Home » NSCN-IM imbroglio revealed by three scholars – Aheibam Koireng, Sukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam and Homen Thangjam

NSCN-IM imbroglio revealed by three scholars – Aheibam Koireng, Sukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam and Homen Thangjam

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Produced here is the notes from the editors of the book called “Claims & Refutations: Compilation on Naga Political Movement, Published for: Centre for Manipur Studies (CMS), Manipur University (MU) & Conflict and Human Rights Studies Network, Imphal

The underground political movement of the Nagas has traversed a long way. Along the way it left innumerable milestones, which are the stuffs of legend and history, and created many a friends as well as foes. One remarkable achievement was that it could forge a political unity of identity amongst the racially varied and linguistically diverse tribes inhabiting different realms of territorial spaces in Indo-Myanmar territory practicing different ways of lives. The identity, or more so, the development of political identity of the Nagas is the major source of conflict in Northeast India. The mission for the cultural identity has been a non-starter even today. In Manipur, Naga identity is largely a post-independence (sic. India’s) phenomenon fuelled with the formation of NSCN (IM) contradictory to that of the Naga Hills which was a pre-independence one. So they developed a historical narrative as a strategy to meet their political needs. The taming of the NSCN (IM) has a corresponding effect to the political project of Naga identity. Similarly, communities under Naga fold have been fluctuating. Simply with the revelation from the statement of Isak Chisi Swu about the Naga identity, it brings to light that the story of “Unique History of Nagas” is just a political response of the Government of India (GoI). Aspirations of the Naga political movement for territorial expansion took shape in the agreement on boundaries (No 6) of the 9th point Agreement signed between the representatives of Dominion of India and NNC in 1947. However, the agreement could not be implemented. But, it was crystal clear to the NNC leadership of those times that there was no Nagas in Manipur. AZ Phizo visited Manipur with a proposal to initiate a collective movement against India. Though, it could not concretise, it nonetheless decided to have separate movement but support each other. Thus, on the part of the NNC leadership, Manipur was never in their cartographic imagination. NSCN (IM)’s recent territorial assertion in Manipur, irrespective of community belongingness is an unpopular claim in the state. With no option, they have even tried with attempted manoeuvring of electoral politics, but their unpopularity remains the same. UNC then initiated the demand for Alternative arrangement from July, 2010 onwards, primarily demanding, among others, severing of all political ties with Government of Manipur.  It is a failure in the initiation itself as none of the member of UNC respected the resolution. Despite all their movements proving to be misadventure, it has created intra and inter-community confusion and tension in Manipur. The first and the second demand was observable but the third demand was mostly through official channel as it is one of the demand of NSCN (IM) based in Manipur. The fourth movement was initiated under the banner of Alternative Arrangement. When they try to co-opt and extended their proposal to Chin-Kuki-Mizos particularly the KNO, both sides being fully aware of each other’s ploy tried to outwit each other. So, the proposal was reportedly not materialized.
The only and core demand for the Nagas during NNC was the sovereignty of the Naga Hills. However, with the formation of NSCN and later NSCN (IM), the demands multiplied with fluctuating priority and intensity. 
The Manipuri Naga of NSCN (IM) has constructed the Naga territory with no foundation and merely on painting/drawing/cartography disregarding the existence of other communities in the areas so claimed by them. This was the root cause of ethnic conflict in Manipur. Even after NSCN (IM) has entered into political dialogue with the Government of India, leadership of the outfit maintains that their demand includes sovereignty, integration and Cultural Council. This is in contrast to the documents that are circulated by the NSCN (IM). The situation drifted to a level that it is culminating to bargaining than a process for honourable settlement. The GoI has ruled out sovereignty and integration of contiguous Naga areas to hammer out a solution. It has reportedly offered greater autonomy to Nagas living in states outside Nagaland, an arrangement that has been opposed by non-Naga organisations in Manipur. This has initiated the silent demand of the Manipuri Nagas of NSCN (IM) to the GoI to settle their case as they are quite aware that the GOI has now succeeded in separating Manipur and Nagaland for giving separate solutions. NSCN (IM) with the help of RN Ravi is lobbying with the Government of Manipur to create a space for honourable exit as the Manipuri Nagas has and will have no place in Nagaland. This was revealed time and again during interactions with public intellectuals of Manipur and RN Ravi.
