THE economic blockade of Manipur’s two national highways by the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee that started on 1 August continues. It wants the existing Sadar Hills Autonomous District Council to be upgraded to a full-fledged entity.
Some of their leaders met the Prime Minister and Union home minister in Delhi to seek their intervention. Even chief minister Ibobi Singh held discussions with Central leaders. A committee has been formed to reorganise the police district boundary to streamline the administration. It is surprising, indeed, that even for a state subject the Manipuris have to shuttle between Imphal and New Delhi.
Manipur’s MP from the Outer Constituency told a Press conference in New Delhi on 18 August 2011 that the issue of creation of a district was a “state subject”. He repeated this at a Press conference in Imphal early this month. The United Naga Council, which opposes the demand, has also started a counter-blockade. Slowly the demand is turning into a Naga versus Kuki issue.
As of now, everyone, including the state government, seems to accept that the creation of a Sadar Hills district is far too complicated, complex and sensitive.
If one looks back at the Naga-Kuki conflict in the matter of creating a Sadar Hills district, it is worth recall that the Manipur government’s planning and development department in February 1972 issued a notification for the creation of six autonomous district councils and Sadar Hills is one of them. Five of the autonomous councils are said to have been upgraded to full-fledged districts. Later, in 1982, the Manipur Cabinet decided to create three districts, including Sadar Hills, with Kangpokpi as its headquarters. The others were Thoubal and Bishnupur.
Then Governor ON Srivastava told the assembly in 1997 that “my government’s decision for creation of a new district for Sadar Hills is also being implemented”. In January 2000, the Cabinet reaffirmed its decision on Sadar Hill district. The proceeding minutes noted: Inauguration may be done!
So one wonders why Sadar Hills continues to remain an autonomous council. Is it because of the early 1990s’ Naga-Kuki conflict? Or is some third party involved? If the SHDDC’s stand is to be taken into consideration, those inhabiting Sadar Hills have no qualms about demanding a district and that the problems actually arise from outside the Sadar Hills. In fact, the SHDDC comprises, apart from the majority Kuki community, elected representatives of different communities, including Nepalis, Marings and Zeliangrongs. In such a scenario, it is time that political leaders and elected representatives took an interest in solving the issue amicably. The “wait and watch game” has cost the state dearly.
In any case, whether or not a Sadar Hills district is created, it is not going to narrow the ethnic divide. If one goes back to the history of the administrative reorganisation of Manipur, since attaining statehood in 1971 the issue of Sadar Hills may not appear to be so complex or complicated as is being made out to be.
The Statesman October 31, 2011