Can’t NPF talk to their UNC friends?

The Kamjong Cabinet was postponed because of UNC’s opposition to it.

Some newspaper reports say that the scheduled Cabinet meeting at Kamjong district headquarters was put off because of the death of a family member of a land donor for several developmental projects in the district as the government did not think it fit to hold any interaction or hold meetings when the family is grieving. If true, a noble gesture indeed. On the other hand, highly placed sources say the Cabinet meet was postponed because of opposition from the all-powerful United Naga Council (UNC). A quite few others say, the bureaucrats are against the Kamjong Cabinet because of the sheer logistics of the distant district headquarters. Whatever be the reasons, the Kamjong meet has been called off at the last minute. The lone MLA from the district Mr K Leisiyo must have been utterly disappointed. He was all prepared for the event. Ever since the Chief Minister N Biren Singh began his outreach to the hill brethren with his Day One slogan of ‘Go to Hills’ campaign, the Naga Peoples Front (NPF) MLA Leisiyo has been dreaming of such an occasion when the Council of Ministers and top bureaucrats along with their sidekicks would be travelling down to the remote district headquarters and would be discussing the problems of the newly established district. Well, he was disappointed.

Whatever reasons they may give, the main reason for postponement of the Kamjong Cabinet is because of UNC’s opposition to it. On December 8, 2016,Manipur became a 16-district state, after seven new districts were formed by dividing the nine existing ones during the Okram Ibobi Singh regime. The newly-created districts are Tengnoupal bifurcated from Chandel district, Kamjong from Ukhrul, Pherzawl from Churachandpur, Noney from Tamenglong, Kangpokpi from Senapati and Jiribam from Imphal East districts. The creation of these districts came as a surprise and challenge to UNC as they were enforcing an indefinite economic blockade, protesting against the possible creation of two districts, Sadar Hills and Jiribam. They had alleged that the new districts would encroach upon the ancestral land of the Nagas. Instead, the government delivered seven new districts and defended saying the move was purely aimed for administrative convenience and with no ulterior motives.

The Manipur government had announced the creation of the seven new districts post haste without having the basic infrastructure in place, of course. While the then Chief Minister Ibobi Singh reiterated that the creation of these new districts is a response to the longstanding demands of the local people as well as for reasons of administrative convenience, Naga leaders feel that it was an attempt to divide the Naga people by merging them with non-Naga areas to form the new districts.

Further, they have also taken exception to the Manipur government not consulting the Hill Area Committee before taking the decision. And they have questioned the timing of the decision, which, in their view, was driven by political considerations. When the BJP-led coalition government with NPF as a partner came into power, it simply did not consider rolling back the Congress government’s decision of the district reorganisation.

As a part of the Go to Hills campaign, the N Biren Singh-led government have held Cabinet meetings in Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong, Chandel and Churachandpur. But so far, the Cabinet meetings is yet to take place in the new hill districts of Noney, Pherzwal, Tengnoupal, Kamjong and Kangpokpi.

Well, the districts of Kamjong, Pherzawl and Noney has four sub-divisions each while Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal has seven and three sub-divisions respectively. The cause of reorganisation given as administrative convenience is quite reasonable, while UNC’s demand for ethnic based districts is not.

Question is, why the NPF ministers and MLAs can’t convince their colleagues in UNC to reconsider their stance. Or, why can’t the state government show some guts or political will?


First Published:Dec. 17, 2020, 3:46 a.m.

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