The Other’s issue

108

In the last few decades, a negative culture has developed among the various communities inhabiting the state of Manipur. It is becoming a compulsive habit for many of the ethnic organizations to object to any kind of aspirations if the demand is being put up by the ‘other’ community. For example, the much disputed Sadar Hills and Jiribam district is a case in point. These two sub-divisions have almost everything in terms of infrastructure with regard to functioning of a full fledged revenue district. Many a government had tried to inaugurate the two ‘districts’ in the past only to be ditched at the last minute after facing fierce road-blocks. The Sadar Hills demand is an issue where the Nagas and Kukis are pitted against each other and the Kuki resolve was further hardened after the Naga-Kuki riots in early 1990s. The tragedy is that, Sadar Hills has often been interpreted as a Kuki district, while the Sadar region is inhabited by various other communities like Nagas, Nepalis and Meiteis also. The origin of the demand could be traced back till the British Raj, where the hilly region encircling the valley acted as a buffer between the hills and the valley. The demographic structure of the region was affected by the Naga-Kuki riots due to population shifts and increased concentration of Kuki refugees in the Sadar region especially in Kangpokpi area and also in the Churachandpur district. One may reservations on the boundary of the sub-division. However, the real issue is of administrative convienence and proximity of offices to the populace and this has always been a deciding factor in the creation of revenue districts. On the other hand, Jiribam is a sub-division of the Imphal East district on the Assam-Manipur border and inhabited by diverse communities of the state including non-indigenous populations. It is a border outpost like Moreh in the Indo-Myanmar border, which has its strategic importance since time immemorial. But, the people of the sub-division has been suffering on several counts as they had to travel to District HQs at Porompat for seeking even simple documents and certificates relating to land and other benefits. Most of all, it costs extra expenditure and time. They have been suffering even before the bifurcation of Central district into Imphal West and Imphal East. All the communities are going to benefit from conversion of Jiribam as a full-fledged revenue district and it is not the Meiteis alone. Likewise, in the case of Sadar Hills also, the local populace has been suffering especially after the Naga-Kuki riots as the Kukis do not feel safe going to Senapati district headquarters for availing documents. The idea of good governance is for the arms of the administration to reach out to even far-flung villages and not for the people to come and seek redress every time they feel at a loss. However, the situation today is that after reaching district headquarters at their own expense they were again made to suffer red tape and bureaucratic delays at the hands scrupulous clerks and officials. This is clearly a humanitarian issue and no communal colour should be added to it. If the Nagas and the Kukis could sit together on the so-called ‘anti-tribal’ bills and put up a common cause why cannot they thrash out the vexed issue of Sadar Hills on the negotiating table. The people of Sadar Hills and Jiribam have waited long enough for realization of their dreams. The state government should not delay a decision and inauguration of the two districts in view of the objections raised against it. Good governance should be a priority.
Source: Imphal Free Press

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