A demand for new ADCs
IFP Editorial: The Manipur government had announced the creation of the seven new districts post haste without having the basic infrastructure in place.
While several civil society organisations and hill-based students organisations are up against further postponement of Autonomous District Councils elections and demanding early elections, a demand has come up from the people of newly created districts of Pherzwal, Kamjong, Noney and Tengnoupal not to conduct ADC election for other hill districts before creation of ADCS for the new districts. A Demand Committee has also been formed. The committee has urged the state government to carry out a delimitation process for the new districts and that no ADC election be conducted before the delimitation process. The committee also warns of taking up democratic course of agitation along with people of the hill districts concerned, if their demands are not fulfilled.
The committee on January 21 had also filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to the High Court of Manipur in view of the state’s inaction to empower the new districts and against the delay in carrying out the delimitation process for the newly created districts. It may be noted here that Kangpokpi (Sadar Hills) Autonomous District Council was created before it became a district under District Council Act, 1971. This new demand is quite interesting in the background of the demand of United Naga Council to roll back the decision of creating new districts in the state.
In 2016 December 8, Manipur become a 16-district state, after 7 new districts were formed by dividing the 9 existing ones during the then 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 BJP led government’s first attempt to hold a Cabinet meeting at Kamjong district HQs was postponed due to objections from UNC, but nevertheless it was held the second time and the UNC demanded that the word ‘Kamjong’ should be omitted from the said Cabinet meeting proceedings. But now, the state government is caught in a dilemma whether to withhold ADC elections in view of the new demand or proceed as usual. One has to watch how the BJP led government handles this.