Exploring the complexities of Manipur’s demand for a Separate Administration

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July 3, 2023

Exploring the complexities of Manipur’s demand for a Separate Administration


  • The recent demand for a separate administration in Manipur has ignited widespread discussions on the sanctity of borders and the territorial integrity of the state.
  • This demand, primarily supported by various Kuki-Zo legislators, has highlighted alleged grievances regarding the Manipur government’s treatment of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi hill tribals. In response, Meitei groups advocate for the protection of the state’s territorial integrity, further complicating the situation.
  • This article delves into the causes of the riots in Manipur, factors contributing to the demand for a separate administration, constitutional challenges, and potential ways forward.

Causes of the Riots in Manipur:

  • The riots in Manipur can be primarily attributed to the failure of the state government to recognize and accommodate the territorial rights and identities of the diverse communities within the state.
  • The aggressive integrationist project, aiming to dissolve tribal land rights in valley areas, has fueled tension between the Meitei and tribal communities.
  • Additionally, the Manipur High Court’s order to expedite the recommendation for granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Meiteis in April 2023 further inflamed tribal sentiments, leading to the massive protest on May 3.

Factors Contributing to the Increasing Demand for a Separate Administration:

  • Ethnic Tensions and Divisions: Historical ethnic tensions and divisions in Manipur have fostered a sense of marginalization among various communities, driving the desire for separate administrative arrangements.
  • Failure of Previous Arrangements: Previous attempts to address tribal concerns, such as proposals for a Union Territory or inclusion in the Sixth Schedule, have been perceived as inadequate or insincere, intensifying the demand for a comprehensive and separate administrative setup.
  • Demographic Changes and Displacement: Recent violence, population displacement, and loss of lives have significantly altered Manipur’s demographic landscape, deepening divisions between communities and fostering a sense of irreparable separation.
  • Economic Considerations: Proponents of a separate administration argue that the Kuki-Zo-dominated districts possess valuable natural resources and strategic gateways to Southeast Asia, emphasizing the need for distinct administrative control to harness economic potential effectively.
  • Lack of Trust in the Current System: The demand for a separate administration reflects a deep-seated mistrust in the existing political and administrative structures. Some communities believe their interests and concerns are inadequately represented, fueling the call for a separate administrative entity.
  • Popular Support and Mobilization: The current demand enjoys unprecedented popular support among the Kuki-Zo groups, galvanizing community members and becoming a significant force in Manipur’s political landscape.
  • Alleged Government Support for Violence: The demand stems from allegations that the Manipur government has tacitly supported violence against the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi hill tribals, further fueling discontent among the affected communities.

Constitutional Challenges for the Implementation of a Separate Administration:

  • Article 3 of the Constitution: The power to alter state borders lies with the central government, granting unilateral authority to the center. Effecting changes in Manipur’s administrative setup would require careful consideration of this constitutional provision.
  • Opposition from Naga Groups: Implementing a separate administration for Kuki-Zo in Manipur’s hill areas may face opposition from certain Naga groups, who may be reluctant to compromise on their territorial aspirations.
  • Resistance from the State Government and Meitei Groups: The Manipur state government and Meitei groups may staunchly oppose the demand for a separate administration, advocating for the maintenance of territorial integrity and resisting changes to the administrative setup.
  • Revisiting Constitutional Arrangements: Establishing a separate administration in Manipur would necessitate revisiting and potentially amending the existing constitutional arrangements. This could involve addressing sub-state constitutional asymmetrical arrangements, such as Article 371C, district councils, and tribal land rights.
  • Overlapping Ethnic Boundaries: Manipur’s complex ethnic dynamics pose a challenge when determining the territorial boundaries of a separate administration. Some districts have mixed populations and historical territorial disputes between different communities, requiring careful resolution to address the concerns of all stakeholders.
  • Economic Viability: Critics may raise concerns about the financial sustainability and resource allocation for a separate administrative entity. Demonstrating the economic potential and strategic advantages of such an arrangement is crucial in countering these arguments.

Ways Forward:

  • Dialogue and Negotiation: Facilitating an open and constructive dialogue between all stakeholders, including Kuki-Zo groups, Meitei communities, Nagas, and the state government, is essential. This process can help identify common ground, foster understanding, and explore potential areas of compromise.
  • Constitutional Reforms: Exploring options for constitutional reforms, such as amending Article 3, could ensure greater involvement of affected states in decisions regarding border changes. This can address concerns about the exercise of unilateral power by the central government and provide a more inclusive decision-making process.
  • Devolution of Power: Considering the overlapping ethnic boundaries in Manipur’s districts, granting autonomy and devolving power to local communities within a framework of non-territorial and territorial autonomy could be a viable solution. This approach can promote inclusive governance and accommodate the aspirations of different communities.
  • Resource Management and Economic Development: Strategically managing the rich natural resources and leveraging the strategic gateways in the Kuki-Zo-dominated districts can contribute to the economic development of the region. Demonstrating the economic potential and benefits of a separate administration can help garner support and counter concerns about financial sustainability.
  • Inclusive Governance: Any solution should prioritize inclusive governance that recognizes and respects the rights and aspirations of all communities in Manipur. Ensuring equitable representation, protecting minority rights, and establishing mechanisms for peaceful coexistence are vital for long-term stability.
  • Learning from International Examples: Drawing lessons from federal polities such as Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, where territorial divisions have been successfully managed, can provide valuable insights. Understanding their experiences and practices in accommodating territorially mobilized groups can inform the way forward in Manipur.
  • Building Trust and Reconciliation: Addressing historical grievances, fostering social harmony, and promoting reconciliation among communities are crucial for long-term stability. Efforts should be made to build trust, bridge divides, and promote understanding among different ethnic groups in Manipur.

The Conclusion:

  • Addressing the demand for a separate administration in Manipur requires careful consideration of constitutional challenges and the aspirations of diverse communities.
  • Engaging in dialogue, constitutional reforms, devolution of power, resource management, inclusive governance, and learning from international examples can contribute to a sustainable and inclusive solution.

Building trust, reconciliation, and fostering understanding among different ethnic groups are essential for long-term stability in Manipur.

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Exploring the complexities of Manipur’s demand for a Separate Administration | Vaid ICS Institute