In continuance of the suggestion we made in the editorial yesterday in a rumination on ways a solution could be worked out in relation to the demand of the United Naga Council, UNC, for a separate administrative arrangement for the Nagas of Manipur, another way of putting to effect a more broad-based federalism is to introduce the 6th Schedule in the state. However, the peculiarity of the demography, geography and most importantly the ethnic polarisation in Manipur in the past few decades being what it is, let the schedule cover the entire state and not just certain areas only. The 6th Schedule in spirit was meant to protect small pockets of tribal habitations embedded in a sea of non-tribal population. In the case of Manipur, the peculiarity is, in terms of area of occupation, only one tenth of the land mass of the state is of non-reserved category and the remaining 90 percent reserved for tribals: in short just the opposite of what the 6th Schedule envisaged to protect. This being the case, it would be in the fitness of things to have all the nine districts of the state covered by the 6th Schedule and all of them come under the administration of an independent Autonomous Districts Councils each. This would mean there would be a hundred percent overlap of administration between the 6th Schedule ADCs and the state government’s administrative domain, almost in a replication of the Meghalaya case. As in Meghalaya, only the Imphal municipal area which is today truly cosmopolitan, can be left as the non-reserved space, administered as usual directly by the state government with the help of its different autonomous administrative instruments, such as the recently revived Imphal Municipal Council, IMC. If this were to be the case, there would be no cause for complaint by anybody of being treated below par of any other administrative units of the state.
There is however a few things that needs to be clarified regarding the much hyped hill-valley disparity that has been so much the cause for accumulation of bile amongst many, especially in the hill districts often at the motivated instigation of interested parties. The sore point magnified quite unjustifiably has been of the difference in visible material development between Imphal and the hills. This comparison is badly flawed. Imphal is the political as well as the commercial capital of the state hence would be understandably bigger and more commercially alive than other townships and district headquarters. This difference however is not just with towns in the hill districts but also the valley as well. This being the case, a more apt and justified comparison of prosperity would be between say Bishenpur and Ukhrul or Thoubal and Churachandpur, and not Imphal and Ukhrul etc. Let this fact register once and for all, Imphal is ahead because it is the state’s political and commercial capital for reasons that have to do with a lot of factors, including geography and location.
Again, if we sit down and consider the demography of Imphal city, a different picture other than what so many vested interests have been trying to project would emerge. The heart of Imphal is the Kangla, the old seat of power of the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur. Consider the population that surrounds it. In the north are North AOC, Dewlahland, Nagaram, Pumai colony, etc, in the West are Major Khul, Muji Khul, Kakhulong, and the Bazar business communities etc, in the south Keishamthong Kabui, Moirangkhom, Mahabali Kabui, Haokip Veng etc, in the east, Checkon, Tribal Colony, Chassad Avenue etc. All of these are tribal dominated. It would not be surprising at all if in the very heart of Imphal, traditional residents, the Meitei, are not in the majority. In the greater Imphal region of course, this community would emerge as the majority again, because the Imphal suburbs and the rest of the valley area are their traditional home ground. Let it hence not be said in an unqualified and irresponsible manner that Imphal is Meitei city, and that developing it is only in the interest of the Meiteis. It is a cosmopolitan city and if ethnic poisons are not breathed into it constantly, it would be a beautiful one as well. Even if our suggestion comes to be considered by the powers that be, our plea is for Imphal to left untouched by the walls of ethnic divisions, which in many ways the 6th Schedule is, and be allowed to be owned and built jointly by the state’s many communities which inhabit it.