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Manipur uprising caused a great loss

by Rinku Khumukcham
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By: Siamchingthang Tungpo
The extension of cease-fire to the Naga inhabited areas in Manipur (The Bangkok Agreement of June 14,2001) w.e.f. the first of August, 2001 for a period of one year, led to a massive violent uprising causing great loss to life and property as a protest. The protestors targeted the government machinery and public leaders (setting fire to the Manipur Legislative Assembly building, manhandling the speaker of the Assembly). As many as 14 people were brutally killed in cold blood in the firing by the Security Forces and many were seriously injured. Faced with an unprecedented civil and political unrest in Manipur, the Centre was left with no other option but to review the Cease-fire Agreement. All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) demanded the resignation of all the MLA’s and MP’s of the state. The arrogant politicians, however, refused to step down (from their coveted posts). They served half-heartedly an a ultimatum to the Centre threatening to quit their posts and resign in masse if the latter did not revoke the agreement latest by the 31st July, 2001. Left with no other go, the Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani, announced that the three unwarranted words— “without territorial limits” in the June 14, 2001 Agreement stand deleted and the status quo ante June, 14 be restored (N.E. Sun, Aug, 1-14, 2001, page-8).
Why did the valley people, especially the majority Meiteis were hell-bent on revoking the June 14 Agreement? As the Manipur Students’ Association Delhi (MSAD) clarified in their handout at a protest rally at JantarMantar: “ The mass uprising in Manipur is not a protest against the Naga peace-process per se, nor is it the protest as anti-Naga movement, as some vested interests have been trying hard to project as”. The extension of the ceasefire to Manipur was an attempt to legitimize the Greater Nagaland (Nagalim) claim of the NSCN(IM) by the Centre. This was percieved as a direct threat to the territorial integrity of Manipur. Hence, the June 18 mass uprising in Imphal. The cease-fire extension was also perceived by the people as the continuation of the old colonial policy of “Divide and Rule”. Understandably, the NSCN(IM) has played the ethnic card thereby mobilizing the Nagas on the pretext of bringing peace and a possible greater Nagalim in the near future. The people’s suspicion was vindicated by Th. Muviah, the NSCN(IM) supremo’s claim that Nagalim covers 12,00,000 square kilometers whereas the area of Nagaland state is only 16,579 Sq.Km !
The United Naga Council (UNC) of Manipur had earlier warned the Centre of dire consequences if the June 14 Agreement was either reviewed or revoked. No wonder, the UNC, the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and various other Naga bodies started organizing sit-in-protests, torch rallies at night and blockades of the two main national highways (NH-34, NH-53), the lifelines of Manipur.
They, in fact, called for an indefinite economic blockade on these two highways from the end of July till the first week of August in an effort to intensify thin agitation- to restore the white flags, which were earlier hosted. Ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and the Nagas seemed imminent. The fleeing of Nagas from the valley escalated this. Fortunately, a remarkable display of restraint and political maturity on both sides did prevent a communal and ethnic flare-up.
During the blockade of the two highways, the supply of essential goods was disrupted. Hundreds of trucks were stranded in Nagaland with perishable goods. There was hyperinflation- a kilo of rice reached 40 Rupees in the hill districts. On 10 August, a LPG carrying truck, was burnt near Tadubi (Senapati District- a Naga majority district) by Naga agitators. However, it must be noted that the blockade and violence were restricted only to Naga areas of Manipur, a point emphasized by Chief Minister of Nagaland.
The government of Manipur failed to provide an effective security to the transporters and the passenger bus services passing through the Naga areas of Manipur. The govt. did not impose a single curfew to prevent violence on the national highways. This has led to the people’s belief that the government is partisan and ecouraging the Nagas to intensify their agitation. The apathy of the government resulted in some student organisations like the Manipur Students Federation (MSF), another powerful student organization, to call for a counter-blockade of the Naga-areas of Manipur. Later, they were persuaded by the United Committee of Manipur (UCM), spearheading the anti-cease-fire extension agitation to avoid a possible ethnic clash.
But the damage has been already done. The spirit of peaceful co-existence seems to have been lost among the Nagas. The United Naga Council (UNC) is now demanding the merger of Naga areas of Manipur to Nagaland. This is partly due to the revoking of the Cease-fire Agreement and the general feeling that the Meiteis have neglected the hills. The Meiteis generally use a derogatory term “Hao” for the tribes and is obviously resented by the tribes. The emergence of Naga nationalism has further alienated the Nagas from the Manipur mainstream. However, the so called Naga inhabited areas” is misleading for various other communities like the Zosccc, Nepalis also reside. The Naga-Kuki ethnic clash was the clash over land ownership in the hill districts of Manipur. No wonder, the Zo peoples too vehemently opposed the ceasefire-extension to the so-called Naga areas of Manipur.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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