What are the origins of the Hill-Valley divide? How did the present Manipur state take shape? Why do Hill people believe they have been unfairly treated? Watch this special documentary to understand the issue as Manipur goes to polls next month:

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Imphal: The 2022 Manipur elections are almost upon us. It is clear that beyond the usual BJP vs Congress debates, there are far deeper issues that will have a big impact on state politics. Manipur, more specifically the Imphal Valley, may have been an erstwhile princely state, but the present Manipur is much more than that; it is a mix of the Imphal Valley surrounded by hill region: a region that stands in stark contrast to the Valley. The Valley is mostly Hindu, the Hills are almost entirely Christian. The Hills occupy almost 90% of the state area, but the Valley, with just 10% land, is home to almost 60% of the people.

The Hills residents claim they have been denied development. Take something as basic as hospitals, for example. The hill districts of Churachandpur, Chandel, Senapati, Tamenglong, Ukhrul, Kamjong, Noney, Kangpokpi and Pherzawl, combined, do not have even one government-owned multispecialty hospital.

“We have the district hospital here in Hungpung village. However, due to lack of manpower, including specialists and infrastructure, whenever we have an emergency we are referred to Imphal. But due to financial constraints, most of us in the hills face difficulties for further treatment,” says 70-year-old M Vincent from the Ukhrul district.

This is where the proposed Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill recommended by the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) comes into the picture. 

On November 22, 2021, more than 800 goods laden trucks and other vehicles, coming from neighbouring Nagaland, were stranded at Mao Gate along National Highway 2 due to an indefinite economic blockade in Manipur.

The economic blockade was imposed by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM), the All Naga Students’ Association Manipur (ANSAM), the Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO) following the failure of the state government to table and discuss the proposed Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill recommended by the Hill Areas Committee (HAC). The controversial bill, if passed, could be a turning point in the history of Manipur but also intensify the already glaring hill-valley divide in the state. 

The HAC has every privilege and right to table this bill in the assembly. But the government outrightly rejected it. So, the All Tribals Students’ Union Manipur considers this unacceptable,” said ATSUM president Paotinthang Lupheng.

According to Dhiren A Sadokpam, Editor-in-Chief, The Frontier Manipur, the hill-valley divide in terms of development and social relationship is caused more by emerging dominant class-interest of the primarily pretentious elites and not the people in general. 

“The people, in general, do not have much of a difference but those who have a stake or vested interest in the parliamentary politics that we understand as of now. I mean, primarily because of this, as of now, I think we have the issue or the presumed issue of ‘hill-valley divide,” said Sadokpam.

Also read | SC issues notices to Centre, election panel on PIL against poll freebies

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