ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Manipur: Squaring the Circle?

The aspirations for a "Greater Nagalim" and the Manipuri determination to maintain current boundaries make for a rock and a hard place.

There seems to be no way out of the present crisis gripping Manipur whose land links to the rest of the country have been virtually severed for nearly two months. The blockade imposed at the most widely used point of entry into the state by road from the rest of the country, Mao on NH-39, by several Naga organisations and individuals shows no signs of being lifted or even eased. There have been reports of obstruction and blockade on the other land link, the New Cachar Road (NH-53) entering the state at Jiribam in the west and passing through Tamenglong district, another Naga-inhabited area. A long convoy of trucks carrying essential supplies could make the journey only with an armed escort. The consequences for the people of the state across all other divides, some of which significantly contributed to the resentments that have led to the blockade, are easy to imagine.

The blockade imposed and enforced by several Naga organisations was initially in protest against the decision of the state government to hold elections to the autonomous district councils (ADCs) in the hill districts. Manipur has five hill districts of which four, Chandel, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul, are claimed to be overwhelmingly inhabited by the Naga people. The population of the fifth, Churachandpur, is claimed to be predominantly Kuki, a very broad category comprising numerous Kuki-related tribes. The reality is that in none of these five districts is the population entirely homogeneous. There is no one-to-one correlation between any one single tribe and the territory of one single district. The Kuki people and the various so-called sub-tribes classified under that broad category, who have historically been one of the most mobile people, have significant settlements in all the supposedly Naga-dominated districts, including Ukhrul, admittedly inhabited predominantly by the Naga people. Demographic mobility, as always, defies all political formulas.

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