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Project Maninagapur

Union Minister, Oscar Fernandez and top bureaucrat, K Padmanabhaiah seem to be at their wits end while they try to untangle the foxy Naga problem of Greater Nagaland. Before a decade of Peace Talks in fruitless search for lasting peace expires in another two years, I beg to submit a proposal for the sake of testing trials, before a full-fledged Greater Nagaland can be made to fructify. My proposal is simple. It will please Delhiwalas and satisfy integrationists like Swaraj Kaushal, Nandita Haksar, Bharat Bhusan etc. I will like to suggest that let Manipur and Nagaland merge together on testing trial basis.

Now since the area of Manipur is 22,327 sq kms whereas that of Nagaland is 16,597 sq kms only, and further since the population of Manipur is much bigger than that of Nagaland (revealed in a latter paragraph). I submit that let Mani (pur) take precedence over Naga (land). Therefore I suggest and submit that the name of the new Indian State be designated as Maninagapur.

I suggested Maninagapur, rather than Maninagaland since most Indians dislike British suffixes of ‘land’ like England (home of Englishmen), Scotland, Ireland etc. Now come the chance of ‘-stan’. This ‘stan business also does not suit native temperament, as most of us have aversion to Paki-stan, Turkmeni-stan, Kyrgyz-stan etc even including Hindu-stan which means land or home of Hindus only, whereas India is home to Hindus, Muslims, Christians etc. Therefore, I rule out Maninagastan. The suffix ‘pur’ is nice sounding and beautiful such as Jai-pur, Churachand-pur, Bhagal-pur etc. Therefore, I suggest and humbly plead that the name of the new state be called Maninaga-pur. How sweet and how splendid the name is, I just cannot comprehend.

Just by the way, the area of Manipur as per Oxford School Atlas (1972 edition) was 22,347 sq kms, whereas it is 22,327 as per Longman School Atlas, 2004. Manipur has thus lost 20 sq km of land area. It will be worthwhile for the Govt of Manipur to investigate how we lost territory. Based on the same authorities of school atlases, Nagaland’s area in 1972 was 16,488 sq km and its area in the year 2004 was 16,579 sq km. Thus Nagaland gained 91 sq km of area between 1972 and 2004.

Though I am not suggesting that Nagaland has bitten off 91 sq km of area from neighboring States including 20 sq km from Manipur, but if Manipur and Nagaland merge together, it will be quite for Manipur – no gain, no loss – if our lost territory happened to be the gain of Nagaland.

Now comes the mechanics of merger. Let me provide a formula. In a democratic country, merger involves sharing of representatives in the Indian Parliament – both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha – share of seats in the new and combined Legislative Assembly, location of capital/ capitals, positioning of constitutional institutions like High Court, Public Service Commission, Human Right Commission etc. The present set-up is that Nagaland has one MP (Lok Sabha) and one MP (Rajya Sabha), whereas Manipur has two MPs (LS) and one MPs (RS). These arrangements can continue in the proposed State of Maninagapur.

The population of Manipur as per report of Registrar General of Census Commission of India in 2001, was 22, 93,689 whereas that of Nagaland was, 19, 90,036. Now, Nagaland has an assembly of 60 MLAs. Let us retain this as basis. On this population ration, Manipur should have 69 MLAs. Therefore, the assembly of Maninagapur can have 129 MLAs (60 for old Nagaland and 69 for old Manipur with delimitation/re-demarcation of assembly seats in Manipur only). Now, a question may arise saying that much bigger State like Uttaranchal, Jharkhand have smaller State Assembly and the 129 strong assembly seats for Maninagapur is too huge. This objection can be brushed aside since State Assembly strength is an internal matter of States and does not damage all India political balancing.

Regarding the location of seats of power, that is, where the Rajayapal will reside, where the State Assembly will be positioned and where the State Chief Minister will be housed, I think Imphal (October to March) and Kohima (April to September) can both be capitals. Maninagapur has to maintain two Raj Bhavans. Citing of High Court, Public Service Commission, Human Rights Commission, Women’s Commission etc can be sorted out on give and take or sharing principle. We have to bear in mind that Kohima, being a hill station climatically it will be more enjoyable to work there, whereas Imphal being in the plains has more room for expansion and better air-connectivity.

