TODAY -

The delimitation issues of Manipur

Kachui Timothy Zimik *



INTRODUCTION

The Scheduled Tribes of Manipur have been raising their voices to get their legitimate rights of proportionate and equitable representation in the legislative Assembly of Manipur. But their voices have not been heard. The strong opposition of the dominant Imphal based political parties and civil society organizations to the delimitation exercise in Manipur has led to the deliberate denial of fundamental right to equality provided under Article 14 of the Constitution of India to the citizens of hill districts.

The conduct of these parties is discriminatory and exploitative because the denial to the hill tribes of Manipur of their rightful equitable representation in the State legislative Assembly is achieved through misrepresentation of facts and majoritarian politics.

The State of Manipur has a total geographical area of 22,327 square kilometres. In terms of geographical landscapes, socio-economic conditions, culture and ethnic identity, Manipur is divided into two clearly defined parts (1) the Imphal valley constituting about one-tenth of the total area and (2) the hill districts occupying the remaining nine-tenth of the total area.

The Imphal valley has a total area of 2,238 square kilometres comprising the old four districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnupur and Thoubal and is occupied mainly by the Meitei community, whereas the remaining 20,089 square kilometres comprising the old five hill districts of Churachandpur, Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Chandel and Senapati are occupied by more than 30 Scheduled Tribes. Most of the hill areas of Manipur are economically very backward and marginalized whereas the Imphal valley is economically well-developed and is very advanced in many fields.

DELIMITATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH CENSUS 2001 AND GEOGRAPHICAL AREA

As per the census of 2001, the total population of Manipur is 22,93,896. Out of this, the four Imphal valley districts have population of 14,11,766 which comes to 61.54% and the hill districts of Manipur have a population of 8,82,130 which works out to 38.46%. There are 60 legislative Assembly Constituencies (seats) in Manipur 40 seats for Imphal valley and 20 seats for the hill areas.

The Scheduled Caste population is mainly concentrated in the districts of Thoubal, Imphal East and Imphal West having one reserved seat. The district wise break-up of population and geographical area of the state is given in the chart form as under:

 poulation per Assembly Constituency



From the chart given here, it is seen that the average poulation per Assembly Constituency of the Imphal valley is 35,294 whereas the average population per Assembly Constituency of hill areas is 44,107. The chart demonstrates that the Imphal valley is over-represented, whereas some hill districts are under-represented in the Manipur legislative Assembly.

The average population of 35,294 per Assembly Constituency of Imphal valley is much lower than the average population of 44,104 per Assembly Constituency of the hill areas and therefore, the hill tribal people of Manipur have been asking for equitable and proportionate representation in the Manipur legislative Assembly. Further, the average area per Assembly Constituency of the Imphal valley is only 56 square kilometres, but the hill areas have 1004 square kilometres per Assembly Constituency.

The huge geographical size of the hill areas, remoteness of many villages and difficult mountainous terrains should also be taken into account for redrawing and re-adjustment of legislative Assembly Constituencies in order to ensure that the tribes of Manipur hill areas are equitably represented in the Manipur Legislative Assembly.

The average population of Manipur per constituency is 38232. As indicated above, the Imphal valley has 61.5% of the State population having 40 Assembly seats which works out to 66.7% of the total Assembly seats of the State. Whereas the hill areas have 38.5% of the State population, but they have only 20 seats which works out to 33.3% of the total Assembly seats.

Therefore, the 61.5% of the valley population should have only 37 seats (61.7%) and the 38.5% of the hill population must have 23 seats (38.3%). In that case, the revised average population per Constituency of hill areas comes to 38353 as against the revised average population of 38156 per Constituency in the case of the valley. This tallies with the above average population of 38232 of Manipur per Constituency.

Thus, if the redrawing and re-adjustment of Constituencies in Manipur is done on the basis of census- 2001, then the hill districts should have 23 legislative Assembly seats instead of the existing 20 seats. The above discussions show that 3 hill districts Ukhrul, Chandel and Senapati have been under-represented in the Manipur Assembly for many decades.

