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Could administrative trifurcation of Manipur State be the end-game of the Centre?

by Rinku Khumukcham
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Could administrative trifurcation of Manipur State be the end-game of the Centre?

In a recent interview with RK Meghen, a former rebel leader, concerns have surfaced regarding the potential administrative division of Manipur into three territorial councils by the central government, utilizing the ongoing violence as a pretext. This suspicion aligns with earlier considerations for addressing armed movements in Manipur by proposing a solution which is, akin to the Bodoland model which envisions providing each community with its own autonomous region. Relating to this issue, Imphal Times, in October 28, 2019, reported that the Manipur government had allegedly suggested recommendations for the administrative trifurcation of the state in an attempt to address the NSCN-IM issue.
As per the disclosed information to Imphal Times in 2019, the proposed administrative framework includes listing the entire state under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, a provision designed for the administration of tribal areas. Additionally, the government advocated declaring Manipur a Hill State, resembling Nagaland, with a bicameral legislature and incorporation under the Sixth Schedule, indicating a desire for special administrative status. The proposal outlined the establishment of three autonomous councils—North Autonomous Council, South Autonomous Council, and Central Autonomous Council—spanning the entire state and encompassing districts from various regions of Manipur. The source suggests that proposal requires amending Article 371 C to facilitate the administrative trifurcation.
In response to this disclosure, at that time the Kuki-Zo organisations had expressed openness to the recommendations, contingent on certain adjustments, including the removal of Moreh from the Central region and granting control of the border town to the Kuki-Zo community. However, Thokchom Radheshyam, the then spokesperson of the Manipur government, clarified in a telephonic conversation with Imphal Times editor that no such recommendation had been sent from the state government to the centre. The absence of disclosure by the source on whether the Government of India accepted or rejected these recommendations at that time added to the uncertainty regarding the Indo-NSCN IM peace talk. Valley-based civil society groups had voiced opposition to the proposed administrative trifurcation.
Amidst the current ongoing conflict and the establishment of a buffer zone, suspicions resurface regarding whether the ultimate goal is the administrative trifurcation of the state while safeguarding its territorial integrity. If such is the case, it could undermine the concept of Manipur, extending beyond territorial to administrative integrity, where all communities coexist under one state administration. Accepting administrative trifurcation as a solution implies endorsing separate administration while striving to maintain territorial integrity, raising questions about the broader movement aimed at upholding both territorial and administrative integrity in Manipur. The fear is that such a move may lead to increased violence.
In navigating Manipur’s complex conflict, transparent communication and inclusive dialogue are imperative. The contentious issues surrounding autonomy, unity, and territorial integrity require collaborative efforts and an open exchange of ideas. As Manipur faces escalating violence, it is crucial to address the concerns and aspirations of all communities to ensure a peaceful future that embraces diversity, fosters unity, and respects the unique cultural fabric of the state. However, all actions must be dealt with transparently by the Centre to build trust and foster a lasting solution.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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