Sadar Hills and the Panchayati Raj

By Thongkholal Haokip
Sadar Hills was burning in September 2007 during the Manipur panchayat polls. The two Kuki organisations, Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) and Kuki Students Organisation (KSO), opposed the inclusion of some areas in Sadar Hills under Panchayati Raj system.

Violence rocked during the panchayat elections held on September 19, 2007, where supporters of the SHDDC and KSO disrupted polling and allegedly set on fire five kiosks at Charhazari. SHDDC and KSO objected the holding of panchayat elections in Sadar Hills as the area has an Autonomous District Council (ADC) for local administration. Re-polling was held in four polling stations in Charhazari on September 21 under heavy security.

Reiterating its stand that it would not allow further division of Sadar hills on communal line, SHDC alleged that the Manipur governemnt has a sinister policy since 1982-83 whereby Panchayati Raj system was introduced in areas with substantial population of Nepalis like in Kalapahar and Charhajare under Kangpokpi sub-division as well as in Molkon Hangoipat Nepali areas, Chingmang-Joulen and Phawoibi Vaiphei kuki areas of Saikul sub-division.

After a gap of twenty years elections to six ADCs of Manipur were conducted with much opposition from the United Naga Council (UNC). If consulted for a personal opinion with regard to the opposition of the UNC to ADC elections vis-à-vis the Kukis, I would have voiced to join the chorus with the Nagas for certain issues concerning all the hill people. Needless to say, we always have a ‘No No’ with the Nagas on every issues. Issue based association does not mean that all scores are settled or subdued with regard to the Kuki-Naga conflict of the 1990s. Association with them on certain common issues will made them easier to be persuaded of our cause rather than bashing them in the medias and memorandums.

Now that the Sadar Hills ADC is functional, regardless of whether power is devolved to them or not, a time has come for them to judiciously inquire the existence of panchayats in its functional area and take steps accordingly. Or else the people who elected them would consider them as a ‘toothless ADC.’ In this regard the ADC can supplement their power with the political power of ethnicity. Identifying the psychological power of ethnicity that lies behind its capacity to mobilise individuals for sacrifice in an ethnic cause, Clark McCauley says that: ‘The political power of ethnicity is its psychological power to elicit risk and self-sacrifice for the group.’

While googling, to my surprise, I find my village listed in the Reports of National Panchayat Directory of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India’s website. What confuse me now is whether Sadar Hills is really under Panchayati Raj system or is it just the political gimmick of the Imphal based Manipur government. The other baffling problem is our opposition movements losing ground each time, starting with the area specific to district and even the autonomous movement. After Saikul & Kangpokpi being declared hill town, what will be the next possible step of the government and are we going to lose again in that opposition?

Will it be too big a favour to ask to our ‘babus’ (MP/bureaucrats) in New Delhi for a modest enquiry, if not inquiry, to such inclusion of our villages in Sadar Hills? If not, then after such enquiry the politico-traditional institution like the Kuki Inpi, Delhi can take up the issue if it is serious enough. Instead of internal bickering in various e-forums, Magazines and Newspaper, we can start a constructive debate on issues and strategies confronting our land and people.

Posted 19th June 2011

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