PUCL Bulletin, August 2001

Situation in Manipur
Ceasefire could snap unity between the Nagas and Meities
-- By N. Kotishwar Singh

Also see, PUCL appeals for peace following a violent agitation

The divide between the Nagas and the Meiteis is almost complete. While the demands of the Nagas for extension of cease-fire in Manipur areas is understandable from their point of view, it is a highly emotive issue for the Meiteis. The common apprehension of the Meiteis is that the extension of the ceasefire is just the prelude to the creation of a Greater Nagaland in which event almost the entire geographical area of Manipur will go to the Greater Nagaland or whatever it is called, as the valley constitutes a small percentage of the total area. I give below a brief overview of the statistics based on 1991 Census.

Area in the hills districts:

  • Senapati (mostly Naga inhabited): 3,271.0 sq.km.
  • Tamenglong (do): 4,391.0
  • Chandel (do): 3,313.0
  • Ukhrul (do): 4,544.0
  • Churachandpur (Mostly Kukis and other non Naga tribes): 4,570.0

Total area in the hill districts: 20,089.0 sq. km.
Area in the valley districts:

  • Imphal: 1,228.0,
  • Thou bal: 514.0,
  • Bishtupur: 496.0.

Total area in the valley districts: 2,238.0 sq. km.
Total area in the hill and the valley: 22,327.0 sq.km. Therefore, the Valley areas constitutes only 11.14% of the total area of Manipur.

Total population of Manipur: 1,837,149
In hill districts:

  • Senapati (mostly Naga inhabited): 208,406,
  • Tamenglong (do): 86,278,
  • Chandel (do): 71,014,
  • Ukhrul (do): 109,275,
  • Churachandpur (Mostly Kukis and other non Naga tribes): 176,184.

Total population in the hill districts: 651,157.

In valley districts:

  • Imphal: 711,261,
  • Thoubal: 293,958,
  • Bishnupur: 180,773.

Total population in the valley districts: 1,185,992.

Therefore the total population in the valley constitutes 64.55% of the total population of the State. (This also includes a large number of Scheduled Tribes, especially Rongmei Nagas in the valley).

In other words, the Meiteis/Non-tribals which constitutes about 64.55% of the total population of the state live in only 11.14% of the total area of Manipur. If the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur, viz. most of the areas in the districts of Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong and Chandel (except Churachandpur) which constitute 15,519 sq. km. (i.e., 69.5%) of the total area form part of the Greater Nagaland, and the remaining hill areas also form separate state, the Meities will be left with only about 11% of the present day Manipur. This possibility evokes a fearful picture to the Meities.

Meities who had been the dominant community with historical ties extending to the communities, both the Nagas and non-Naga tribes of the present day Manipur perceives the present day Manipur as a composite historical entity. Therefore, dismemberment of any part of the present day Manipur whether for the cause of Greater Nagaland or otherwise is not emotionally acceptable to the Meiteis. The Meitei concept of state, Kangleipak or Sanaleipak with and surrounded by hills on all the sides will get a severe battering. To a Meitei mind, a Manipur without the hills is incomprehensible. For the Nagas, it hardly matters.

This is the reason why the issue of extension of ceasefire in Manipur has evoked such a massive protest and opposition amongst the Meiteis. To a common Meitei man, if there could be extension of ceasefire in Manipur areas, in spite of earlier assurances by the Central Government, formation of Greater Nagaland by ceding large areas of hill districts from Manipur is also a possibility, as the assurances of the Central Government is not reliable.
One way of looking at the present situation is that the decision of the Central Government to extend the cease fire agreement to the Naga areas of Manipur has more to do with suppressing the underground movement of the other groups and less to do with the demands of the NSCN(IM) in meeting their demands but in Manipur, all the valley based underground organisations have to rely on the hill areas for sanctuary as the valley areas do not offer any strategically safe sanctuaries.

Thus buying peace with the Nagas and also ensuring their non-co-operation with the valley based underground organisations will significantly enhance the advantage of the security forces to effectively deal with the valley based organisations. The cease fire agreement postulates that the NSCN will not give shelter/support to any other insurgent groups. This will be a serious set-back to the valley based underground organisations so far as their operations in the Naga areas are concerned. In other words, Delhi has managed to kill two birds with one stone, appeasing the NSCN as well as putting the heat on the valley based underground organisations.

The extension of the ceasefire agreement in Manipur will have a far reaching repercussions in Manipur. The fragile unity of the Meities and Nagas may rupture. The undercurrent tension between these two communities may burst open.

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