The elected representatives in Manipur particularly the cohorts of NSCN (IM) have so far not antagonise anyone in Manipur politics. They become adept in circumstantial politicking. The Nagas have represented as member of Lok Sabha (Outer) continuously from 1952 till 1967 and out of the 19 representatives elected so far; nine of them belong to the Nagas. What is interesting is that the first representatives are Tangkhul from Ukhrul district. Besides, at no point in time, the Naga have not contested in any election of Manipur. However, after NSCN (IM) gained prominence in the hill areas of Manipur, they started dictating their mandates to the elected representatives (sic. Nagas) and they supported the movement openly by submitting memorandums to the GoI. But as their hold weakened, the elected Naga leaders are also withdrawing from the movement. This is enough indication of them becoming insignificant. Muivah, then, in consultation with Nephiu Rio attempted to expand the NPF in Manipur by amending the constitution of NPF which jurisdiction was limited to Nagaland alone. However, they could not make much influence. This is in addition to the resolutions taken by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA), demanding integration of all contiguous Naga inhabited areas under one administrative umbrella, and to urge the GoI to fulfil the same. The Manipur Legislative Assembly also had taken resolution to safeguard the territorial Integrity of Manipur. The resolution taken by the NLA was taken as a continuation of the 9th point agreement signed between GoI and NNC, where the territorial aspiration or contiguous Naga inhabited areas was towards Assam only. However, with the formation of NSCN (IM), the resolution was misinterpreted to include the territories of Manipur. This is necessary as the Manipuri Nagas of NSCN (IM) including Th Muivah is well aware that they are considered outsiders or Katcha Naga (Impure Naga) and they could never have a space in Nagaland. The resolutions of NLA may not be considered seriously by the Nagas of Nagaland, Manipuri Nagas and by the GoI as in spite of the numerous resolutions in the last few decades, the government of Nagaland is recognising only the 16 tribes of Nagaland and are not ready to give any recognition to the Nagas which they claims as Nagas in other areas or territory. Dissent and controversy over recognition to ‘Rongmei’ and ‘Mao’ and opposition to glorifying ‘Rani Gaidingliu’ as the spiritual leader can be cited as an example.
The interesting part in the resolutions of Manipur Legislative Assembly that the Manipuri Nagas which submit memorandums to GoI in support of NSCN (IM) at different points of time is now part of taking resolutions to safeguard the territorial Integrity of Manipur. Many of the present former MLAs, MPs and sitting Naga MLAs are off and on to the issue to survive their political career. The latest being the resolution passed by All Political Parties held on 17th August, 2015. Participating in the Indian electoral process is a symbol of acceptance of the Indian system. It is on this ground that NNC boycotted it in the Naga Hills. However, in Manipur, Nagas were elected to the Parliament. NSCN (IM), in its early days denounced the Indian election. However, in contradiction to their earlier stand, the Manipuri Nagas who earlier opposed the Indian elections started to participate in the Indian elections (from the respective Parliamentary and assembly Election of 2004 and 2007) with the support of NSCN (IM) through UNC by forcing a Naga People Mandate appealing to elect only those candidates with no party affiliations and who endorses the NPC Declaration. NSCN (IM) inevitably meted out atrocities as the foundation of their movement. The voluminous unreported cases of involuntary disappearance and the ethnic cleansing of 1990s is enough to illustrate the atrocities committed by NSCN (IM). The Tangkhul society has been under siege since the split of NSCN into the Khaplang and Isak-Muivah factions in 1988. To achieve its Manipur project, the highest number of crimes is committed against its own people, killing the maximum number of Tangkhuls during “peace time. The killing of Yangmaso Shaiza, the first Tangkhul Chief Minister of Manipur by Naga rebels in 1984 stands out because he stood for the territorial integrity of Manipur. Similar stories of atrocities are also reported in Nagaland. However, justice is a far cry for the victims. If the present peace process with NSCN (IM) does not consider the issue of justice and reconciliation similar to that of Truth and Reconciliation Commission with locally adapted version, then this may not be a process to bring peace.Territorial aspirations and claims find manifestations in the form of maps.  