A critical juncture in Manipur

Source: The post is based on the articles

“A critical juncture in Manipur” published in The Hindu and

Express View on Amit Shah in Manipur: Rebuilding peace” published in The Indian Express on 3rd June 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Internal Security

Relevance: About the demand of Kuki-Zo group of Manipur and its implications

News: A group of Kuki-Zo legislators have called for a “separate administration” in Manipur. In response, a Meitei committee organized a rally to demand the protection of Manipur’s territorial integrity.

What is the ongoing conflict in Manipur?

Read Here: Manipur unrest and its impact on regional security – Explained

What can be the implication of the demand on Manipur?

The demand for the separate administration by Kuki-Zo groups may alter the state’s border.

This is because unlike the previous demands, the current demands enjoy unprecedented popular support among the Kuki-Zo groups and their position is unlikely to change in the future.

Moreover, with the widespread loss of lives and property along with growth mistrust, returning to the status quo seems impossible. Hence, the demand for separate administration seems inevitable.

Note: The power to change a state’s borders lies with the central government under Article 3 of the Constitution.

What can be the probable solution if the demand for separate administration is met?

First, a separate administration in the hill areas of Manipur can be established for the Kuki-Zos as well as for Nagas. However, resistance may come from some Naga groups who are unwilling to compromise on their vision of an expansive territory known as “Nagalim”, and also from the Meitei groups and the state governments.

Second, a separate administration can be granted for the Kuki-Zo in districts where they are dominant. Administrative convenience and economic viability may be given as reasons in granting separate administrations. However, these reasons may not be effective.

This is because the current sub-State constitutional arrangements under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act of 1971 have already established institutional and administrative frameworks where the territorial boundaries of District Councils broadly overlap with ethnic boundaries. Thus, creating tensions amongst various ethnic groups.

Moreover, some of the Kuki-Zo-dominated districts are located on a valuable natural gas reserve known as the Assam-Arakan basin while others serve as strategic gateways to Southeast Asia.

These reasons may act against the favouring the demand on administrative and economic reasons.

Third, efforts can be taken to maintain the status quo and secure the integrity of Manipur. 

However, given the rigid position of state government and frontal Meitei groups, this would likely involve dissolving the existing sub-State constitutional arrangements under Article 371C, which include the district councils and tribal land rights.

Further, the Kuki-Zo groups have made it clear that they no longer accept the powerless sub-State constitutional arrangements or any political solution.

This suggests that the current deadlock is likely to persist, resulting in a deeply divided society.

What measures can likely be taken in resolving the conflict?

After the visit of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Manipur, several measures have been announced to restore peace.

This includes the establishment of a judicial panel to investigate the riots, the formation of a peace committee to facilitate dialogue between conflicting communities, and the creation of an inter-agency unified command to coordinate security operations.

The following measures can also be adopted – a) local political leaders must promote fraternity and advocate for the interests of the entire state, and b) instead of solely focusing on creating new administrative structures, reconciliation and trust-building efforts should be prioritized to achieve sustainable peace.

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