The Nagas and the Meiteis have been embroiled in a bitter conflict for several years now over Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM's demand for the creation of united Naga homeland 'Greater Nagaland' by slicing off the Naga majority areas of Manipur besides Assam and Arunachal. If the Centre gives in to the demand of NSCN-IM, it will reduce Manipur by more than half of what it is today. The outfit is in peace mode with the government following the signing of a truce in 1997.
- In October, the Manipur government had decided to upgrade sub-divisions Sadar Hills and Jiribam to full-fledged districts. The decision to create five more districts was taken earlier this month.
- The Nagas are miffed that the government took the decision on Sadar Hills and Jiribam without consulting them. They claim the government had committed in writing earlier that it would consult all stake holders, including Nagas, before taking any decision on Sadar Hills. The Kukis (tribesmen) have for long been spearheading a movement demanding Sadar Hills’ elevation to a district. Chin-Mizo-Kukis are Manipur’s third largest community after the Meiteis (Manipuris) and the Nagas.
- Last year, nine Kukis were killed in police firing in Kuki-majority Churachandpur district. The bodies have not been claimed yet in protest. Nagas alleged the government was trying to assuage the feelings of the Kukis and keep them in good humour ahead of next year’s polls by elevating Sadar Hills to a district. Kukis are in large majority in Sadar Hills.
- Nagas claim that Sadar Hills is their “ancestral homeland”. They allege its elevation will now encourage the Kukis to claim it as their homeland.
- Jiribam, where Meiteis are in majority, was a sub-division of Imphal East district but in between lies Naga-majority Tamenglong district. Nagas alleged the decision on Jiribam was taken to benefit the Meiteis as it would be created by bifurcating Tamenglong.
- Enraged over the decision on Sadar Hills and Jiribam, the United Naga Council (UNC) enforced an indefinite “economic blockade” on two national highways – lifelines of Manipur – since November 1 thereby choking supplies. In retaliation, the Meiteis imposed a counter-blockade, preventing goods-laden vehicles from moving to the four Naga-dominated hill districts from Imphal Valley where they are in a large majority. Both blockades are still on.
- The Nagas have nothing against the creation of five more districts. On more than half of Manipur’s land, the Nagas are settled but their population is much less compared to the Meiteis.
- The 15-year-old Congress government is faced with a resurgent BJP and a strong anti-incumbency wave. The decision on the creation of the seven districts is being seen as ruling Congress’s ploy to gain political mileage in the polls