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The Hill-Valley Divide- The ongoing Impasse in Manipur
Defining 'Manipuri people'
The 1960 law gave much control to the people of the hills in terms of acquiring land. Under this law, tribals from neighbouring states of Nagaland, Mizoram and even Myanmar had a relatively easy access to land possession in the State. Now, who could distinguish a tribal of Myanmar from a native of the hill region of the State? The bill thus set a passage to a large influx of 'outsiders'.
The amended Bill was a proposition to the earlier Bill. Under the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh) Amendment 2015, the Protection of Manipur People defines 'Manipuri people' as: "Persons of Manipur whose name are in the National Register of Citizens, 1951 Census Report 1951 and Village Directoy of 1951 and their descendants who have contributed to the collective social, cultural and economic life of Manipur." Therefore, a non-Manipuri person is someone who does not fall under the ambit of the above law. However, no where does the law mention specifically about the Meiteis or the hill tribes of the State, but this was enough to flare up an already burning State. There are possibilities that a 'Manipuri' living in the State even before the mentioned year may not find be found in the records and thus be termed a non-Manipuri or an outsider, while someone who had just moved in to the State may find his/her way to the records and be called a resident of the State. So skewed is the definition!
Uproar in the Hills
The Meiteis have often been accused of being 'anti-tribal'. It is worth mentioning that the tribals of Manipur do not find representation in employment by the State. It may also be mentioned that by the amended law that defines 'Manipuri people', it is the hill people of the State that protested against it, but their cries need to be acknowledged too. Unlike the valley people who have enjoyed better amenities, the hill people had little or no adequate access to basic amenities like health, infrastructure, education, etc. By the aforementioned law that defines 'Manipuri people', the hill people of the State rightly raised their voices against it saying that during those years, there was hardly any infrastructure to record and register the tribal populace of the State. So, by that, the people who have rightly called the State their home may be considered 'outsiders'.
Political representatives' failure to communication with the masses was another major factor for the violence that ensued in the State. To add fuel to fire, rumours and misinterpreted messages via social media escalated. Fear over lands being snatched away ran high among the hill people and this is where the administration went wrong, wrong over conveying the implications of the bills to the tribal populace.
But to all problems there is always a solution and to start with, an amicable dialogue is the fundamental practice. Transparency and addressing are key to this while taking concern of all communities. Things perhaps will see fall in place thereafter.