ViewPoint: Sadar Hills Movement and Its Impact – Part 1 –

Tonghen Kipgen *

Economic Blockade imposed by the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee on August 14 2011 :: Pix – Bijoy Lai

The Sadar Hills Movement in Manipur may be divided into two Phases. The first phase covered the period from 1971 to 2010 , while the Second is the Public Movement that occurred in the year 2011. Sadar Hills movement can be termed as Public Movement in view of the mass response and mass participation and also the fact that the issue has gone up to the level of the Union Govt. It is also referred to as 123 Days of Agitation which covered the period between 1st July (Beginning of the movement) to 31st October 2011, the day MoU was signed and the agitation suspended. One significance of the movement was that it was mostly manned by women that infer to no woman no society.

A. Political consciousness

The expansionist policy of the Valley brethren gave rise to distrust among the people in Manipur. The hill people now realised that sooner or later their ancestral land would be snatched away by the majority community. Their apprehension was reaffirmed by the statements of the Chief Minister and his cohorts, certain Valley-based revolutionary forces, and in talks and discussions in seminars organised by certain Valley-based civil societies in Imphal.

Such a clandestine policy to intrude into the tribal areas was immensely resented by not only Sadarians but all the hill people of Manipur. The movement, however, implicitly brought about many fruitful results. It inspired the people the value of land for which others were envious of. It also laid strong foundations for the tribal in Manipur the feeling of oneness and helped in building political consciousness, awareness for justice and sense of unity.

Subsequently, the movement also led in ushering a significant change in the mindset of certain Valley-based civil societies. Many leaders are aware of the sentiments of deprived tribals. But what is heartening to which the people of Sadar Hills are deeply indebted is that in the crucial joint meeting with Valley-based civil societies on the 17th October 2011 (Monday) at Secretariat complex at Kangpokpi most of the leaders have expressed their support for districthood to Sadar Hills.

It is also encouraging to remember that there is one just and fearless leader from the Valley in the person of Pu N. Binoy Singh, the leader of a renowned society, Manipur Senior Citizens who heartily declared and publicly supported that Sadar Hills should be accorded full-fledged district for peace and development. The admonition of a well known legal expert in Manipur Pu Khaidem Mani to legalise the issue and to fight in the Court is a good advice which is not practicable.

History is a testimony to the fact that the collapse of the powerful multi-national Austro-Hungarian Empire during 1914-18 was due to the growing forces of nationalism which it could not withstand. Likewise, the movement for districthood was undoubtedly an eye-opener to the denizens of Sadar Hills for the growth of a new political idea. In spite of certain shortcomings, the movement laid strong foundations for political consciousness among the people. This new political concept inspired the people that ‘so long as they are under the domain of Manipur justice will not be provided to them’.

In an interaction with delegates of Manipur Senior Citizens Society headed by Pu N. Binoy Singh at Kangpokpi on 1st August 2012, Pu Seikhomang Khongsai, a public worker have stated that “It is in the notion of several leaders that Sadar Hills issue will not be materialised so long as we are under the dominion of Manipur State headed by brethren Meiteis”. To this Pu Ch Haujakam, Former President of Kuki Inpi Manipur, the apex body of the Kukis in Manipur added that “….the Kukis are the community who staunchly stood for the integrity of Manipur since time immemorial and even during the turbulent times of the then Maharajas. It is that loyalty that more than hundreds were butchered and thousands rendered homeless during Kuki-Naga clashes; we are yet to be compensated”.

B. Economic impact

One of the greatest consequences of Sadar Hills Movement is inflation and economic depletion in Manipur. With the increasing intensity of the movement, vehicles along the three lifeline National Highways in Manipur connecting the landlocked state to other parts of the country came to a grinding halt. The agitation triggered the rise in prices of most essential commodities, not sparing even grocery items and locally available perishable goods and vegetables. With prices of essential goods sky-rocketing, the State Level Price Fixation Committee held several meetings. Instructions were given to the traders to put up the price notice board for all to see but that was not a remedy to the hardship of the people.

In his open letter to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Government of India, Pu L. Lalit Singh, Former President of MPCC (I) and Ex. Finance Minister of Manipur had exclaimed that….Blockade and Counter Blockade has been worsening the grave situation both in the Valley and Hill Districts of Manipur since the first of August 2011 onwards. The 30 lakh population of Manipur feels alarming and panicky that they are strangulated. The innocent, poor and helpless people may die due to scarcity of essential food items including life-saving drugs/Oxygen, etc., petrol, diesel and domestic cooking gas are not available……The people of Manipur are bearing and surviving with untold miseries in a most awkward and deplorable condition so long (IFP 15/9/11).

