–By WL Hangshing
Way back in June 22, 2016, The Hindu carried an article regarding the rejection, by the President, of a legislation passed by the Manipur Assembly. The grounds of rejection, while pointing out the definition of “Manipuri”, made oblique references to the faulty census of 1951. Research methodology reposes immense faith in such peripheral references because of an obvious and inherent absence of any motive to propagate or manipulate the facts simply because such references are not central to the impugned topic. It is to be accepted as empirical evidence. It is to be accepted as a fact that the 1951 census in Manipur was incomplete.
The above referred incomplete census 1951 is the genesis of the skewed Assembly representation in favour of the valley in Manipur at 40:20. It is clearly stated that the 1951 census did not cover the entire state. The reason given was that “the infrastructure at that time was not enough and many people were left out”. Much of the people left out of the census were those from the hill areas. This is corroborated by the subsequent observation -“The computation was not exhaustive. If we go by 1951 records, half of the tribes would be declared stateless”, only for the reason that the census machinery did not have enough infrastructure to include them in the census and not for any fault of the people.
The admittedly flawed census was then used as the reference-base for Assembly constituency distribution for the Manipur Assembly, resulting in 40 seats for the valley and only 20 for the hills, whereas the actual population distribution between the valley and the hills had always roughly been at a 50:50 ratio.
The above fact should put to rest the false justification that the 40:20 distribution was based on the actual spread of population in Manipur at that point of time. There is also the flippant postulate that the hills have taken in a stream of foreign immigration over the years leading to a surge in population numbers. It is, on the converse, a fact that in the last 70 years it is the valley that has actually seen a faster rate of demographic growth than the hills.
This stands to logic in view of the fact that the valley would naturally have more population augmentation in the form of immigration of people from Assam (notably Silchar), from other parts of the country and even from the surrounding hills. This would be due to the obvious reasons of employment, business opportunities, education and improved standards of living. This is actually a pointer to the converse fact that the hills would have been the one to witness a depletion of population due to emigration to the valley for the above reasons. It therefore stands to reason that any increase in population in the hills that may seem exponential today is only because the base census of 1951 in the hills was incomplete.
There has been, at the real ground level, actually a drop in the rate of population growth in the hills. It is in spite of this that the actual population ratio of the valley vs hills still stands today at roughly 50:50, at least not at 40:20 as the representation to the Assembly shows. This strengthens the surmise that the population in the hills in 1951, if the census had been fully conducted, would have equaled that of the valley and might have even been more.
The above facts clearly nails the lie and the argument that the hill population has seen an exponential surge in population only due to illegal immigration from neighbouring countries, and that therefore the status quo was justified. This audacious presumption is exposed by the very fact that tribal societies are small and insular and it is not possible for foreign elements to infiltrate and assimilate into them. It is a blatant lie to perpetuate the unfair representation and the resultant neglect and denial of development in the hills. It is a lie only to gloss over the fact that the apparent surge in hill population (between 1951 and 2011) was due to the fact that the base reference of the 1951 census did not count “half of the tribes” in the hills.
Due to this lie, dishonesty, and deliberate manipulation, the hills for the last 70 years has been under-represented, neglected, denied and in the doldrums.
Is it too much to ask for a simple rectification of representation at 40:40 -valley vs hills ( valley is already 40)? For a better future not just for the hills but for Manipur, letting bygones be bygones? For a stronger Manipur to emerge from this half neglected structure? or do we wait for it to collapse under the weight of its own faulty engineering?
(The writer is a retd IRS, CC Customs and GST – The views expressed are his own)