UNITED NAGA COUNCIL
Before the advent of the British into the Naga Country, the Nagas lived in Village republics and were free from any external interference and domination. With the coming of the British, boundaries were redrawn arbitrarily to suit their administrative convenience and also to keep the allies of the British in good humor. As a consequence, the Naga territories were placed in the different states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland in India and some part in Burma.During the First World War in 1914-1918, Nagas rendered their service in the Labor Corps of the British force and went to France as British subjects. This journey across the land and seas fostered the concept of Naga Nationalism. In 1918, the Naga Club was formed by the union of educated Nagas and the foundation of future Naga Politics was thus laid.Naga politics and the fight for their rights, land and people.1) The Naga Club submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission at Kohima on 10 January in 1929 demanding in clear terms that the Nagas should be left alone as before when the British leave India.2) In 1930-32, the “Naga Raj” movement was launched by Haipou Jadonang, a Zeliangrong Naga and Rani-Gaidinliu, his cousin sister in the then Tamenglong sub-division to free the people from the yoke of the colonial rule. The former was hanged by the British on 29th August, 1931 at Imphal Central jail and subsequently Rani Gaidinliu was arrested and jailed.3) The Nagas of Manipur were independent of the Manipur Raja before the advent of the British. Even after the British came, they were administered by the political department of the British Crown. The Manipur Raja and his Darbar administered only the valley area till 15th August 1947.4) As the departure of the British became imminent, Naga leaders, both in Manipur and in the then Naga Hills District of Assam began to seriously ponder over their political future. Thus the Naga National Council (NNC) was formed by the Naga people in February 1946 to fight for their rights, land and people.5) On the other hand, in September 1946, the Naga National League (NNL) was organized to consolidate the Nagas of Manipur in order to bring together the Naga people separated by colonial boundaries. The members of the Working Committee of the NNL were as follows –1.Athikho Daiho : President2.Ng. Thaiso : Vice-President3.N. Modoli : Secretary4. Hepuni Prajii : Vice-Secretary5. Kapani Kashiprii : Treasurer6. Kholi Puni : Assistant Treasurer6) In the same year (1946), the Government of British India proposed the creation of a North Eastern Frontier Province including Manipur, Tripura and Assam. Hijam Irabot, the Meitei leader, quickly formed an organizing committee with himself as the Chairman and opposed the creation of the North Eastern Frontier Province and instead demanded a Legislative Assembly for Manipur for which a memorandum was submitted to the Governor General of India.7) To the dismay of the Nagas, against their wishes to live together with their brethren of the Naga Hills of the then Assam, the Government of India decided to grant a Legislative Assembly in Manipur. At this juncture, Mr. F. F. Pearson, President, Manipur State Darbar hurriedly constituted the Manipur State Constitution and the Manipur State Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation Drafting Committee to work out an interim administrative arrangement for Manipur before the lapse of the British Paramountcy.Mr. A. Daiho and Mr. Tiankham, representatives of hill tribes in the Committee pointed out that the draft constitution should incorporate the following clause - “the principle of equality and freedom as applied to all without distinction of caste, creed and race shall include the right of any section of hill people to secede at the end of five years period should the condition within the constitution not be satisfactory”. Mr. A. Daiho and Mr. Tiankham made it clear that if the clause was not incorporated they would not be party to the constitution. When the draft Constitution was submitted to the Maharaja of Manipur on 15/5/47, Mr. F. F. Pearson, Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, drew the particular and personal attention of the Maharaja to the dissension of the representatives of the hill tribes.8) Shortly after, in June 1947, the 9 Point Agreement was signed between the NNC and Sir Hydari, the Governor of Assam. Clause 6 of the Agreement, provided for the integration of the contiguous Naga areas into one administrative unit and Clause 9 provided for the right to determine their political future after an interim period of 10(ten) years. The Government reneged on the terms of the agreement.9) A Naga delegation met Gandhiji on 19 July 1947 at Bhangi Colony, New Delhi and told him of their resolve to declare their independence. Gandhiji told the delegation that “Nagas have every right to be independent. We did not want to live under the domination of the British and they are now leaving us. I want you to feel that India is yours. But if you say that they are not mine, the matter must stop there. I believe in the brotherhood of man, but I do not believe in force or forced unions. If you do not wish to join the Union of India, nobody will force you to do that”. When his attention was drawn to the threat posed by Sir Akbar Hydari to use force against the Nagas if they refused to join the Union of India, Gandhiji exclaimed! “Sir Akbar Hydari is wrong. He can not do that……. I will come to the Naga Hills; I will ask them to shoot me first before one Naga is shot”. Assured by Gandhiji’s words, the Nagas declared their Independence on 14th August 1947, one day earlier to the Indian Independence day.10) After 15th August 1947, when the paramountcy was transferred to the Maharaja of Manipur without the consent of the hill people, the NNL stated the Nagas of Manipur will not remain with the Meiteis since the latter had never conquered the Nagas and declared that it would be impossible for the Nagas to preserve the best of their culture, tradition, customary laws and political practices should the Naga people and their land be split up and placed under different influence and politics. The NNL expressed their strong desire to merge with the Naga Hills District of Assam through the BOYCOTT of the preparation of electoral rolls in Naga areas.11) The President of the