The Manipur Assembly on Monday unanimously passed the Names of Places Bill, 2024. The Bill makes using names of places not authorised by the state government punishable by a prison term that could extend to three years and fines of up to Rs 2 lakh.

“The Manipur state government is serious about protecting our history, cultural heritage and the legacy passed down by the ancestors and forefathers,” said Chief Minister N Biren Singh in a social media post after the Bill was passed.

Singh also said that the state government “will not tolerate renaming and misusing names of places without consent” and those found guilty “will be awarded with strict legal punishment”.

The legislation comes against the backdrop of ethnic clashes in Manipur between the Meitei and the Kuki communities since early May. On February 28, Manipur Governor Anusuiya Uikey said that the violence left 219 persons dead and displaced 60,000 people.

The conflict has also manifested itself through contesting claims about the names of places. For instance, in the Kuki-Zomi-dominated Churachandpur district, the name Lamka has begun to appear prominently on homes, shops and government offices amid the violence in the state, according to The Indian Express.

Kuki-Zomis in the district have been using the name Lamka for the district headquarters for a long time. The town has been named Churachandpur after Meitei ruler Churachand Singh, who was the king of the Manipur kingdom from 1891 to 1941.

According to the Manipur government, there have been multiple instances in which unauthorised names of places were used with “possible malafide intent which had the potential create confusion in the administration and disturb the social harmony in the state”.

It said that certain administrative challenges also emerge because of unauthorised names of places being used.

“Therefore, in this regard, the draft Manipur Names of Places Bill, 2024, has been prepared to enact a law by the legislature of Manipur to establish an institutional mechanism for naming of places and for laying down procedures for giving names to places and for altering the names,” read the Bill.

Under the proposed law, a Place Names Committee will be created to make recommendations regarding the names of places, subject to approval of the state government.

“The names of places in this context, however, will exclude certain names of administrative units which are defined within the law,” read the Bill. “The misuse of names of places will be a punishable offence, and the offending person shall, on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment of one to three years with fine of fifty thousand rupees to two lakh rupees.”