RESISTANCE TO DELIMITATION EXERCISE BASED ON 2001 CENSUS

All political parties and civil social organizations located in the Imphal valley have strongly opposed the delimitation exercise based on the 2001 census with the argument that the 2001 census figures are erroneous as there is abnormal population growth in some sub-divisions of hill districts.

These valley based parties represent the interest of four districts of Imphal valley only. Their opposition to the delimitation exercise has disenfranchised genuine people of hill districts. The opposition to the delimitation exercise based on 2001 census has no basis. The Government of India had officially notified the census 2001. The 2001 population census is the official document of the Government of India.

Based on 2001 census, the State of Manipur headed by these Imphal based leaders has been conducting its business and administration for years without any complaint from any quarter. The State has also been receiving revenues and financial assistance from the Government of India based on this 2001 census year after year. For the last many years, the State of Manipur has been receiving 90% of its revenues from the Centre. While receiving the revenues from the Centre, these parties have not opposed the census of 2001.

Based on the population census of 2001, the Government of India and the Government of Manipur had conducted so many Parliamentary, Assembly and local civic elections without difficulties and complaints from any party. It is only when the delimitation exercise to be carried out based on the population census of 2001 that these Imphal valley based parties raised hue and cry against it and they stopped the delimitation exercise in Manipur.

If these Imphal valley based parties are not agreeable with the 2001 census for delimitation purpose, then the delimitation exercise based on the 2011 population census of India should be taken since the Delimitation Commission has used the 2011 census in the case of Jammu and Kashmir. As per the office of the Registrar General of India 2011 census and Economic Survey Manipur-2014-15, the total population of Manipur is 28,55,794. Out of this, the Imphal valley has a population of 16,33,672 (57.20%) and the hill areas have the remaining population of 12,22,122 (42.80%).

The average population per Assembly Constituency of Imphal valley is 40,842 whereas in the case of hill districts, it comes to 61,106. If delimitation exercise is carried out on the basis of census 2011, the hill districts should get 6 to 7 additional seats. The result of additional seats has emerged from the Government census records and related documents. It will not wrong to say that the correctness and accuracy of census 2001 had been re-confirmed by the census 2011.

The Government of India (GOI) had allowed the delimitation exercise in the case of Jammu and Kashmir but the States of Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh were omitted from the purview of the Delimitation Commission vide Notification dated 30/03/2021. Vide Office memorandum dated 19th July, 2022, the Government of India decided to initiate delimitation exercise in the States of Assam and Manipur based on census-2001 and the concerned authority was directed to take necessary action accordingly.

Following such instructions, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has initiated the delimitation exercise of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies of Assam as per Section 8A of Representation of the People Act, 1950 and 2001 census figures are used for this purpose.

In Assam, there are multiple unresolved problems such as NRC, Assam Accord, etc. and yet, the ECI has initiated the delimitation exercise only in Assam thereby leaving Manipur out in the cold. It is the resistance from the Imphal valley based parties that has stopped the delimitation exercise in Manipur. The GOI has also acted against the interest of the tribal people of Manipur.

REASONS FOR INCREASE OF POPULATION OF HILL AREAS

There are valid reasons for the increase of population in some sub-divisions of hill districts. Some reasons are as follows:

(a) The hill districts were seriously affected by the armed conflict between the Indian army and the Nagas and insurgencies. Thus, there was no proper census taken in the hill areas.

(b) Many of the villages of these districts are so remotely located and are not easily accessible. Census officials did not visit these remote villages to count the population. Many people were left out from the population census. A large number of eligible citizens of hill districts are not in the electoral list due to the negligence of the Government of Manipur and the ignorance of the hill people particularly in the Naga areas.

(c) The extension of Ceasefire Agreement entered between the Government of India and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) of 1997 to Manipur was violently opposed and resisted by the dominant valley based community leading to forced migration of hill people from the Imphal valley to their hill areas. When the violent agitation against the said Ceasefire Agreement was at its height, the Nagas residing in the Imphal valley went back to their own places in hill areas. Many of these people did not go back to Imphal valley.

