Re-organisations of districts and ethnicity

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We are afraid turbulent days are ahead. Not that these days are peaceful by any yardstick. In fact, a host of public issues have been stressing the public psyche to the limits for a prolonged period. The demand for enactment of a constitutional safeguard for protection of indigenous peoples of the land and the vehement voices of opposition has been literally tearing apart the social fabric of Manipur. Amidst the cauldron of pro-ILPS and anti-ILPS campaigners, there is a growing voice for enlistment of Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe category under the Constitution of India. Again, a large section of the Meiteis has openly voiced their objection to the campaign for ST status. Even though all the arguments and counter arguments seem logical enough, consensus is missing in all these civil movements. What is even more intriguing is the total absence of any attempt towards negotiation and reconciliation. The demand for upgrading Sadar Hills to the status of a full-fledged district is a very old one. But the issue is becoming more and more complicated with each passing year. Apart from Sadar Hills, there are other similar demands viz; Jiribam, Tengnoupal and Tongjei Maril. The demand for upgrading Jiribam sub-division into a full-fledged district was always running parallel with that of Sadar Hills. There is no harm in granting district status to both Sadar Hills and Jiribam. Then what is taking the Government so long in fulfilling the cherished dreams of the people of Sadar Hills and Jiribam? Just like in the present case of ILPS, the State Government found its hands tied on the issues of Sadar Hills and Jiribam on account of vehement oppositions from opposite camps. Ostensibly, there are always opposite camps when it comes to any public issue in Manipur.
Now several Thadou civil organisations have served an ultimatum to the State Government demanding conversion of Sadar Hills into a full-fledged district by the first week of July. Only time can tell how the Government would respond to the renewed demand. We think there will be no problem in granting district status of Sadar Hills, and for that matter Jiribam, if only there are no voices of opposition. These voices of opposition will grow louder and more vehement when it comes to demarcation of district boundaries as informed by past experiences. The demand for new districts whether it is the Sadar Hills or Jiribam or Tengnoupal as well as all the voices of opposition are influenced by ethnic politics to some extent, if not totally. Nevertheless, all these are not either fully devoid of rationale or political wisdom. If the demand for creation of new districts is for administrative convenience and public welfare, then why there are voices of opposition? There should not be any objection. Unfortunately, there were voices of opposition and it reflected politics of ethno-exclusivity. The present day conflict, confrontation and contest over land as witnessed in Manipur and elsewhere in the so-called North East India can be traced back to the colonial system of administration under which the plains and hills were administered separately. The legacy of this dual system of administration goes on in the post-independent era and India did little to amend the flawed system. The faith accompli committed by the British imperialist and inherited by independent India is now haunting the collective psyche of Manipuri people who believe in pluralism. Regarding creation and re-organisation of districts, we are of the firm opinion that it should be done based on geographical features and contiguity, not on ethnic lines.

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