lives and casualties were reported. Boycott calls and ‘threats’ were issued by separatist and Maoist groups as well. Thirteen persons, including poll officials and CRPF jawans were killed in Maoist attacks in Darbha Valley in Sukma district and Bijapur in Chhattisgarh. Polling personnel could not
reach polling stations in hyper sensitive areas in Kanker district. Two polling booths in Dumka, Jharkhand were repolled in the aftermath of an ambush by Maoist killing five security personnel in which EVMs were also destroyed.

In Gossiagaon district in Assam, one policeman died during the violence that ensued in a polling station. Scuffles, clash between party workers and injuries were reported in West Bengal, mostly in North 24 Parganas and adjoining areas of Kolkata.

The new state of Telangana and Seemandhra in its first ever election after the bifurcation, saw violent polling. Subsequently, ECI ordered 12 polling stations in Telangana and 17 polling stations in Seemandhra for a repoll. The reason being complaints of intimidation, clashes between party workers, booth rigging, destructions of EVMs allegedly by Maoist and malfunctioning of EVMs.

Normal life and polling were affected in Kashmir valley with the boycott call by Hurriyat conference leader Geelani, who had asked the people to observe “civil curfew” in the aftermath of the detention of separatist leaders by police while they were campaigning for poll boycott in south Kashmir. While no major incidents were reported, stray violence were reported in Baramulla , Kupwara and Badipore

A major drawback of this election is the missing names reported from various constituencies, particularly across Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Bangalore. Approximatly, 5-6 lakh voters could not exercise their franchise in Maharashtra alone. While the ECI apologised for this omission, surprisingly, it also held citizens responsible for not checking the status of their voter ID on the commission’s website well in advance.

According to the ECI, as per January 1, 2014 the total electorate is 814.5 million. This is an increase of 100 million from previous Lok Sabha 2009 election that recorded 713 million electorates. ECI states that the maximum electorates are in the age group of 18 – 19 years that made up to 23 million voters.

This General Election was the longest ever of all the Indian elections. From its notification on 5th March, the Model Code of Conduct that ends on the counting on May 16, the elections ran upto 72 days. In an election of this scale and scope in the world’s largest democracy, no one believes that the range of irregularities will really impact the final outcome of the elections. In all these decades of hard electoral contests, no political party has refused to accept the verdict of the ballot. The Election Commission of India needs to be complimented for successfully concluding yet another national election. But there is no room for complacency, as there is always scope for improvement.

