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Manipur bans renaming of places, makes it punishable by up to 3 years jail

Guwahati: The Manipur assembly on Monday passed a legislation that makes it punishable to rename places by a prison term that could extend to three years and fines of up to 2 lakhs.

Manipur chief minster N Biren Singh. (File photo)

The Manipur Name of Places Bill, 2024 was unanimously passed by the assembly on Monday in the backdrop of the ongoing ethnic strife between Meitei and the Kuki-Zo communities with instances of one community trying to change official names of places more populated with members of the other community.

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“The Manipur state government is serious about protecting our history, cultural heritage and the legacy passed down by the ancestors and forefathers,” chief minister N Biren Singh posted on X.

“We will not tolerate renaming and misusing names of places without consent and those guilty of the offence will be awarded with strict legal punishment,” he added.

Also Read: 219 deaths, 800cr loss: Guv on Manipur clashes

The Bill, which was tabled on Friday, states that there have been instances of use of unauthorised names for places by certain individuals, groups of people or organisations with possible mala fide intent, which has potential to cause confusion in administration and disturb social harmony.

These changes of names create “certain administrative challenges for government officials at the time of discharging their duties, the Bill stated.

According to the Bill, a seven-member committee will be appointed by the state government and only it will be authorised to suggest renaming or altering of names of places to the government.

Manipur has been roiled by ethnic clashes since May last year between the Meiteis, which are dominant in Imphal Valley, and the tribal Kuki-Zo communities, which are in majority in some hill areas.

According to the government, 221 people have died in the violence till date and around 50,000 have been displaced.

Also Read:Explained: Suspension of Operations agreement with Kuki militant groups in Manipur

During the initial days of the conflict, Kuki-Zo people residing in Imphal fled to the hills, while Meiteis residing in Kuki-dominated districts escaped to the Imphal Valley. There have been allegations by both sides accusing the other of capturing their vacant homes and properties.

There have been instances of renaming of places as well. The most prominent being Churachandpur, a Kuki-majority district with a head quarter of the same name, being renamed by many Kuki groups as Lamka, a traditional name of the place instead of the present one named after Churachand Singh, a Meitei king.

In another instance Paite Veng, a locality in Imphal named after the Paite sub-tribe of the Zo community, was rebranded as Kwakeithel Ningthemkol by local residents.

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