Now, having sorted out the mundane and physical side or integration, let us go over to the moral and intangible side of Maninagapur. A child who was brought up as mummy’s darling and who studied in schools and colleges as a day scholar, who never got beaten up by elder boys, was normally found to be introvert and was unable to adjust with the society when he grows up. On the other hand, a child who studied in residential schools and colleges and who interacted, studied, lived, played and dined together with his equals and colleagues in hostel rooms, dining halls, playfields and class-rooms, was found to be more adjustable in the society and was more broad-minded. Similarly, a mixed nation is found to be more liberal and tolerant. The atmosphere of up-bringing is very important. The saying about Admiral Nelson that ‘The battle of Trafalgar was won on the playing fields of Eton’ is quite apt.

When Rishang Keishing was Chief Minister of Manipur, peace talks by Government of India and NSCN (IM) just commenced. Perhaps to let GoI know the reaction of the peoples of Manipur, a huge Integrity Rally of about four lakhs of people organized by AMUCO (All Manipur United Clubs’ Organization) converged on Imphal Polo Ground on 5th August 1997. The ralliers broke all barriers and cordons of prohibited area silent zones like the street in front of Manipur Secretariat, Police Headquarters, Chief Minister’s Bungalow, Raj Bhavan area and it was a sea of humanity but absolutely peaceful.

The Chief Minister suddenly woke up. Quickly, Rishang, the old warrior in the political battlefield of Manipur, gathered his senses and called an All Parties Political Meet and decided to send an All Parties Delegation to Delhi and apprise all the top brass of even nondescript political parties of India. The delegation got written and passionate assurances from who’s who of all political parties of India and returned back satisfied. Ironically, Rishang and Muivah belong to the same Tangkhul tribe of Manipur. In the changed political atmosphere, Rishang the nationalist had to be extra nationalist. Even Muivah as Chief Minister cannot have obscurantist ideas. This will be one of the moral and intangible assets of Maninagapur. Social sensibilities on tolerance come out of responsibilities of living together in a mixed nation or State. I believe in the intrinsic humane qualities of men and we will be able to win the battle of hearts and minds.

There are three areas where the Naga peoples of the proposed Maninaga-pur have to be magnanimous in their relations with Manipur. The first one is secularism. You know, I know and everybody knows that India is a secular country. Right now at this moment, the President of India is a pious Muslim and the Prime Minister is a devout Sikh. Manipur had the good fortune of having two Tangkhul Chief Ministers and a Muslim Chief Minister too, despite their minuscule population.

We are just human beings. Citizens of Maninagapur must tolerate religious freedom and even Godlessness and irreligiousness. So, it is advisable to abandon such fundamentalist ideas of NSCN (IM) like ‘Nagaland for Christ’ as printed on their logo. Religion should be an individual’s private affair with God and should have nothing to do with governance and its policy and social relationship.

The second one is that Manipur was once an independent country with a King or a Maharaja. Bearing this in mind, even after the British conquest of Manipur in 1891, the institution of Maharajaship was retained by a Royal Proclamation of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, after lot of debates in the British Parliament. Now, in a democratic India, Maharajaship was abolished but the Maharaja culture is still retained in Manipur. Therefore, we need to protect the sanctity of Kangla, which, unfortunately is encroached all over by preservationists of our ancient culture. We need to preserve Kangla like we are preserving Red Fort and drive out the encroachers. A Meitei or an Angami Chief Minister of Maninagapur may kindly bear this in mind.

The third area, which arose out of monarchy is Manipur Rifles, MR was originally designated as State Military Police, a kind of standing army of Maharajas of Manipur. A contingent of SMP had taken part in the First World War of 1914-18. When the two State police forces amalgamate, it is feared that the identity of MR Battalions may get lost. I plead that MR should be preserved as Maninagapur Rifle Battalions. Of course, Semas and Aos etc may be recruited in these battalions.

In conclusion, I believe that all of us, Manipuris (including Manipuri tribal, Manipur Muslims and Manipuri outsiders (colloquially called Mayangs) with our linguistic, cultural, historical and ethnicities can, not only survive, but even prosper in Maninagapur.

Also I cannot help but point out many savings in overhead expenditure. First of all, there will be huge saving in the senior staff of one Governor and one Chief Minister, in addition to their own reduction to one each. Also, the size of Council of Ministers will be reduced to thirteen (being 10% of Assembly strength) or at the best fifteen, and thus affect more savings. Since all heads of departments and institutions will be one, there will be immense saving. Above all, interstate tension will disappear completely. Let us say ‘Hello’ to Maninagapur.

*The article is written by Lt Col H Bhuban Singh (Retd)

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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