The ongoing Naga peace talk brings many new dimensions in the political scenario of North East India in general and Manipur in particular. The long process of Naga peace negotiation shows its ups and downs, commission and omission as reflected in various media. All the reports may not be correct, but one thing is certain that Naga negotiators are fighting their last battle with a commitment and determination. They sometimes say Sovereignty will not be compromised, for which they coin certain political phrases like shared sovereignty. Sometimes they demand a Naga Flag and a separate constitution to become a new Kashmir in North East India. The Government of India does not deny their demands in black and white. One art of negotiation on the part of the Naga is keeping Shillong Accord aside, not even mentioned in the series of talks. The present talk is not continuation of the Shillong Accord which is assumed in the talk as a non-existent document in the eyes of both the Government of India and NSCN (IM). At the initial phase, some Nagaland leaders pointed cautioned that what better negotiation would the non-Nagaland leaders in the Final agreement would made. The goals and efforts of the then NNC is now overshadowed by the political gimmicks of new Naga groups. Naga cause is more diluted as it expanded more and more areas from Naga Hills to Chandel District to eastern parts of Arunachal Pradesh where there were a number of ethnic groups who had not had any interaction in history, but had a commonality only in the contemporary myths. However, the Naga negotiators fight its last battle for a Naga Flag, a symbol of unified Naga, whatsoever it is far away from present day reality.
Manipur had a long history of her flag. The evolution of Manipuri flag passes different phases of history and ideology. The historically evolved Manipur, in N Biren’s word, oneness of Manipur is reflected in different shapes, designs and colors of the flag of Manipur. The historical debate over the Flag is still going on. Which flag was used on the day of Independence? Which one was the real symbol of Manipur’s escape from colonial yoke? Every year, two flags were used by two camps in celebrating the Independence of Manipur, a nation state in post-colonial world. Manipur wants to show the world that though tiny in area, its political life is so complex and its existence did not come only in the colonial period. It was one of the ancient kingdoms in Western South East Asia (Wesea) or Indo-Burma Region. It has a deep cultural root in time and space. Our flags over time shows us that the State is home of ever evolving civilization, not a land mass where primitives tribes live. We are the mature people who ruled the State and are capable of participation in the world political system. We have flags and flags.
In the Naga negotiation, Flag is one of the main issues. Constitution is another. For Manipur, on the day of her merger with India, her hard earned constitution was lost in the interest of Indian Republic. Manipur could not regain two-third of her landmass which was kept outside puppet king during Indirect Rule of British colonialism even in the post-colonial period. Hill-valley divide is still visible in India’s Manipur. Naga is fighting for a separate Constitution in the long drawn negotiation with India.
The best irony of History is that different tribes under the banner of Naga are visualizing a Nation: a great leap in history from Naked Naga of colonial imagination to a newest Nation in the world, defying all the historical laws. On the other hand, a section of the society demands that the Meitei who lead the peoples in this corner of world for centuries should be listed among the STs of India. Though we have a long literary history, they think we are primitive. Though we have a complex history of arts and culture, they consider we are happy to be called a tribe. Though we are politically mature with independent flags, they opine we are fit for classifying us as men having primitive traits. Though our religion has a state office and officials, Sidaba Mapu is considered to be God of a primitive people. Though we shine in India’s medical science, science, space technology, mathematics, fashion designs, computer science, literature, games and sports, dance and music, etc. they claim that we are weaker than average Indians. Though we could evolve our own Manipuri Vaishnavism, they say that we are well behind in the philosophical knowledge. In short, is the demand for ST status consensus in the State as well as among the Meitei?