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Understanding the De Facto Partitioning in Manipur

by Editorial Team
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Understanding the De Facto Partitioning in Manipur

The recent row over placing barbed wires in certain areas in Jiribam, which physically segregated Meiteis from other communities, highlights a larger, more ominous trend of de facto partitioning in Manipur. This symbolic gesture is more than a simple act of removing barriers; it highlights a growing, albeit unofficial, division within the state. The ongoing Meitei-Kuki conflict and the history of administrative dichotomy in Naga-dominated hill districts suggest a potential trajectory towards de jure partitioning of Manipur, achieved gradually through military and strategic maneuvers.
For years, the delicate balance of ethnic and regional identities in Manipur has been precariously maintained. The Meiteis, predominantly inhabiting the central valley, and the Kukis and Nagas, residing in the surrounding hills, have long-standing socio-political tensions. These tensions have manifested in various forms, including violent clashes, economic blockades, and territorial disputes. The current situation, however, indicates a shift from sporadic conflicts to an emerging pattern of quasi-autonomous governance and territorial control.
The Meitei-Kuki conflict, often marked by violent skirmishes and mutual distrust, is not merely a series of isolated incidents. It represents a deeper struggle for territorial and administrative control. The barbed wire row in Jiribam is emblematic of the ongoing efforts to redefine boundaries and establish new power dynamics. The barbed wires were not just physical barriers; they were symbols of a deeper, more entrenched division that is increasingly being recognized and acted upon by both communities.
The history of Naga administration in the hill districts further illuminates this trend. Despite the official stance of the Indian government against extending the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) to Manipur, the reality on the ground has been starkly different. Over time, NSCN-IM has effectively established a parallel administration in Naga-dominated areas, undermining the authority of the Manipur state government. This de facto control has created a precedent for other communities seeking similar autonomy.
The strategy of altering realities on the ground through military and administrative means has significant implications. It suggests a long-term vision where de jure partitioning becomes a viable endgame. By progressively changing the status quo, these groups aim to create conditions where formal recognition of separate territories becomes inevitable. This process involves not just physical demarcations but also the establishment of governance structures, economic systems, and cultural institutions that reinforce the idea of distinct, self-governing regions.
The implications of such a de facto partitioning are profound. For the Meiteis, Kukis, and Nagas, it means a reconfiguration of their socio-political landscapes. While some might view this as a path towards greater autonomy and self-determination, others fear it could lead to increased fragmentation, instability, and conflict. The state’s ability to maintain its territorial integrity and administrative coherence is being tested in unprecedented ways.
Furthermore, this trend challenges the broader framework of Indian federalism. The central government’s role in mediating and managing inter-state and intra-state conflicts is crucial. However, the persistence of de facto autonomous regions indicates a potential weakening of this central authority. If such trends continue unchecked, it could inspire similar movements in other parts of the country, leading to a domino effect of regional fragmentation.
In conclusion, the barbed wires in Jiribam and the ongoing Meitei-Kuki conflict are not isolated events. They are part of a larger pattern of de facto partitioning that threatens to reshape the socio-political fabric of Manipur. The history of Naga administration in hill districts serves as a cautionary tale of how de facto realities can undermine official state authority. As these divisions deepen, the prospect of a de jure partitioning looms larger, driven by a strategy of altering ground realities through military and administrative means. The challenge for Manipur, and indeed for India, is to address these underlying issues before they culminate in irrevocable fragmentation.

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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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