NNC wrote in his letter dated 26th August 1947 to the Maharaja of Manipur that the “right of secession “(from Manipur) demanded by the hillmen at the end of five years should be accepted for paving the way for goodwill between the hills and the valley and also the State and the NNC as a whole.12) In the memorandum dated 24/1/48 addressed to Sardar Patel, Deputy Prime Minister of India, the NNL along with Naga chiefs and headmen stated that the Nagas of Manipur will accept nothing short of consolidation of contiguous Naga areas under one administrative unit by the Government through the immediate provincial authority.11) Shortly after, another Memorandum dated 9/3/48 was submitted by the President NNL to the Ministry of States, Government of India stating that, since no response to the persistent submissions made to the successive Governors of Assam and Government of India had been forthcoming and also because of the innumerable tactics of the Manipur State Government to suppress the rightful demand of the Nagas and other hillmen, a no-tax campaign would be launched and they would desist payment of revenue to Manipur State but pay the same to any such authority as may be determined by the provincial Government acting on behalf of the Central Government.12) In spite of the democratic demand for consolidation of contiguous Naga areas under one administrative unit and the explicit opposition to the Manipur State Draft Constitution by the tribe representatives, the General Election under the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 was held in June 1948. The Nagas boycotted the election.13) The “NO TAX CAMPAIGN” 1948: A landmark in the history of political movement of the Nagas of Manipur. Thus the “NO TAX CAMPAIGN” was launched when Maharaj Kumar Priyobrata Singh was the Chief Minister of Manipur. The Nagas in Manipur refused to pay the annual House Tax to the Government of Manipur and under the aegis of the NNL submitted their annual house tax to Charles Pawsey, D.C. of Naga Hills of Assam at Kohima.It was an act of defiance against the Authority of the State, under which the Nagas of Manipur had been placed without their consent. It was also a means of putting pressure on the Indian Government for securing the merger of the Nagas in Manipur with the Naga Hills District.“27th August 1948 “MARTYRS’ DAY” : The Manipur Maharaja, Budh Chandra was in good terms with Sir Akbar Hydari, the then Governor of Assam, who was requested by the Maharaja to send a contingent of Assam Rifles to arrest Mr. A.Daiho. Sir Akbar Hydari, well known for his anti Naga political stand, gladly approved and dispatched a contingent of 4th Assam Rifles along with State Police equipped with rifles and machine guns, to Mao Gate on 27th August 1948. The Assam Rifles took position in and around Mao Inspection Bungalow in war like fashion and indiscriminately fired at the volunteers/ students of the Mao-Maram Tribal Council (now Mao, Maram, Poumai, Thangal and Upper Zeliang) who were blocking the road leading to the residence of Mr. A. Daiho.
In the firing, the followings were shot dead/grievously wounded by the Assam Rifles:
Name Village Status
1. Mr. Asiisii Hepuni Punanamei Volunteer (shot dead on the spot)
2. Mr. Mahriili Lohrii Kalinamei Student (shot dead on the spot)
3. Mr. Modo Kholi Kalinamei Student (shot dead on the spot)
4. Mr. Daikho Hesho Chowainamai Khullen Volunteer (succumbed to injuries)
5. Mr. Obow Adani Punanamei Volunteer (succumbed to injuries)
6. Mr. Kaisii Mathibo Punanamei Volunteer (expired 12th Aug, 2013)
7. Mr. Obow Ashiho Punanamei Student (still alive)
Many other male and female volunteers and students received injuries from bullets, rifle butts and boots of the Assam Rifles and Manipur Police on that day.The indiscriminate firings and use of violent force dispersed the demonstrators and the two leaders viz. Mr. A. Daiho of Song Song village and Mr. N. Modoli of Tunggam village along with Mr. Kaikho Dili of Tadubi and Mr Athikho Sibo of Song Song were finally arrested.All the dead bodies, injured persons and arrested leaders were herded away to Imphal in the Assam Rifles convoy. The Naga brethren from the neighboring Naga Hills district, who had come to show their solidarity with the Nagas of Manipur, followed the convoy till Kangpokpi.After being kept at Imphal Central Jail, Mr. A. Daiho and Mr. N. Modoli were shifted to Dum Dum Central Jail as political prisoners.14) Though the campaign was forcibly suppressed the seeds of political aspiration sown during that critical time never died. Having realized the futility of the non-violent movement to secure their inalienable right to live together with the rest of the Naga people, the Nagas of Manipur took to arms and became a part of the mainstream armed movement spearheaded by the NNC.The armed conflict that followed saw the signing of the first Indo-Naga Cease-fire which came into effect from Sept. 6th 1964 and lasted till 1967. It was operational in the entire Naga inhabited areas of the north east region. The 1st Cease-Fire period saw 6 rounds of talks between the Nagas and the Government of India (GoI) which could not proceed with concrete progress due to lack of political vision and will of the latter.Thus armed conflict between India and the Nagas continued over the decades and has finally culminated in the second Indo-Naga Peace Process marked by the second Indo-Naga Cease-fire that came into effect on 1 August, 1997, which today offers to bring about a lasting and honorable solution to the Naga issue based on the recognition of the unique history and situation of the Nagas.15) The inherent and organized expression of the desire of the Naga people to live together also continued as a civil movement of which the United Naga Integration Council movement of the 1970s has been well documented. On 4th Aug.1972, in the joint agreement signed between All India Congress Committee and Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee on one side and United Naga Integration Council on the other side, the Congress Party stated that it does not oppose Naga integration movement nor considers the Naga integration movement as anti-party, anti-national, anti-state or an unconstitutional activity. The demand of the Naga people for integration of the contiguous Naga areas into one administrative unit also finds clear mention in the 16 Point Agreement of 1960.
