Manipur: 2001 Population and Delimitation Politics

U A Shimray

The “Jewel of India” Manipur is uneasy at the moment. As diverse as social setting in the state, the number of NGOs, student bodies, human rights groups, social forum, association and religious organisations are limitless making one of the difficult states in the region. Though, a presence of large number of civil society organisations reflects the nature of multi-ethnicity. Each and every group has their own partisan interest and agenda. Today, bandhs, strikes, blockade and boycott is now a season democratic tools and it become frequent phenomenon. And it is mostly contributed by the changing political paradigm, capitalisation of ethnic politics and ethnic assertion. On the other hand, the economic dilapidation and scarcity of jobs and rise of educated unemployed population also attributed to the process. However, the most unfortunate mindset at this juncture is taking the political issues on the line of ethnicism. At the moment, the state politics are overwhelmed by ethnically sensitive agenda like Language (Meitei-Mayek) and Cultural policy, Territorial Integration issue and Political (ethnic) hegemony.  

Manipur State comprises a vast mosaic of numerous ethnic groups. According to 1991 population census, Government of India recognised 29 (twenty-nine) ethnic groups as “Scheduled Tribes”. The ethnic groups inhabiting the state can be segmented into two categories: the hill communities and the valley-based communities. The valley communities are the Meiteis and the Pangan (Muslim) and migrants (from other states of India) recognised as non-tribal. The tribal groups from the hills can be broadly categorised as Nagas and Kuki-Chin-Zomi. Indeed, Manipur state presents remarkable socio-cultural and linguistic diversity.

2001 Population and Manipur

On 26th March 2001, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner (RGCC), India published the result of 2001 Population Census in the form of “Provisional Population Totals”. In the report Manipur state recorded total population of 23,88,634 persons. After two years gap, the Commission release the “Final Population Totals” on May 2004 recording Manipur population of 21,66,788 persons. In this report, the total figure bears a tag of asterisk depicting as excluding the population of Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul Sub-division of Senapati District of Manipur. 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).  

Table 1 indicates the population scenario of Manipur. In the latest population census, Manipur is recorded a total population of 22,93,896 persons. The decadal growth rate during the decade 1981-1991 is recorded 29.29 per cent. The decadal growth rate is found considerably higher in hill districts than the valley-based districts. Non-tribal population including the Meitei and Pangan as well as migrants constitutes the largest share of population accounting 65.8 per cent. The tribal population share only 34.4 per cent. In the hill areas, the concentration of tribal population is very high. 

Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul Sub-divisions

The reason given for the cancellation of Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul Sub-division population is “administrative” and “technical” problems. And Manipur state framed as  “controversial census figure” and RGCC uses statistical tools and estimated the figure. Now, the question is can the RGCC estimate the tribal population and tabulate the “Special Tables for Schedule Tribes” of these sub-divisions.   

According to the 2001’s Provisional Report, Senapati district particularly Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul sub-division shows a growth rate of 143.12 per cent in Mao-Maram. The growth rate in Paomata is 122.64 and Purul is 168.78. The Senapati district is recorded 81.96. For the reference, we logically compare with the neighbouring state Nagaland having growth rate of 64.41 per cent in the latest census. Considering Nagaland, the Senapati district and the controversial census figure of three sub-divisions are considerable marginal and have little impact to the state’s total population. 

Population and Delimitation

The Government of India constitutes “Delimitation Commission” to delimit the Assembly/Parliamentary Constituencies based on the population figures according to 2001 Population Census. However, Manipur government conveys to the Delimitation Commission that the 2001 population census shows “abnormal” growth rate in some sub-divisions. On the request of the State government, the Delimitation Commission agreed to defer the delimitation of Assembly/Parliamentary Constituencies of the state till the population figures of Census of India 2001 are appropriately amended (read as “estimated” figure of three Sub-Divisions in Senapati district).

The rejection of Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul Sub-Division population is in fact the pressure given by the political parties and social organisations indicating “abnormal growth”. With due to the political reasons, the state sponsored and conducted “Household Demographic Survey” (HDS) in 2003 covering 16 (sixteen) Sub-Divisional Blocks under heavy security. However, the controversial Sub-Divisions of Senapati could not be surveyed. And the reason given is “non-cooperation” of the villagers. 

Interestingly, the Census Operation is not a state subject however, Government of Manipur conduct Census as Household Demographic Survey. So far, the Manipur Government is yet to publish the HDS results in spite of spending huge amount of money in the operation. As mentioned above, now the Census of India came out with Final Population Totals keeping the so-called controversial census figure in estimated format. This indicates that the RGCC is not interested in HDS results but acknowledge the complaint and considered by canceling the figures. The sponsored HDS is just a political eyewash and political “pressure tactics” (to the Census of India) in order to reduce the number of 2001 population particularly the hill district of Senapati (also to avoid certain omission in delimitation process). 

In 1971, the valley-based districts (Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Bishnupur) have 40 (forty) Assembly Constituencies. A majority Meiteis community filled almost all these assembly constituencies (exception to the Pangal dominated area). The Manipur Gazette No.114-E-73, January 19, 1972 notification, in total sixty Assembly Constituency seats, One is reserved for Scheduled Castes and 19 (Nineteen) seats are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. 

The Delimitation Commission of India delimits the Assembly Constituencies in 1973 (Manipur Gazette No. 112, July 2, 1973). However, there is no change in the reservation categories (see the table 2). The Commission decreased One Assembly Constituency seat each in Manipur East district (Ukhrul) and Manipur Central District. The Senapati and Churachandpur District gained by one seat each. However, it was found that the average population distribution per Assembly Constituency shows considerable disparity. For instance, Ukhrul district is much higher than the state’s average.  

According to Delimitation Commission proposal based on 2001 population census, the valley-based districts are going to lose three Assembly Constituencies whereas the hill-based districts will gain three Assembly Constituencies (see table 3). The state’s population average is 38,231 persons per Assembly Constituency. Comparing the present proposed average number of population, the Valley Districts and Hill Districts are “adequately” justified (Also, the district-wise variation of 10 per cent, that is, 10 per cent variation either positive or negative is accommodative). However, if the arrangement were politicise on the line of ethnic sentiment and emotion would not do good business. 


Since upgradation of Manipur to full-fledged statehood in 1972, there is no increase in number of district in hill area except the sub-division of Chandel (including Chapikarong and Tengnoupal).

In the valley, the whole area redraws and upgraded four Sub-Divisional Blocks into full-fledged four districts status. 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. 

Indeed, the problem related to census enumeration is not a new phenomenon in India for instance, Assam and J&K. In fact, the recent census imbroglio in Manipur is simply “ethno-political” reasons. As said, the Census Operation is entirely Central Government’s subject and is operate under the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, the issue of losing Assembly Constituencies in the valley areas inevitably rouse ethnic sentiment and passion of the valley people particularly majority Meiteis. Indeed, present trend of census problem and delimitation again manifests ethnic intolerance and demographic struggle for socio-political hegemony in the state. But we should aware if population census get politicise it would cause heavy ethnic tension. 

The fact is, size of population has been crucial in determining its political and economic strength of the any political territory. This is essentially true if ethnic groups dominate in specific territories and there is centralization of power within themselves. Under these circumstances, the dominant groups exercises control over resources both human and materials. No doubt, the goal of this contest is to increase the economic and political power of an ethnic group relative to other group and the method by which this is achieved entails the increase in size of one population to others. Therefore, population size is important in determining socio-political and economic aspirations.