Apart from the shortage of consumer items, oxygen stock and life-saving drugs at both RIMS (Regional Institute of Medical Sciences) and SHIJA Hospital & Research Centre had been reportedly exhausted that resulted in the suspension of all routine operations. In view of the untold hardship of the people, especially the patients, the SHDDC had later exempted Ambulances and medically related transportation on humanitarian ground. It not only taken its toll on the essential commodities, fuel stocks were dried up and whenever little quantity was available there used to be elongated queues at fuel outlets in the city.

With price of the staple food items like rice shooting up miserably, price of various vegetable items have also been an increased by double or more. In this regard even BJP, a national political party strongly condemned the Government of Manipur over the inability to ensure availability of essential commodities at appropriate prices. In his press briefing on 10th of September 2011 at Imphal, Shri Prakash Javadekar, BJP National Spokesperson stated that the SPF Government in Manipur has lost all credibility that he asked the Governor for imposition of President’s rule in Manipur. On the other hand, the President of MPP (Manipur Peoples Party), Dr Nimaichand Luwang had asserted in his press briefing on 14th September 2011 that….The scarcity of essential commodities and abnormal price hike due to economic blockade has caused much suffering to the common people.

It is not only the economic condition of the Valley but even the hills were vehemently affected especially Sadar Hills where the agitation erupted. But, with the hope for future economic aggrandisement, even the bread earners were the stronger supporters of the movement by abandoning their daily wage earning and staunchly demonstrating their anger in the streets. The economy of the poor State was immensely affected, the people have lost unaccountable wealth and hundreds of crores of Rupees was undeniably lost of which the leaders of SHDDC are deeply regretted. But leaving aside the denial of justice and administrative opportunities, no one is aware that the economic deprivation of Sadar Hills in all spheres during the last 40 years which approximately amount to more than 38,000 crores of Rupees.

The people have been mercilessly impoverished. This matter of economic loss and deprivation of economic opportunities was brought clearly to the noticed of the Chief Minister of Manipur in the memorandum of SHDDC on 26th July 2011, the day leaders of SHDDC and all Hon’ble Members of Sadar Hills Autonomous District Council staged a Sit-In-Protest at the office complex of Additional Deputy Commissioner at Kangpokpi. Specifications of economic effect and firm/reliable estimates regarding the loss of either the Government as well as all individuals could not be brought out; however, it is out of doubt and dispute that irreparable economic loss is besetting Manipur due to Sadar Hills movement on several occasions.

C. Administrative Effect

The movement for Sadar Hills in 2011 has also affected the administrative set up of Manipur. Besides the existing 3 (Three) Sub-Divisions, the Government of Manipur had created 3 (Three) more Sub-Divisions and Tribal Development Blocks in Sadar Hills along with the creation of Lhungtin SDC (Sub-Deputy Collector) office under the existing Saikul Sub-Division. The State Government also issued Orders in renaming and shifting the existing Sub-Division of Kangpokpi as Champhai Sub-Division and Tribal Development Block with its Headquarters at Champhai. Consequently, the official inauguration of the newly created 3 (Three) SDOs/BDOs along with SDC Lhungtin was done by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur, Pu O.Ibobi Singh on 17th December 2011 at Kangpokpi Mini Secretariat complex.

However, to their blatant ploy the Government of Manipur had clandestinely put several Police Stations and police Out-Posts under the domain of Valley Police administration, which is a covert attempt and indeed injustice. However, the Government had issued corrigendum in putting the newly created New Keithelmanbi Police Station (Along National Highways 37) under Sadar Hills from Imphal West Police administration, and also Kangchup Police Out-Post from Imphal West to Sadar Hills Police administration.

The public also alarmed the State Government to relocate the newly created Purum Likli Police Station and Maphou Police Out-Post in Saikul Sub-Division under Sadar Hills from the elsewhere Imphal East Police administration to which the Government is yet to issue necessary orders. Needless to say, the given Police Stations or Out-Posts were under the territorial jurisdiction of Sadar Hills Autonomous District Council.

To be continued…

* Tonghen Kipgen wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is the Author of the book “Sadar Hills Movement”, published in 2012 by Spectrum Publications. He is also formerly; (i) The President of KSO General Headquarters (ii) Speaker of ATSUM, apex students’ body of Tribal in Manipur 2009-10, and (iii) The General Secretary of SHDDC (Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee) during the public movement of 2011 in Manipur. He can be reached at tkipgen73(at)Gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on August 21, 2014.