Ghost of “Controversial Census Figure” and Delimitation

U A Shimray

The valley based population of Manipur state who antagonize Delimitation Commission proposal is “relieve” at the moment. The Union Cabinet decided to exempt the state from the proposed Delimitation exercise and to maintain the “status quo” of the Assembly Constituencies as well as the Parliamentary Constituencies till 2026 [other states that joined the club includes Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Jharkhand]. The Union Cabinet deferred the delimitation exercise in four North Eastern States and Jharkhand state by approving amendments to the Delimitation Act 2002. The exemption was done in the purview of “situation” prevailing in the states. 

However, Manipur hills are not content of this exemption. The Delimitation Commission proposed to increase three Assembly Constituencies in the hills [vis-à-vis reduce the same in the valley] is now grim situation. Right after the Union Cabinet announcement the Movement for Tribal Peoples Rights, Manipur [MTPRM] called the public meeting of “all tribal leaders and representatives” on the issue of Delimitation and adopted five resolutions and unanimously expressed “strong objection to the numerous representations pertaining to Delimitation made by the so-called All Political Parties delegation led by O. Ibobi Singh, the chief minister of Manipur.” The meeting resolutions cited the ground of objection being that the “so-called All Political Parties Delegation represents only a particular community while the tribal-rooted political parties representing 34 tribes were neither consulted nor taken into confidence.” The meeting also resolved to extend full supports to the 12-hour statewide bandh jointly called by the Kuki Students’ Organisation [KSO] and the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur [ANSAM]. Earlier during the meeting, the tribal people of Manipur have resolutely expressed their support to the Delimitation process initiated by the Delimitation Commission of India based on the 2001.

“Controversial Census figure”
The population figure of Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul Sub-divisions of Senapati district of Manipur appeared in Census of India’s Provisional Population Totals published on April 2001 were cancelled. The reason given is “administrative” and “technical” problems. The Census notes: “The census results fro Mao Maram, Paomata and Purul sub-divisions of Senapati district of Manipur were cancelled due to administrative and technical reasons although a population census was carried out in these sub-divisions also as per schedule. However, the population by sex and residence only for these three sub-divisions has been estimated” [Census of India 2001, Final population Totals, page XV].  

Since inception Delimitation Commission and to delimit Assembly Constituencies, the valley based population protest against the Registrar General and Census Commissioner that the 2001 population figures in hill areas is “fraud.” In the purview of majoritarian protest, Manipur government framed the provisional population of three sub-divisions in Senapati district as “controversial census figure.” 

Interestingly, this so-called controversial census figure politics coincide when the Government of India been decided to delimit the Assembly/Parliamentary Constituencies in various states based on the population figures according to the 2001 population census. Subsequently, a section of valley community’s lodge complains to the state regarding the population data of Senapati district. Manipur government conveys the problem to the Registrar General and Census Commissioner and Delimitation Commission that the 2001 population census in some sub-divisions shows “abnormal” growth rate. On the request of the State government, the Delimitation Commission agreed to wait till the 2001 Final Population Total figure is appropriately amended [Read as “Estimated” figure of three Sub-Divisions]. 

The whole affair of controversial census figure appears to be rather regional and ethnical political-gimmick. The issue is losing three Assembly Constituencies in valley areas, which inevitably rouse ethnic sentiment and passion of the valley people particularly majority Meitei community. The present trend of census problem and delimitation again manifests “ethnic intolerance” and “demographic hegemony.” Yet it is another course of political game favouring the majoritarian and to sustain the policy of domination.

“Chin-Tam [hill-valley] 

A very sweet slogan Chin-Tam brotherhood is no working well and is irrelevant as well as meaningless at the moment. Forget about equity regional socio-economic development, but the major ethnic group protest against present Delimitation Commission proposal is irrational and not justify. In fact, the Delimitation Commission appropriately calculated and justified the re-arrangement of Assembly constituencies according to the population distribution [after estimation of “controversial census figure”]. 

Yet, observing a macro-level indication, the trends of social and economic development between the two regions is quite imbalance. It is understood that the facet of developmental aspects is more or less concentrating in the valley. This could translate that the hills is rather “less privilege.” The valleys are economically active. Urbanization is poorly developed in the hill areas at the same time; even all the district headquarters are in bad shape.

Current social and economic disparity between the hills and valley area is undesirable trends. Today, relation between the hills and the valley has come under severe strain. The nature of development and socio-political injustice is a key factor in this phenomenon [now delimitation imbroglio]. To narrow down the inter-regional disparity, the approach should also have a balancing input particularly infrastructural investment and create greater space for opportunities and bring social equality.

At the moment, the state politics are overwhelmed by ethnically sensitive agenda like Language [Meitei-Mayek] and Cultural policy, Territorial Integration agenda and now political hegemony based on ethnic population. Today some sections of hill communities’ organisations are demanding for the extension of “Sixth Schedule” in all hill districts. However, the demand is not popularly supported by a non-tribal community who instead, favours of extension Manipur Land Revenue &Land Reform Act in the hill areas.   

In case of delimitation, the issue of losing Assembly Constituencies in the valley areas inevitably rouses ethnic sentiment and passion of the valley people. However, such situation should not sideline the rights of the hill people. The President of Tangkhul Students Saklong [Union] says: “Had the country-wide delimitation exercise given chances to increase more Assembly constituencies in the Valley Areas, the all political parties would not have taken decision to preserve the status quo” [The Sangai Express, 25 October 2005]. At this juncture of low-intensity ethnic tension, unhealthy intervention based on emotional politics would cause too much toll for the state politics and ethnic relationship.