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

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Institutional Exclusion of the Hill Tribes in Manipur

Demand for Protection under the Sixth Schedule

Ever since the colonial government brought the hill areas by annexation into the fold of Manipur, which was then only the Imphal Valley, the hill tribes and the valley community have been “living together separately,” with certain separate administrative arrangements. The problems of present-day Manipur are the consequences of this forced integration of two different entities. After India’s independence, the hill tribes in the North East were protected under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, but the Manipur hill tribes were left out. This denial of the extension of the Sixth Schedule to Manipur is a process of institutional exclusion, which has led to the demand for greater autonomy.

The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for invaluable inputs and critical comments which have helped to strengthen and sharpen the focus of his arguments.

The hill areas of present-day Manipur are home to various tribes, such as the Nagas and Zo people (Kuki-Chin), which were brought into the fold of Manipur by the British colonial government, by slicing out portions of various hill ranges such as the Naga Hills, Chin Hills, Lushai and Cachar Hills, contiguous to the Imphal Valley. This colonial cartography cut across ethnic groups and was primarily geared towards administrative conveniences and military exigencies, which resulted in the division of the communities in the region by various administrative boundaries. So, it is argued that the political problems facing the hill tribes in Manipur are rooted in the process of how the British colonisers created this princely state, while consolidating their position in the region (Piang 2015: 160–61).

Historically, the hill tribes were never ruled by the Manipur raja and no attempt had ever been made to set up a regular administrative arrangement, even among the few villages of the hill tribes where he could, from time to time, forcibly wrest portions of their harvest in the form of taxes. In fact, the British engaged with them indirectly through their political agent, from 1835 till the Kuki Rising (1917–19). Thereafter, the hill areas were annexed and directly administered. As B K Roy Burman (2005: 10) aptly remarks, “for quite some time in the nineteenth century the British policy was to consolidate the control over the tribals in the borders of Burma and Cachar through the king of Manipur.”

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Updated On : 13th Apr, 2019
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