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Naga Peace Solution and Manipur

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 13 minutes read

By- L B Singh

There have been a large number of articles in the local newspapers where many tribes of Nagas have expressed their views about themselves and the Naga Movement. Everyone is entitled to have an excellent opinion about oneself. This article gives the views of the other people.
Lt. Colonel J. Shakespeare (1910) stated that “The term Kuki, like Naga, Chin, Shendu and many others, is not recognized by the people to whom we apply it”. The British had grouped the tribes in the region under the term Nagas and the Kukis for easy identification and for their administrative convenience.
However, in those days, the tribes in the same group spoke different dialects and there were feuds among them. Most of them now use English as a medium of communication among the same group and they are now trying to bring the tribes as grouped by the British under a single Government by violence and other means. 
The Nagas have been demanding for “Sovereign Naga State” or “Greater Nagaland” or “Nagalim” for more than 60 years. Since then, the Kukis have come up with the demand of ‘Zalengam” or “Zogam” based on the similar grievance of the separation of their tribes by the artificial boundaries created by the British. They want to bring all the Kuki/Zomi tribes in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar under a single administrative unit.
In order to justify the demand for “Greater Nagaland” or “Nagalim” or “Zalengam” or “Zogam”, the Nagas and the Kukis in Manipur wanted the world to believe that they were independent till the kingdom came under the British in 1891 AD; and all the land in the hill districts belongs to them.
All the tribal villages in Manipur came under the Meitei king during the reign of Maharaja Garibniwaza (1709 – 1748 AD). The boundary was demarcated in the name of the Kingdom and additional territory was allotted in the name of the Maharaja.
According to RN Ravi (IFNE, 24 July 20): “The North East today is portrayed as if they are distinct land and distinct people. The people of the hills and the plains were so well organically connected and they have sociological, economical and matrimonial relations. First and foremost is the detoxification of the false history which has taken root in the region. It has replaced the genuine, true history”.
Therefore, some people in the Government of India (GoI) are aware of the fabricated story of Nationhood of the Nagas/Kuki; and that the Naga movement was created and supported by unfriendly countries exploiting the religious sentiments of the newly converted tribes to fight in the name of God or to make Nagalim the kingdom of God or “ Nagalim for Christ”. They are being used as an instrument by unfriendly countries like China to keep India embroiled in internal disturbances.
Shifting Goal Post/Expanding Aspiration.
The goal post of the Naga Movement shifted every time any demand was fulfilled. In the memorandum submitted to the Simon Commission in 1929, the Nagas expressed their preference to remain under the British when India became independent. During the visit of the British Cabinet Mission in1946, the Naga National Council (NNC) demanded that the Naga Hills should be continuously included in an autonomous Assam in free India and due safeguards for the interest of the Nagas with a separate electorate.
In 1947, NNC demanded for a Sovereign Naga State and in 1956, the underground Naga Federal government (NFG) was formed. The first Naga People’s Convention (NPC) in 1957 was attended by about 1735 representatives of Naga tribes from the Naga Hills and Tuensang and 2600 observers from other areas. The demand of the first NPC for a separate administrative unit for the Naga Hills and Tuensang Area was fulfilled; and about 3000 insurgents surrendered.
The 2nd NPC was held in 1958 and attended by 2705 delegates. The Drafting Committee for the 16 point Agreement was selected in the 3rd NPC held in 1959. On July 1960, sixteen point agreements were signed between the GoI and the moderate, Naga People’s Convention (NPC). Therefore, it was a well considered decision by the majority of the people of Nagaland.
In 1963, Nagaland State was formed and the population of the State at that time was about 4 lakhs only. The unique special status provided by Article 371A even placed certain subjects in the State beyond the jurisdiction of the Indian Parliament as desired by the Nagas. The Government in particular the PM Pandit Nehru had shown exceptional consideration for the people of Nagaland. The GoI had fulfilled almost all the demands of the Nagas.
However, the demand for the integration of the Naga inhabited contiguous areas was turned down. The GoI knew that it would open the Pandora’s Box in other states and may even affect the bilateral relation with the neighbouring country as the next demand would be the integration of the Naga inhabited areas of Myanmar. The GoI can’t neglect the other ethnic groups inhabited in the hill districts of Manipur and give everything to one group just because of the firepower of their militant outfits.
