To many of us, although cognizant of the hot SADAR Hills issue in the state, the expansion of the acronym SADAR would probably be a mystery. But the expanded form of this acronym is self-explanatory of its structure as well as intent. For the uninitiated, it stands for Selected Area Development and Administrative Region, and Manipur is not the only state which has such a region. As evident from the name, it is actually a developmental and administrative model under the British colony’s land revenue management strategy. A close consideration of the map of Manipur’s SADAR Hills should also indicate that how the administrators of yore in our state may have initially decided to have such a region. It would not have missed anybody’s notice that this is an administrative region that touches practically every district of the state, both in the valley as well as the hills. Most of it too consists of foothill area, marked by rolling, not so difficult terrain, suitable for wet terraced agriculture. The area also has tremendous potential for plantation cash crops but these possibilities remain largely unexplored for different reasons, most prominently the continued uncertainty of its status as an autonomous administrative unit. The current atrocious blockade on Manipur’s two lifelines by the United Naga Council objecting to the plan of the government to upgrade SADAR Hills and Jiribam to full district status.
If not for these frictions born out of zealously guarded obscurantist notions of ethnic exclusive homelands, we are even of the opinion that the fertile valley being under tremendous land pressure to accommodate the ever growing number of important government institutions and other infrastructures, future expansion of such projects should be planned in the SADAR area. This would make these institutions more easily accessible from both the hills as well as the valley. While there is no way certain infrastructure projects, such as building an expanded airport, can be taken to the Sadar Hills and they will be destined to remain in the valley, we see no reason why many other such projects such as a sport university cannot be taken to the rolling foothills of SADAR Hills. Perhaps, even the Manipur University can begin thinking in terms of having another campus, at some location there, with the science departments concentrating at Canchipur where the university is presently located, and the humanities faculties shifted to the new SADAR campus. Not only would this be about prudent land management, but also sound and balanced developmental policy. Must the government be reminded over than over again that the hills’ sense of being neglected must be addressed earnestly and urgently? Let the myth and reality of this sense be made open, so that while the reality can be administratively dealt with, the myths can be exposed and exploded. Neither unfortunately is happening, and each continues to feed and fatten on their misconceptions of the other.
But first and foremost, if SADAR Hills must be a separate district, it must be made absolutely clear that it is an administrative unit and not an ethnic district or the “homeland” for anybody. Perhaps this unit could be further divided into SADAR-I, SADAR-II etc, to take care of problems such as that of somebody situated on Ngarian hilltop, for whom it would be unrealistic to frequent Kangpokpi, to redress his routine administrative needs. Maybe the idea can be further stressed and extended to other essentially mixed population areas such as Moreh. We would even be happy to see in the future all administrative districts of the state organised on similar ideology and outlook, so that ultimately, we become “demos” or citizens of a modern democracy besides being “ethnos” that we all are, maintaining our distinct ethnic identities in our private and cultural lives. Hence in the future, we could be looking at Imphal East, West, North, South, Thoubal-I, II, etc. In looking for such a resolution to an issue which is very much ours as much it is for much of the rest of the world, we do not always have to be compulsively looking for precedents, especially if there are no known precedents. The challenge of reconciling ethnicity with modern administrative structures is still relatively unexplored political territory and there is nothing that says we cannot experiment with what we know and believe are novel, and if met with a measure of success, become the role model for other to emulate.
Source: Imphal Free Press