Among the many current issues of extreme gravity in Manipur, discussions on which have either been underplayed or else have not been addressed adequately and equitably, are: One, the likely consequences of a pending delimitation of constituencies, and two, the manner a re-examination of the MPSC conducted Manipur Civil Services examination of 2016 is being ordered without first holding anybody to account for the foul play which resulted in plunging the results of the same exam into a shameful controversy, causing trauma to many sincere candidates selected in that exam. There is a CBI inquiry underway now and the question is, what if the CBI is able to pinpoint the few candidates who entered via the MPSC’s corruption backdoor. Would the system allow the second time victimisation of sincere candidates already victimised?
The delimitation issue for one, preparation for which is estimated to be complete by 2021. Much has been said on the technicalities of the problem highlighting the very likely flaws of the 2011 census, on which the delimitation is to be based. The fact on the ground is that there is a massive and seemingly unnatural growths of population in respect of certain hill districts, while the growth rates in the valley areas have remained somewhat close to the all India average. While those against delimitation based on this particular census data think these figures have been massively and perhaps wilfully inflated therefore not fair to base constituency delimitation, those defending the growth argue these quantum growths may have resulted out of migration and fresh registration of previously unregistered bona-fide indigenous populations. These concerns from either side are plausible in their own ways and must be investigated, redressed and resolved satisfactorily before pushing ahead with the delimitation exercise.
However, even if the contested census data is to be taken as valid, there are still more problems ahead. For one, if any of the newly created Assembly constituencies were to be formed by merging parts of an unreserved constituency and a reserved constituency, would the resultant constituency be reserved or unreserved? There can be no doubt there will be troubles and these troubles can be predicted to be in terms of social unrests as well as constitutional and legal crises. The social unrest will be on account of the well-known Faultline between the tribal and non-tribal, which is also roughly congruent with the hill and valley divide. Either side would not want anything taken away for the benefit of the other side, and this is because the dividing line is not in any way permeable, but water tight. This is however not the only fissure. Within the reserved hill constituencies, there are further divisions between traditional communities, and these divisions cannot in any way be taken lightly either.
But other than these predicted social turmoil, as suggested earlier, there will also be constitutional and legal hurdles. If the new constituencies are confined within purely reserved constituencies, there probably will be no problems of the nature. However, if the new constituencies are a mix of reserved and non-reserved voters, the option will have to be to make them unreserved, just as Kangpokpi is a non-reserved constituency though in the hill because it has a huge population of non-tribal Nepalis. This is with the view that while a reserved constituency excludes certain section of the population, a non-reserved one is open to everyone, ST, SC and General classes. Hence, if the likely new constituencies were to be made reserved constituencies, there would be so many bona fide citizens disenfranchised, and therefore such a move will not be constitutionally or legally defendable. The other way this entangle can be avoided would be to declare the entire Manipur as a tribal state, and all indigenous communities as Schedule Tribes. These are just speculations of ways these constitutional and legal hurdles can be overcome, but we also know the social upheavals that such decisions can result will have no considerations for constitutional or legal conformity. Assam and Nagaland are also poised to go through the same delimitation exercises as Manipur, and If indications from Assam are anything to go by, the intent seem to be for de-reserving any new constituency of mixed voters. The census move is meeting with opposition in Assam too, but for fear of possibilities of tribals losing their hold over constituencies they considered theirs exclusively. In Nagaland too, there are objections to delimitation, but for reasons peculiar to the notion of territoriality of its many tribal communities.
The other problem we would like to flag here is that of the Manipur Public Service Commission, MPSC’s, move to have a repeat examination of its 2016 Manipur Civil Services selection examinations, the results of which had been cancelled, therefore also summarily dismissing successful candidates who had already joined their respective services, after discovery of substantial manipulation of results by staff of the MPSC. The cancellation of the examination as well as the re-examination order now probably are unavoidable, even if it is to be at the tremendous cost and excruciating pain of the many sincere candidates who burnt midnight oil to get into these prized services. But the question that remains is, what if all those corrupt elements in the MPSC who created the scandal in the first place are the ones left to conduct the fresh examination again. What if they are found and charge-sheeted by the ongoing CBI inquiry into the scandal. They should of course be made to deserve rigorous prison terms, and dismissed from service without retirement benefits, but would the exam they again have conducted have any moral legitimacy?
Editor, Imphal Review of Arts and Politics and author