A member of parliament from Manipur has resiled from his earlier statement, claiming he never said he favoured creation of two union territories out of the state.
Thangso Baite, MP, said he had been misquoted by IANS. "I only told you that it was not a perfect time to comment on the issue as the current situation in Manipur is very critical," he said over the phone.
He had earlier told IANS that "creation of two union territories out of Manipur definitely can be a possible solution," but cautioned that the sequence of events happening in the state needed to be observed more closely before making any final decision.
He appears to have retracted from his earlier stand after he was asked to quit from his post by many state legislators. There were also public protests against him.
Another MP, Khekiho Zhimomi from Nagaland, too may have sought to somewhat dilute his earlier statement on bifurcation of the state, saying he did not "have any ultra motive. Please don’t misunderstand".
Although he did not retract from his earlier stand, Zhimomi said in a statement that "the theory (of dividing Manipur into two union territories) is food for thought for the people of Manipur (as they have) to decide.
"The acceptance and rejection is upto the people, if my theory has not gone well with some sections of people and it’s hard for them to digest, I do apologise."
He said it should be "our duty to explore every possibility in search of lasting peace and harmy in society and among the people".
The parliamentarian, in an interaction with IANS earlier, had talked about the theory of two union territories to be carved out of the peace-longing state of Manipur.
"By creating two union territories out of Manipur, the central government can look after both the territories directly," he had said.
Clarifying his stand on the issue, Zhimomi said in a statement: "If a joint family with many members finds difficulties under one roof, and peace and harmomny is at stake, why not separate the families and live under separate roof/house as good neighbours — which would bring honour and dignity between them and help maintain respectable relation between the two."
Biren Singh, a Manipur legislator, had reacted sharply to his theory saying the MP should pay heed to his own state and not interfere in other states’ matters.
In his statement alluding to Singh, Zhimomi said that the welfare of the northeast region was a "collective responsibility of northeast leaders, irrespective of political colour or the state where we may belong".
The rift between the tribals and Meiteis has existed in the state for decades. It intensified on August 30 after the Congress-led Manipur government passed three bills — Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill, 2015, and Manipur Shops and Establishments Bill, 2015 – to which the tribal population took exception.
The Manipur Land Reforms Bill, which ostensibly brings all land under the Manipur government, makes sale to outsiders difficult.
The tribal belts of Manipur comprising five districts — Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong, Chandel and Churachandpur – constitute 75 percent of the state’s area and have a population of 500,000 to 600,000. The valley part of the state dominated by the Meiteis has a population of more than 1.4 million and an area of only 5,000 sq km.