(d) It was only after the Ceasefire Agreement of 1997 entered between the Government of India and NSCN-IM that security, law and order situation improved in these hill districts and the census exercise of 2001 could be undertaken more properly and accurately. It is seen that the population of hill areas will further increase if proper head count is undertaken in all the remote villages.

(e) Another very important reason for the increase in the population of these districts is on account of poverty, under-development, low mortality and illiteracy. Unlike the more educated and advanced sections of the society, there is no family planning in these poor tribal areas. The tribal families in the hill areas have 6 to 7 children or even more as a norm.

(f) Moreover, the migration of people from other areas to these hill sub-divisions are taking place on account of better business and employment opportunities available there.

The above factors have contributed in increasing the population of some sub-divisions in the hill districts.

PLEA FOR INCREASE OF SEATS BASED ON POPULATION AND GEOGRAPHICAL AREA

As submitted above, it is imperative that the population and the geographical area are taken into account while redrawing and re-adjusting the legislative Assembly Constituencies of Manipur for the simple reason that the State of Manipur has some unique features such as the big divide between the Imphal valley and the hill areas in terms of geographical areas, extreme remoteness of hill districts, brutalized people due to long-drawn armed conflicts, under-representation and marginalization of the hill districts.

The average area per Assembly Constituency of Imphal valley is 56 square kilometres, whereas it is 1004 square kilometres in the hill areas. This being the case, there is a strong case to increase the State legislative Assembly Constituencies from the present 60 to 70 seats plus and redraw the boundaries of legislative Assembly Constituencies of Manipur on equitable basis between the Imphal valley and the hill areas. It may be noted here that, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the Delimitation Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai has increased the Assembly seats from 83 to 90.

CLUBBING ANOMALY IN THE PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCIES OF MANIPUR

In Manipur, there are two Parliamentary Constituencies namely (1) Inner Parliamentary Constituency covering the four districts of Imphal valley and (2) Outer Parliamentary Constituency covering the five hill districts of Manipur. The Outer Parliamentary Constituency is reserved for the Scheduled Tribes of Manipur. However, 8 non-tribal legislative Assembly Consti- tuencies of Thoubal district (erstwhile Thoubal sub-division) are clubbed with the Outer Parliamentary Constituency for the purpose of Lok Sabha elections.

Initially, this arrangement was done to make up the voter shortage of the hill districts and to bring parity with the voters of the Inner Parliamentary Constituency of Manipur. However, this arrangement has harmful consequences and is no more valid for the following reasons:

As per population census 2001 and subsequent population census records, the hill districts of Manipur have sufficient electorate to have a reserved Parliamentary Constituency of their own without the outside support of the valley areas.

The electorate of 8 legislative Assembly Constituencies of Thoubal district have been deprived of their Constitutional rights to contest election for the Lok Sabha seat as a result of their Assembly Constituencies being unfairly clubbed with the reserved Outer Parliamentary Constituency. These 8 Assembly Constituencies must be clubbed with the Inner Parliamentary Constituency so that the electorate of these Constituencies can contest the Parliamentary election or elect the right candidates of their choice.

The clubbing of 8 legislative Assembly Constituencies of the valley to the Outer Parliamentary Constituency has been used as a tool by the political parties to elect a candidate of their choice through various undesirable means. It is observed that it has been extremely difficult to elect the right candidate without the support of the people of these 8 legislative Assembly Constituencies who have no stake in this Parliamentary election.

Therefore, these 8 legislative Assembly Constituencies should be rightfully clubbed with the Inner Parliamentary Constituency and free the Outer Parliamentary Constituency from this undesirable arrangement.

CONCLUSION

The hill tribes of Manipur have been unjustly deprived of their legitimate right of equitable and proportionate representation in the State legislative Assembly, and therefore, the delimitation exercise of redrawing and re-adjustment of the legislative Assembly Constituencies of Manipur must be carried in a fair and judicious manner immediately so that the grievances of the hill people of being under-represented in the Manipur Assembly are addressed and the big divide between the developed Imphal valley and the under-developed hills of Manipur are bridged to a great extent.


The views expressed in this article are his personal views


* Kachui Timothy Zimik (IRS) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The Author is the former Chief Commissioner of Income Tax
This article was webcasted on February 27 2023 .



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