Tearing apart the understanding of Manipur: The hills-valley dichotomy

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48 hours total shutdown in the hill areas of Manipur. Partial road blocks and sit-in protests at different localities of Imphal and the valley districts. The first imposed by the Churachandpur JAC and the latter by the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS). A team from different political parties readying to proceed to Delhi to get the three Bills passed on August 31 last year enacted. The divide cannot be clearer than this. Pulling the idea of Manipur in opposing directions and no one knows what the future holds. Moreover it is still not clear whether the Centre will agree to the proposal of the State Government to enact the said three Bills but the divide spawned by the three Bills is clear. One group of people backing the three Bills and another group strongly opposed to the Bills and clearly things are not looking good for Manipur at all. Would be wrong to presume that the divide between the people revolves only around the three Bills, for the difference may run much deeper than the said three Bills. Maybe the three Bills were just the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. How did such a sense of deep distrust and animosity amongst the people develop ? Difficult to pin point to any stage of history but it is there for all to see. Ironic it is that a movement to protect the interest of the indigenous people of the State has today torn the people apart and it is not only the three Bills which have torn the people asunder but also other issues such as the demand for a Greater Lim.
The Nagas and the Kukis may stand united today against the three Bills, but remember the divide that will come about when the demand to grant district status to Sadar Hills is raised. The sharp division amongst the valley people, the Meiteis to be precise, can again be seen in the fierce debate over the question of whether the Meiteis/Meeteis should demand ST status from the Government of India. Difference of opinion is welcome and reflects a healthy society where debates can be held on issues which directly impact on the lives of the people, but the difference spawned by the three Bills as well as over the question of ST status on the Meiteis/Meeteis does not exactly qualify to be called debates. Each side championing their beliefs and opinion and this has been the bane of the people here in Manipur. To be precise how many of the anti-Bills lobby have actually read the three Bills passed by the State Assembly on August 31 last year ? Likewise how many of those championing the three Bills actually read and understood them ? These questions are important in the backdrop of the sharp divide over the three Bills.

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