The GoI could not curb the insurgency in the initial stage and it spread to Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh due to the propaganda of hatred and discontentment by the Naga Insurgents. The aspiration of the Naga again changed from “Sovereign Naga State” to “Greater Nagaland” or “Nagalim”.
Prolonged Suffering by the Nagas.
Many Naga organizations believe that the movement is more than a century old genuine “National Movement”, the GoI committed extreme brutal crimes, human right violation, brought misery to the Nagas, lakhs of Nagas have scarified their life etc. However, the fact is that the people of the neighbouring states are the victims of violence, intimidation, extortion by the Naga insurgents and thousands of security personnel lost their lives. The Naga Movement is also responsible for the backwardness and misery of the people in the region.
Nagaland got Statehood with the special provision of Article 371A due to the peace effort of the NPC in just 6 years (1957 to1963). The achievement of 57 years (1964 to 2020) of violence by the armed insurgents after so much bloodshed on both sides, extortion/taxation etc. would be comparatively much lesser than what was achieved by peaceful means. The path of violence after 1963 was chosen by the Nagas despite the effort for peace by the GoI.
The movement has brought extreme miseries to the people of Manipur and the progress of the State has been severely affected. It has also created hatred among the various ethnic groups and a deep divide between the hill and the valley.
Is Naga Movement still a Popular Mass Movement?
The insurgent groups already stated that it is their legitimate right to collect tax and the funds are required to meet the expenditure of their organizations.
The Indian National Freedom Movement was a popular mass movement and continued many years without any extortion or taxation. The people voluntarily contributed their own resources and took part in the movement. However, since early 60s Naga Movement depended on taxation or extortion for their existence.
The Shillong Peace Accord was signed in 1975. However, it failed to bring peace as A.Z. Phizo, Th. Muivah and some members of NNC were not included in the peace process. It led to the formation of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980 and with the power of guns a few thousand of them had imposed their will to the majority Nagas. Is the movement still a popular mass movement?
Political Movement or Law and Order Problem
Prolonged exposure to easy money from corruption and extortion has broken the morale backbone of the Nagas. A large number of youths in the region now do not know any other way to earn a livelihood except by intimidation and extortion. Therefore, political solution would not automatically enable these youths to earn their bread by other peaceful means.
Many national newspapers have highlighted diversion of the State Government development funds of Nagaland to the insurgent groups, smuggling of weapons, extortion, taxation etc. and the same is not repeated here.
The bravery of the general public played an important role in controlling the separatist “Khalistan Movement” seeking to form a Sovereign Sikh State. On 30 September 90, about 200 terrorists attacked Balwinder Singh’s house. The family using weapons provided by the State police killed some terrorist and compiled the rest to run away. The police forces and the MLAs in Punjab were not intimidated by the threat of the militants.
However, the militant outfits in the region are equipped with sophisticated weapons and assistance is not immediately available from the authorities due to poor connectivity. The problem is further compounded as even some of the police personnel and the MLAs are also intimidated. Therefore, the insurgency will survive and flourish in the region as long as the people are vulnerable to extortion.
Even the convener of WC of NNPGs, Mr. N Kitovi Zhimomi stated that “the territorial issue should be kept open and continued with democratic process.” Further, the Chairman of NSCN (K), Yung Aung stated that “the fight will continue till our goal is accomplished”. Therefore, even after the Naga Peace Solution the movement for integration will continue with the militant support of some faction of NSCN.
Today in Nagaland, the ‘Law and Order” problem has far overshadowed the “Political problems”. Therefore, various actions initiated by the Governor, RN Ravi to check extortion/taxation and the other illegal activities are essential for the long term peace and the prosperity of the State.
Can Naga Peace Solution Deliver Lasting Peace?
The majority of the Nagas of Nagaland unlike the Nagas of Manipur have now realised that every ethnic community has a “Unique History” and the maximum the GoI can give to one ethnic community is Statehood and every State in the country share “Sovereignty” with the Union of India.