Liberty Institute  
May 15,2014

The Tibetan Refugee's Right to Vote

The Election Commission’s drive to enroll Tibetan refugees in the voter’s lists, predictably enough, has elicited a mixed response.
For many Tibetans who have been living in India for decades now, it was a relief, a transition from being stateless to becoming an acknowledged citizen of a country. Many Tibetans took up the offer most enthusiastically; quite a few of them have reportedly enrolled themselves already. Of course, given their long stay in India, being part of the voter’s lists indicates official acceptance of the Tibetans in India, and the chance to exercise their adult franchise is an indication of citizenship and a chance to be part of a democratic system. Their assimilation into Indian society is both comprehensive and evident. According to Karten Tsering, head of the Tibetan Residents’ Welfare Association, most of the refugees already consider themselves very much a part of India and its systems and practices.
Not all think on those lines, though. For a more politically oriented and vocal group of youth, Kalsang Choedon, a student from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) among them, enrollment in the Indian voter list and acquiring Indian citizenship is equal to surrendering one’s Tibetan identity. Karma Yeshi, member of the Tibetan Exile Parliament, is another who does not feel the need for enrollment as he is determined to eventually go back to his own country. For him, living in India is a temporary hiatus, not a permanent state of affairs. Many Tibetans do not apply for enrolment in the voter lists due to this question of identity, which is central to citizenship and the political processes of any country.
There are two ways of looking at the voter enrollment. As Choekyong Wangchuk , member of Tibetan Parliament in exile puts it , to be enrolled in the voter’s list is good for those who wish to stay in India and bad for those who finally wish to settle in developed countries in the west including Australia. He feels that the Indian electoral process sets an example for all other countries.
As per the Demographic Survey of Tibetans in Exile 2009 by Planning Commission of Central Tibetan Administration, there are approximately 94,203 Tibetans in India.
The number, according to Choekyong Wangchuk , would be less than the estimate, about approx 80,000, due to reasons like low growth rate, prevalence of large number of monastic and nunnery institutes, younger generation moving towards west and China’s strict surveillance aided by Nepalese border authority since 2009 has dwindled the number to very few escapees from Tibet.
Tibetans are mostly spread across Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, Gangtok in Sikkim, Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, Shillong in Meghalaya and Mysore in Karnataka.
Inclusive as it is, the Election Commission’s move comes with its own procedural challenges. Refugees, as also Indian citizens, are required to produce identity proof such as residence, as the first and foremost document, in order to register for citizenship and voting rights. Many are not in a position to do so and consequently, many Tibetans cannot get themselves on the voter’s lists. In constituencies like Chandni Chowk, a large number of Tibetans were not eligible for registration for the voter ID card, either.
Prior to the general election 2014, in early February, the ECI Union issued notices to all state Chief Election Officers to enroll Tibetan refugees born in India between the cut-off dates of 1950 and 1987.
This move comes in the aftermath of the Karnataka High Court judgment in August 2013 that ruled in favour of Tibetans born and residing in India in the stated period eligible for citizenship.
Regarding that case, a writ petition was filed by Tenzin C.L. Rinpochae, in the Karnataka High Court, under Article 226 and 227 of the Indian Constitution, with a prayer to quash the order dated 19 February 2013 issued by the third respondent in consultation with the first respondent, declaring that the petitioner is not a citizen of India and consequently refusing to issue him with a passport.
Ministry of Home Affairs and Regional Passport Office (Bangalore) were the respondents.
The Court Order of 7 August 2013 said that the reason put forth in that regard by the respondent is that the children born to Tibetan refugees in India cannot be automatically treated as Indian citizens under the Citizenship Act 1955 and the same can be considered only if a certificate is issued in response to an application under Sec 9(2) of the Citizenship Act 1955. This said communication dated 9.02.2013 is assailed in the instant petition.
The respondent’s arguments were that in the application made for issue of passport, the nationality of the petitioner was indicated as Tibetan and under those circumstances, without there being an application as contemplated under the Citizenship Act 1955 and the competent authority issuing a Citizenship Certificate, the case of the petitioner cannot be considered for issue of passport.
The court order stated that it was necessary to refer to the decision to the Delhi High Court W.P ( c) 12179/2009 22.12.2010 (upon the petitioner’s counsel’s plea for placing reliance on the birth certificate of the petitioner) while considering these aspects. The Delhi high court has made detailed reference to the provisions contained in Section 3 of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the amendment of the provisions.
In that light, the court order said, after referring to the debate in Parliament, it had arrived at the conclusion that the cut-off dates of 26.01.1950 and 01.07.1987 were to be taken into consideration and that any person born to parents living in India between the said two dates, was to be automatically considered a citizen of India by birth.
In that circumstance, the court was of the view that the mention of nationality as Tibetan in the application was of no consequence; the issue of identity certificate has also been referred to in the decision. While considering these aspects, the Court concluded that when a person is born in India to Tibetan nationals who are settled in India and if no passport is issued to the person for purpose of identification, an identity certificate would be issued to enable the person to stay on in India. The court also stated that the issue of a passport to such a person thereafter identified his status in India and therefore the surrender of his identity certificate in such circumstances was necessary. The court order directed respondents 2 and 3 to consider the request of the petitioner for issue of passport.
Coming back to the present, the ECI move has, not surprisingly, met with strong and adverse reactions in areas that host a huge number of Tibetans, particularly in sensitive and conflict-ridden states such as the Northeast. These communally polarised states have, over many years now, witnessed violent incidents over the issue of cross-border migration, particularly in Assam and Meghalaya. In the state of Meghalaya, students‘ unions such as the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and the Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), as well as members of the civil society, have strongly opposed the ECI’s notice.
The president of the KSU was reported to have stated that they will never allow Tibetans or any “doubtful citizens” to enroll themselves in the state’s electoral rolls, while the FKJGP president observed that the move would be inviting trouble and would negatively impact the indigenous population of Meghalaya.
In Meghalaya again, the lifting of the Inner Line Permit (ILP), a permit required to be obtained from the Home Ministry by foreigners in the state as well as Indians visiting from other states, met with violent reaction. In other states like Manipur, civil societies have demanded the reinforcement of the ILP.
The most recent case relating to the election and refugees, took place in Mizoram. NGOs and students’ bodies led by the Young Mizo Association (YMA), a powerful civil society body in the state, called for the boycott of elections, in protest against the ECI’s decision to allow Bru refugees to vote. After an agreement was reached, the polling dates were re-scheduled for the lone Mizoram Lok Sabha seat.
And the debate of residents and citizens has re ignited once again with the recent post poll violence in the Bodoland Territorial Area District and adjoining areas, in west Assam, where over 30 alleged migrants, including women and children, were killed in the first week of May 2014. 
Liberty Institute (
May 6,2014