Other exit routes
Considering there are still nothing within sight that the dangerous communal tensions in Manipur will end anytime soon given the current state of stalemate of opinions, it is time to search for other possible resolutions. Since the creation of seven new districts has come to be projected as the sore point, although it has to be added the UNC blockade began on November 1, more than a month before these seven districts were created. The blockade, it will be recalled, was in anticipation that SADAR Hills and Jiribam would be made into separate districts. If we look back, it will also be recalled that there was indeed some speculations that SADAR Hills and Jiribam would be made separate districts ahead of the Kut festival on November 1, but the government deferred this decision to the disappointment of the people in these putative districts, and the SADAR Hills District Demand Committee had also amidst the blockade by the UNC, threatened they would also impose a blockade if the district was not given them. Thankfully, that blockade threat was withdrawn soon after, possibly on the understanding that SADAR Hills would be a district soon. Probably it was also because of the possibility of the SADAR Hills District Demand Committee resuming their own agitation that the Manipur government stayed away from a tripartite talk arranged by the Centre between itself, the Manipur government and the UNC. Then it was on December 8 midnight that the government declared the creation of seven new districts by splitting seven existing districts into two each. The UNC’s blockade stance obviously would have hardened, but it cannot be a response to this event as commentators outside the state seemingly have come to the conclusion.
What then can be the other options still not thought of. One of these is to retract the district creation decision of the government from those new districts which feel the decision was forced on them. Since the UNC is making a case that the ancestral Naga homeland is being divided by these new districts, it would be to the purpose to give this claim a little more attention. Going by the broad definition, four of the districts affected by the new district creation are Naga districts, although by actual population figures, many in these hills would dispute this claim. With the advent of administration by adhar card, the non-disputable population figure is already coming clearer, if not, would be clear soon. As of the moment, everybody knows how unreliable population census data in many of the remote places have been, and grassroots programme implementers, both of the government (such as the ICDS) and international (such as IFAD) would vouch the veracity of this. Many villages which exist on government census papers do not exist on the ground, or are devoid of population. The original Chandel and Senapati would be where this ambiguity of majority community would be. In the three non-Naga districts also split, there has been no problem, and the new districts have been welcomed with fanfare. If initial congratulatory messages are anything to go by, this was the case in the new Kamjong and Noney districts too, but now, whatever their compulsions, there seems to be a turnaround of formal opinions. It would be good if the government can actually, openly and by democratic means, determine which of these new districts would want to reunite as an administrative block with their original districts.
There have also been plenty of allegations that chief minister Okram Ibobi was prompted by electoral considerations to go for the decision to create the seven new districts. It would be too much outside of democratic protocol to ask for confidential cabinet decisions to be made public, but if it is considered harmless, maybe it would be good to let it be known if the district creation decision was a unilateral one or consensual. Furthermore, the chief minister he has the courage, to dispel the allegation of selfish electoral motives, he could voluntarily invite President’s Rule to take over for the remain one and half months of the term of the current Assembly and let the Central government handle this problem of district making or retraction, blockade and counter blockades. Even if it is not via such a drastic and controversial step as President’s Rule, the Centre still ought to have stepped in long ago to ensure the illegal blockade of the state was terminated early on so that the situation did not reduce to a dangerous communal faceoff, as it has invariably become now.