The GoI is fully aware that any concession in the Naga Peace Solution beyond the boundary of Nagaland may inspire the formation of many more similar organizations or militant outfits like NSCN, Zalengam or Zogam etc. It may also not only revive the dormant militant elements of the Mizo National Front but also swell the strength of the Meitei insurgent groups. Therefore, instead of solving the problem, such a step would multiply the problems of the country manifold.
In the initial stage the Nagas of Manipur were enticed to join the movement for creating Nagalim, the kingdom of God or “ Nagalim for Christ.” Nagaland now started feeling the disadvantages of having additional tribes from the adjoining states without the prospect of integration of contiguous areas.
In 2017, the Nagaland Government withdrew the indigenous tribe status of the Rongmei tribe and it is a clear warning sign to the other tribes from the adjoining states. Only the Naga born in a Naga family in Nagaland would be eligible for inclusion in the Register of Indigenous Inhabitant of Nagaland (RIIN) and some have even advocated for the inclusion of only the 14 original tribes of Nagaland.
The Naga Peace Solution is unlikely to bring lasting peace unless some concessions are given to the Nagas of Manipur. However, the problem of the Nagas of Manipur is mainly due to the land problem with the other ethnic communities in the State. Manipur is a multi ethnic state and there are 34 tribes against 17 in Nagaland. The problem is much more intricate and more complex than that of Nagaland. It can’t be resolved by considering it on the sidelines of Naga Peace Talk.
Attraction of Naga of Manipur to Nagaland/Article 371A.
The eligibility condition for inclusion in the RIIN clearly indicates that the average Naga in Nagaland do not have any common value, genuine sympathy and affinity with the Nagas of the other states. However, under the influence of the firepower might of the Naga insurgents, some of them have the territorial ambitions of the areas occupied by the Nagas of the adjoining states.
The Meiteis consider the Nagas of Manipur as their blood related brother due to the common origin and the conversion of Meiteis to Nagas and vice versa. On the other hand, the Nagas of Manipur are being looked down in Nagaland. However, they are attracted to Nagaland because of the provisions of the article 371 A. All the land in Nagaland is owned by the individual/community and the State Government only keeps the record, but in Manipur the land other than notified as “hill areas” in the hill districts belongs to the Government.
The situation in Manipur is akin to one out of four brothers of a family taking a maximum share of the father’s property and trying to join the neighbour family without any concern for the remaining three brothers.
Land Issues in Manipur
The ethnic conflicts among the Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis mainly stemmed from the land and identity issues. The Schedule Tribes (STs) constitute only 41% of the population and the hill districts inhabited by the STs is about nine times the area of the valley inhabited by the majority Meitei and the other communities including Panghals.
In addition, the Nagas and the Kukis being STs can buy and own land in the valley area also, whereas Meiteis and Panghals are restricted by law to buy land from the STs. As a result the Meiteis and the Panghals are heading to a precarious situation due to the limited land area in the valley.
The Nagas claim that all the hill districts, except for Churachandpur and Pherzawl belong to them and the Kukis are recent immigrants. They demanded for land tax from Kukis and it led to the Naga-Kuki conflict of 1993-97; and more than one thousand precious lives were lost. The Kukis termed it as “Ethnic Cleansing” for the formation of “Greater Nagaland.”
The spontaneous eruption of violence in Manipur for the extension of the Indo-Naga ceasefire agreement without geographical boundary in 2001 was just the tip of the iceberg of the ethnic problems in Manipur.
The GoI has given maximum importance to Nagaland and only one ethnic group. It is time that the GoI gives utmost importance to settle the very intricate and complex land problems of Manipur so that all the ethnic groups can live together peacefully in Manipur. It would pave the way for lasting peace in the region.
Considering the past history of the Naga Movement, it would be too optimistic to expect a lasting peace without resolving the problems of the Nagas of Manipur.
The problem of the Nagas of Manipur is mainly due to the land problem with the other ethnic communities in the State. The problem of Manipur is much more intricate and more complex than that of Nagaland. It can’t be resolved by considering it on the sidelines of Naga Peace Talk.
The GoI should give utmost importance to resolve the land problem of Manipur and it would take considerable time. However, it would give lasting peace in the region.

**** The writer is a retired Captain, NM, Indian Navy. Email ID: [email protected]

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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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