Many have posed the question: Can cartographical drawings precede sovereignty? This happened during the bloody ethnic cleansing undertaken by NCSN (IM) in Manipur in 1992 and subsequent years and also during the massive unrest in Manipur when the “cease-fire agreement” was extended without territorial limits. One finds the rigorous attempts to put forward demands through maps in the 1990s. For instance, maps of Nagalim was drawn by NSCN (IM) became to be available. So, inspite of the internalisation of the movement, they rely solely on their invented map as they could not locate or find any evidence anywhere in the world including Naga Hills or areas that they claim as Nagalim. This is vividly reflected in the “Bedrock of Naga Society”.
Just as Isak Chisi Swu felt the urgency of developing a Naga identity to gain legitimacy of the Naga cause, the inevitability of possessing a map became significant so as to garner support through this vision as well as to gain legitimacy in the international community. However, the attempt so far has been futile not only from the perspective of competing visions in the forms of maps (sic. Kukiland and Zalengam). But, also, because such maps were in collision course with the age-old boundary of Manipur which had gained international recognition. Naga issue and the Manipur issue are highly emotionally charged sentiments. If the solution comes in a package of secrecy as it is happening at the moment, the solution is bound to create more problem than peace. The issue has the potential to disturb the ethnic relations in Manipur and Nagaland. The apprehension in Manipur is valid as the same government (BJP) was responsible for the mayhem on June 18, 2001 and its subsequent fall-outs. The ‘historic’ framework agreement of between the GoI and NSCN (IM) is presented in such as manner that it has the answer to the aspirations or ‘sentiments’ of the NSCN (IM) as well as the people of Manipur. However, a cursory peek into the earlier claims and trajectories as well as the currently secretive yet unfolding dynamics of the framework agreement indicates that instead of bringing about lasting peace, it is likely to burn down ‘sentiments’ of both the Manipuri Nagas and Manipur into ashes. The question then arises is, has GoI been able to dissuade NSCM (IM) to give up its claim for “Nagalim” or Greater Nagaland thereby make the party abandon its demand for inclusion of the 4(four) hill districts of Manipur into the pan-Naga politico-administrative structure. Further, in reaching such an historic agreement, has the GoI been able to unruffle the edgy Manipur’s historic demand for territorial integrity, and thus, respect its history. In such a perplexing state of confusion and secrecy, it remains to be seen what the framework agreement of August 3rd, 2015 in fact holds for the fate of Manipuri Nagas, the states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Considering the situation, it is difficult to understand the reality as the text of the agreement has been concealed so far. Moreover, from whom the text is concealed is also a big question.
This present volume is being brought out to bring into notice the relevant and related landmark incidents, archival and cartographic materials, treaties and accords. The book has fifty eight compilations including eight Maps and is clubbed under nine sections such as I: On Identity; II: Territorial Aspirations; III: Review of the Aspirations; IV: Demands; V: Review of the Demands; VI: Intervention by Elected Representative; VII: Politics of Election; VIII: Atrocities; and IX: Maps. Hope, this brief highlight of the contents in the book will invite the curiosity of the potential readers who want to better comprehend and understand the Naga movements, the narratives and claims of the Nagas vis-a-vis Manipur’s territory in its totality.

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