Explained: Why are Naga groups protesting against formation of seven new districts in Manipur

Manipur’s 9 districts are divided into 4 valley districts and 5 hill districts

Heightened tension and violence have brought parts of Manipur capital Imphal to a standstill. Indefinite curfew has been clamped and mobile internet services have been snapped at various places to control the situation.

The blockade was announced by Naga groups after the Manipur government announced the creation of seven new districts. Naga groups are alleging that the proposed districts in Naga-dominated areas will encroach upon their ancestral land.

Manipur’s 9 districts are divided into 4 valley districts and 5 hill districts. The 5 hill districts were tribal districts, which have now been bifurcated.

While valley districts are smaller and densely populated, hill districts are sparsely populated.

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The decision to bifurcate the state’s existing 9 districts was taken on December 9, to manage the administration of the state in a better way. Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh also said that the decision has been taken in view of the long-standing demand of the locals.

The decision to divide the districts has led to massive protests in the state. The main allegation by the Naga groups is that their ancestral villages have been merged with non-Naga areas to create a rift within the group. They also say that the Hill Area Committees were not consulted before the government took the decision.

As per the Constitution, the committees formed to protect the rights of hill people must be consulted on matters concerning the tribals.

Over a month has passed but the state is still reeling under the impact of the blockade with supplies of essential commodities having been cut off in the state. Owing to the shortage, fuel prices have tripled in the last one month.

Recently, there have been cases of violence like on December 14 three commandos were killed and 11 injured; 70 NSCN (IM) militants attacked a police post in Tamenglong district and stole 9 weapons on December 17. Protesting against the attack on a police post, a mob allegedly attacked a Manipur Baptist Church in Imphal.

The government is leaving no stone unturned to try and restore peace in the violence-hit state. They assure that the situation is likely to be better before December 25.