Tangkhul chiefs' body up in arms over ‘injustice’
R LESTER MAKANG
UKHRUL, 9th Jun: Whether it actually made sense or aspires to do so but for years, the popular state’s unity slogan 'Ching-Tam Amatani' has been apparently profound and inspirational in its purport, of the oneness of the hill-valley dwellers in the state.
Today, has this apothegmatic tagline come under question and is set to go downhill? An association of Tangkhul village chiefs by the name of Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long (TNWL) has come down heavily on the state government for being allegedly insensitive to unending political and development injustice subjected to the tribal communities in the state.
In a press statement issued by TNWL president AS Vaomi, the chiefs body called the age-old ‘Ching-Tam Amatani’ slogan as a mere 'rhetorical political' one for valley-based politicians and leaders alleging that successive state governments heavily favour valley interests over interests of the hills thereby engaging location specific economic activities in the valley and adopting political appeasement towards hill representatives.
"It is unlikely that people will easily forget the year 2020 easily. It is a year marked by a pandemic. Besides, an unprecedented electoral delimitation process is set to transpire in Manipur. In the past, we had witnessed a denial of political justness and development negligence to Ukhrul and Kamjong districts for over 20 years. The present government’s pro-valley policy is a new normal in Manipur political and development dispensation, the valley-centric policy, function, and approach is the asymmetric political threat to geographically distinct and unglued hill districts’ tribal population. The existing rationalisation heavily focuses on the political and developmental incentives of valley leaders to align themselves with influential valley population at the expense of hill population," the statement pointed out.
"We, therefore, urge chief minister N Biren Singh to adopt political justness and development fairness in the current dispensation to facilitate the peaceful co-existence of hill and valley population. May this political prejudiced committed by the past regimes be rectified by finding a just political solution and development equity," the association anticipated.
Stating that Manipur state with a population of 28,55,794 (2011 Census) has a geographical coverage of 22,327 sq km, it continued that : "Geographically, the state can be broadly categorised into hills and valley. Ethnically, culturally and linguistically, the tribals in the hills and the Meiteis in the valley are both distinct categories, unique in their own ways. The underrepresentation of the tribals is clear when we consider existing territorial constituencies: population size and the extent of geographical coverage of a territorial constituency."
"There are 33 recognised tribes in Manipur. Traditionally, the tribals, who are overwhelmingly hill-dwellers, occupy approximately 90 percent of the total geographical area of the state, accounting for a population figure of 12,17,744 as per the last population Census (2011), which translates into 42.8 percent of the total population of the state," it said, citing Phungyar constituency as an example wherein its 2300 sq km geographical area is larger than all the 40 valley constituencies put together. "The Hill areas are represented by only 19 members in the Legislative Assembly of the state (a mere 31.6 percent of the total seats). Contrastingly, the valley population of a mere 16,28,224 (57.2%) is overrepresented with 41 MLAs (68.4%), even though the valley accounts only for 10% of the total geographical area of the state". The electoral injustice or discrimination of the
tribals by the existential political system of the state becomes more evident when the political debate gets subjected to the test of scientific and empirical verification: On average, an MLA from the Hills represents 60,887.2 population while that of an MLA from the Valley represents
40,705 population, as per the last population Census (2011), the chiefs body further contended.
Moreover, two districts of Ukhrul and Kamjong (erstwhile Ukhrul district) never had an MLA with a cabinet berth in nearly two decades, despite representing one of the largest districts in the state, it said.
"Equally important is the fact that one of the mockeries of democracy and the flaying of Constitutional norms have been in execution since 1952, through the unfair Parliamentary elections conducted in the state of Manipur. The Inner Parliamentary Constituency of Manipur is an unreserved seat covering the non-tribal people of the plains, whereas, the Outer Parliamentary Constituency is a reserved Parliamentary seat for the Scheduled Tribes of
Manipur. Even though the Constitution provides for reservation of Parliamentary seats for the approximately 100 million tribals in India, the 7 segments of Thoubal district (erstwhile Thoubal sub-division, excluding Bishnupur Tehsil) and one segment of Jiribam district of the non-tribal Meiteis with approximately 2.3 lakh voters, have been unfairly clubbed, electorally,
with the reserved Outer Parliamentary Constituency meant for the tribals, which is why, the ratio of the electoral population of the Outer and the Inner Parliamentary Constituencies is 61:39, thereby, simultaneously rendering democratic injustice upon the non-tribal populace of those eight aforementioned Assembly Constituencies, incapacitating them to contest Lok Sabha elections in the Reserved seat.
In terms of development and infrastructures, the valley districts of Manipur are among the most developed districts in Northeast India, it said adding that North East Region District Development Infrastructure Index 2009 (The Development Infrastructure Index was based on 7 indicators, viz., transport facility, energy, irrigation facility, banking facility, communication infrastructure, educational institutions, and health facilities) shows that Imphal West ranked at number 1 as the most developed district in the
entire Northeastern states, Imphal East ranked 6, Thoubal-11, whereas the tribal district of Ukhrul-68, Tamenglong-75, Churachandpur-76, Chandel-78. The valley is the most fertile part of Manipur; the valley settlers are well connected with the rest of the world with three national highways and one international airport.
" In few years Imphal will become an international market and soon will be connected with the railway line. In the state, the district-wise Development Infrastructure Index shows Imphal West-1, Imphal East-2, Thoubal-3,
Bishnupur-4, Senapati-5, Ukhrul-6, Tamenglong-7, Churachandpur-8, and Chandel-9. It indicates that developmental work is only taking up in the valley of Manipur and the hills have been given step-motherly treatment for many decades.
Touching on the matter of educational and other Importance Institutions, it stated that Manipur has eight universities namely Central Agricultural University, Dhanamanjuri University, Manipur University, Manipur University of Culture, Manipur Technical University, National Sports University, Sangai International University, Manipur International University and two medical institutes namely Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences and Regional Institute of Medical Sciences and three technical institutes (Manipur Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Information Technology, National Institute of Technology). "All these universities, medical institutes, and technical institutes are located in the valley alone. The Indira Gandhi National
Tribal University is the only university located in the hills area which is located just 22.8 km from Imphal," it further said.
"While all the above-mentioned factors certainly matter for decision-making calculus, the geographic clustering of valley-centric development, calls for better integration of standard theories and aspects of the political geography of hill districts," the association added.