New Delhi: Using place names not authorised by the government may soon be a punishable offence in Manipur. A Bill that proposes this is likely to be tabled in the upcoming Manipur assembly session, as per a news report by the Indian Express.
On February 9, the Manipur government announced that the state’s next assembly session will begin on February 28. One of the Bills that the government might table during the session is titled the ‘Manipur Names of Places Bill, 2024’.
The proposal for the Bill has been prepared by the Land Resources Department and approved by the state cabinet, the IE news report, dated February 11, said. Per the report, the objective is to establish “an institutional mechanism to enforce correct use of names of places” as well as to “lay down procedures for giving names to places, and also for altering names of places”. Per the Bill, offenders will be punished with a penalty, and can receive one to three years of imprisonment upon conviction.
Per the new Bill, a ‘Place Names Committee’ will be created to make recommendations on the names, subject to the approval of the government. The latest news report by the Indian Express also noted that the proposal for the Act states: “There have been multiple instances of the use of unauthorised names of places by certain individuals or groups of people or organisations, with possible malafide intent, which had the potential to create confusion in the administration of the state.” The proposal also lists that “certain administrative challenges are also faced due to such unauthorised use of names of places at the time of discharging their duties by government officials”.
Names of places have been a contested issue since violence began in Manipur in May last year.
As per the report, the “most prominent example” is that of the Kuki-Zomi-dominated district Churachandpur and its district headquarters, also called Churachandpur. The district and town is named after a Meitei king of the former Manipur kingdom, Churachand Singh, who ruled the area from 1891 to 1941. But people from the Kuki-Zomi community have been calling the town “Lamka” for a long time. Both the names are over a hundred years old, per the Indian Express. But after the violence erupted, the name Lamka began appearing on homes, shops and even government institutions and offices. Similarly, resident Meiteis now call Paite Veng (Paite is a Zo sub-tribe and Veng means colony) in Imphal ‘Kwakeithel Ningthemkol’ via a signboard, the news report highlighted.
In October last year, the Manipur government, via an order by the chief secretary, told organisations and individuals to not change names of “districts, sub-divisions, places, institutions, and addresses of such institutions” on their own – which could create possible conflict between communities – The Hindu had reported.
The upcoming assembly session will be only the second so far since the start of the ethnic conflict on May 3 last year. As per latest official figures – as of September 15 last year – the violence has killed 175 people and injured 1,118; 32 people are still missing.