We would like to continue the debate on hill-valley equation as against the complexities of contesting claims on territory. Many of us including the state government and civil society organisation have been side-stepping this complex issue for a long time either due to lack of imagination or for lack of political will or for fear further muddying up the complex environment. In fact, postponement of discourse or delay in taking decisions with regard to such complex issues is one factor responsible for worsening the situation thereby leading to a point of no return. If we are to begin an exercise of finding a way out besides the government committees or commissions, we must first try to understand the complexities and the animosity which had developed the years. We also need an open mind for finding a solution which would lead us out of the maze of contesting claims on territories or boundaries. Above all, one has to take into consideration the collective historical experience of compulsions thrown up by geographical considerations in the concept called Manipur. Since times immemorial, the geo-political reality of Manipur was founded on the concept of ‘Ching-Pat-Turel’ or in broader terms the interdependence of the hill and the valley where the common historical experience of the hill and the valley was connected through the rivers which runs from the hills to the valley and it had withstood the tests of time except for an artificial divide created in recent times by way of colonial experiments. Certain vested elements have been, in recent times, trying to project the hills and the valley as separate entities which have further created divisions among the peoples inhabiting the hills of Manipur.
Well, it is easy to divide a collective identity forged out of a common historical experience but it is very difficult to bond together two groups having separate historical experiences. There is an ancient saying in the Manipuri lore that in Ava (Burma or Myanmar) the creepers winds up the trees anti-clockwise while in Manipur it goes clockwise. This simply means that although Manipur and Ava are neighbours there is no common binding thread between the two. Simply put, there can never be a limit to the territories of either the hill region or the valley. It is all inter-connected, and as because the two geographical regions are interdependent disputes would naturally arise. For that matter, land dispute or the territorial question has been haunting human beings since times immemorial. Land disputes at the level of neighbouring families, villages, regions and states is nothing new to either the humans or the animals. And it is always disputed. It is not something which could be wished away by the verdict of some committee or commission. Realities have to be understood and concessions have to be made. The demand of Committee for Protection for Tribal areas of Manipur (COPTAM) for determining district boundary as per original villages` boundary based on the The Manipur State Hill Peoples` (Administration) Regulation, 1947 had to be taken with a pinch of salt. Besides the contentions of overlapping territories between the Autonomous District Council (ADC) and the Panchayats, it has raised the demand for inclusion of two important border posts of Manipur which are Moreh and Jiribam in the hill districts. In the wake of the demand for conversion of Jiribam into a full fledged district, COPTAM has demanded that Jiribam should be a hill district without taking into consideration the demographic profile of the sub-division. On the other hand, there is an attempt to convert Moreh into a rural area. The cosmopolitan demography of the town has been ignored for the sake of a dominant tribal population in the region. Such attitudes do not speak well of the ethnic harmony or the trade activities present in the border town. One needs to leave aside tribal considerations for the sake of the state as a whole and we should be ready to take up issues head on instead of side-stepping it.