By: Siamchingthang Tungpo
As the peace-talk between Government of India (GoI) and NSCN-IM seems to be nearing its final solution, Manipur is burning up gradually. The Manipur Nagas are adamant to their demand of ‘Alternative Arrangement’. Zo armed groups of the UPF demanded AHS. On the other hand, the Kukis came up with a fervent demand of “Kuki State” within Manipur, without breaking the present day boundaries of the State. This demand was spearheaded by the Kuki State Demand Committee (KSDC). Since the Central assured the Kuki groups to start political dialogue, KSDC has withdrawn the ‘Public Blockade in Kuki Areas’ recently. The Central assured the Kuki groups to start political dialogue, KSDC has withdrawn the ‘Public Blockade in Kuki Areas’ recently. The Nagas opposed the ‘Kuki State Map’ which was demanded by the Kukis in Manipur.
According to media reports, the Nagas objected the Kuki’s Map claiming it has fabricated the Naga inhabited areas into Kuki areas., Manipur State Cabinet held its meeting at the Chief Minister’s Bungalow, in which the SoO with KNO, and Manipur Government and Central Government has been extended for one year.The cabinet meeting also decided the Disturbed Area status imposed in the State, excluding the seven assembly constituency of Imphal Municipal areas has also been extended from time to time.
The cabinet meeting also decided the Disturbed Area status imposed in the State, excluding the seven assembly constituency of Imphal Municipal areas has also been extended for another one year.
The first SoO was signed between Army and constituents of UPF and KNO on August 1, 2005. Later it was agreed between Govt of India, Govt of Manipur and KNO and UPF to formalize this agreement and cease hostilities with effect from August 22, 2008. Since the Kuki militants came under this tripartite agreement, there was no hostility between the Indian Security Forces and Zo armed groups. Cadres were kept in government’s designated camps in Manipur. However, the political situation is worsening each passing day and moving towards a fierce battling in daily newspapers in the form of press statements by both the ethnic groups.
KNO has criticized the NSCN (IM), saying, NSCN (IM) butchered 900 innocent Kukis and forcibly uprooted over 350 Kuki villages during the 1990s.
Now the strong contention between the KNO and NSCN-IM is ‘Kuki State Map’. The Nagas strongly opposed the Kuki Map terming it “a bogus map”. While the KNO stood staunchly in supporting the map as ‘genuine which covers the present Kuki inhabited areas’.
In a press reports the NSCN (IM) stated: “The impropriety of playing with history will never stand the test of time”. There is no ending in the Naga-Kuki political discontentment. The Central Government, the mother of all states, is treating Manipur in a step-motherly treatment. The Central seems to be playing its card in the midst of Kuki and Naga claims. There is little attention from the Central.
The most significant bone of contention between the two groups is land dispute. The Kuki National Front (KNF), later joined by the Kuki National Organization (KNO), demands Kukiland to be carved out of the five hill districts of Manipur — Churachandpur, Chandel, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul.
The demand for Kukiland is a direct challenge to a demand for greater or southern Nagaland by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland — Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM). The goal of the Naga militant outfit is to amalgamate the four hill districts of Manipur — Chandel, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul — and to form greater Nagaland by merging with neighbouring Nagaland state.
The intention to drive out Kukis from the four hill districts led to “ethnic cleansing” by the NSCN-IM. Though the initial violence was triggered by militant outfits in Chandel district, it spread over to other parts of the state, and to Nagaland state and Myanmar as well.
To restore peace and normalcy, KIM puts forward two important demands to the Nagas and the Indian government. First, it demands the Nagas, especially the NSCN-IM, to formally apologize for their heinous crimes of the 1990s and perform Kuki customary rites such as paying Luongman (corpse price) and Tol-theh (cleaning the house for shedding human blood). Second, KIM demands the Indian government to rehabilitate the loss of lives and properties and provide adequate compensation to thousands of displaced victims.
Naga leaders, particularly the NSCN-IM, have not responded to the demands of KIM. It is unclear if the Naga leaders, particularly the United Naga Council (UNC), apex civil body of the Nagas in Manipur, and NSCN-IM, have the intention to make similar demands from the Kukis to perform Naga customary rites for their own deaths.
While the Meiteis oppose creation of either Kuki homeland or greater Nagaland, the Thadou-Kukis and Nagas are evidently unable to establish any kind of coordination or cooperation. This is partly due to the simmering tension remaining in the aftermath of the 1992-1997 clashes. The wounds of past miseries are apparently yet to be healed.
The tension has become deeply communal now and has reached a point of mutual distrust that makes it difficult for civil society organizations to initiate any congenial dialogue between the two groups.
It is pertinent to ask whether the government sees the conflict as an internal matter for the concerned ethnic groups to resolve among themselves or considers this a too-insignificant issue to intervene.
While the tension lingers, the Indian government engages in a political dialogue with the NSCN-IM, ignoring calls by the Kuki armed groups for political dialogue despite maintaining Suspension of Operation since 2005. It remains unclear whether this is an institutional problem on the part of the Kuki armed organizations, or another manifestation of one-sided treatment toward the NSCN-IM.