16) Over the years public declarations have been made and memorandum demanding Naga integration have been persistently submitted and pursued by the Naga people.On 11th & 12th March, 1999, the Naga Hoho, the apex tribe based organisation of all Nagas, during its 6th Session at Dimapur passed the resolution on Naga Integration as follows – “The Naga Hoho put it on record that it stands committed for integration of all Naga territories and its people under One Political roof; and also it considers the present Nagaland state as a temporary measure Pending Final political settlement of the Naga peoples aspiration which shall be a bounden duty of the Naga Hoho to strive for.”On 8th and 9th August, 2001 the first Naga Peoples’ Convention (NPC), the apex decision making platform of the Nagas of Manipur was held at Tahamzam (Senapati) and declared “…that our identity and history have to be defended and preserved at all cost, and the firm political stand of the Nagas of Manipur is to uphold the resolution of the Naga people for integration of all Naga areas under one administration”.The 2nd NPC was convened on 4th of November 2005 at Tahamzam which reiterated the 8-9 August, 2001 Declaration and to further the realization of the declaration, the NPC also declared the Launching of Non-cooperation and Civil disobedience movements against the Government of Manipur.In the subsequent “Declaration and Memorandum” submitted to the Prime Minister of India on December 15, 2005 at New Delhi, the Chiefs/Chairmen/Headmen of Naga villages in the present state of Manipur stated in no uncertain terms “…that any honourable solution to the Naga peace process must begin with the unification of the Naga areas.”The 3rd NPC of the Nagas in Manipur was convened on 1st July, 2010 at Tahamzam in the wake of the imposition of ADC Act, 2008 (3rd amendment) and election thereof, the ban on entry of Th. Muivah, the Naga negotiator to his native place and indiscriminate firings yet again by Manipur state forces at Mao Gate of 6th May, 2010 in which 2 students, Mr. Dikho Loshou and Mr. Neli Chakho were shot dead and hundreds injured.The 3rd NPC established the position of the Nagas on the basis of the unmistakable facts that it is impossible to protect their right to life, land, time-honored institutions, customary practice and values under the administration of the dominant and communal Government of Manipur (GoM), and that their history with it, has clearly confirmed the harsh reality that the GoM has never recognized and respected the identity and dignity of the Naga people. It was declared the Nagas will sever all political ties with the communal Government of Manipur and because of the severance of ties; the vacuum in governance and administration created thereby must be filled with an alternative arrangement by the Government of India in consultation with the Naga people at the earliest possible time. Consequent to this declaration and submission of the demand to the GoI, the latter initiated the democratic process of dialogue at the tripartite level of the GoM, GoI and the Nagas of Manipur under the aegis of the UNC on the demand for an alternative arrangement outside the communal GoM pending settlement of the Indo-Naga issue and it has logically progressed to a stage where a high powered committee would be set up by the GoI to translate the demand into a political reality.Thus, in the political movement of the Naga people, particularly in Manipur, the issue that was brought to a crisis on the awesome day of 27th August, 1948 has great significance. It consolidated the political consciousness of the Nagas in Manipur and provided a firm foundation for the peoples’ movement for protection of their history, their land, their identity, their traditional institutions and culture and most importantly for their collective and undivided future as a people.While we observe this day in respectful memory and honor of those who suffered and made the ultimate sacrifice for the integration of all Nagas sixty six years ago during the No-Tax campaign , the Mao Students’ Union had perpetuated this day in memory by observing it as “The Martyrs’ Day”. Being a landmark in the history of political movement of the Nagas in Manipur in particular and all Nagas in general, the observation of “Martyrs’ Day” was taken up by the UNC with the Mao Council as the Local Organizing Committee since 27th August 2005.May this day of our collective remembrance of those who gave their lives, blood and tears on 27th August, 1948 strengthen the resolve, the sense of direction and unity of purpose of the Nagas to live together as a people with dignity and honor.
To be contd............
William Gurumayum, Sub-Editor of Imphal Times is a resident of Sagolband Salam Leikai. He has been with Imphal Times since beginning. A avid adventure lover, writes mostly travelogue.