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

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Manipur’s Population Conundrum

This paper examines Manipur’s census statistics for the period between 1991 and 2011. It argues that conventional demographic factors cannot explain the abnormal population growth rates reported in parts of northern Manipur, and that the abnormalities in the headcount are instead associated with competition for seats in the state legislative assembly. Manipur’s experience is used to draw attention to systemic problems related to the inadequacy of metadata supplied by the census, lack of guidelines for correction of census data, impact of political interference on data quality, and cascading effect of errors in fundamental statistics, such as headcount, on other government statistics.

In a recent submission to this journal (“Institutional Exclusion of the Hill Tribes in Manipur: Demand for Protection under the Sixth Schedule”), Piang (2019: 54) discusses the marginalisation of tribes within Manipur, where they have been “living together separately” with the Meiteis. He traces back the roots of this marginalisation to “colonial cartography” that cut through tribal territories, and effected a “forced integration” of tribal territories with the princely state of Manipur, on the grounds of “administrative conveniences and military exigencies” (Piang 2019: 54).1 Piang (2019) presents the hills and the valley of Manipur as inherently antagonistic entities. For instance, he argues that “The hills and valleys divide is not due to the now infamous ‘divide and rule’ policy, rather it is the by-product of the nature of politics prior to ­colonial ascendency” (Piang 2019: 56).2

Piang (2019) identifies three manifestations of the institutionalised marginalisation of tribes in the decision-making bodies of Manipur: the subversion of the Hill Areas Committee (a committee of all elected members of the legislative assembly from the hill areas of the state); the denial of autonomy under the Sixth Schedule; and the denial of proportional representation to tribes in the legislative assembly.3 These are, in fact, issues of long-standing concern in the hill districts (Shimray 2001). The third facet of marginalisation highlighted by Piang (2019) is our point of departure. Manipur comprises of a small valley that accounts for about 10% and 60% of the state’s area (GoI nd[e]) and reported population (Table 1, p 50), respectively, and is surrounded by hills on all sides (Figure 1, p 49).4 The Meiteis inhabit the Imphal Valley and constitute the largest community in the state. The hills are populated by 34 recognised Scheduled Tribes. The Naga tribes dominate the hills to the north, while the Kuki and related tribes are dominant in the south.

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Updated On : 7th Dec, 2020

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