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Sh Ajit

Sh Ajit

Ajit Sh, a resident of Khongman, Imphal East is a regular contributor of Imphal Times mostly news photo and articles. He is a father of a lovely son. His favourite quote is " A Picture is worth Thousand words". He can be contacted at [email protected]

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Story of two Demands: Flag for Naga and ST for Meitei

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?

All Manipur Students’ Union and Naga Peace Talk

The call of unifying voice against the unannounced Framework Agreement for the ‘final solution’ of Naga Peace Talk raised by All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) in the last Manipur Legislative Assembly Election is still remembered by all sections of Manipur. Their deep concern of the integrity of Manipur is understandable and is beyond the geographical integrity. It is not a mere cry for unaltered boundary. Their voice is deep rooted in history, social and political processes of Manipur that goes through ages. Their war cry is for the harmonic relations of different communities living in Manipur. Manipur is not simply a landmass, but a historical entity. The Naga Peace Talk leads to confusion rather than a bright future in North East India in general and in Manipur in particular. The basis and nature of the peace talk is not clear even to the Nagas. This peace talk is meant differently to different nationalities and to different communities or ethnic groups. The ‘progressive’ peace talk is secretive by nature, is not revealed in Indian Parliament; hence, any other persons or groups cannot express their opinion on the on-going confusion over the Naga Peace Talk. Is it for this secrecy Prime Minister once called the signing the agreement historic? Or is it a deceit to all including ordinary Naga people?
AMSU, on the historic day of Hunger Marchers’ Day, reaffirms their views on the ongoing Naga Peace Talk. They express two negations to what is perceived by the people as things are leaked through media: first, any arrangement, political or administrative, in Manipur should not be on ethnic line. There cannot be any council or body exclusively for one ethnic group that will bring disturbance to the unity of ethnic groups of Manipur. AMSU denies any appeasing policy to one group and compensation to other groups. The problem of Manipur should be dealt with holistically by considering the unique historical realities of the State. While expressing the negation, AMSU opts for the Oneness of Manipur and wholesome of the problem faced by the State and its peoples. Second negation expressed is any step that will lower down the dignity and status of Manipur and its Legislative Assembly. Any arrangement that will bypass the legitimate Assembly which was hard earned by the people with long series of agitations since its merger to Manipur in 1949 will not be acceptable to the people of Manipur. AMSU will stand for Manipur with a dignity. Any arrangement such as formation of Supra-State Body or any council controlled directly by Centre in the name of conflict resolution is against the interest of Manipur and its Legislative Assembly. It is part of what is called Integrity of Manipur.
As AMSU is also interested in conflict resolution of the Naga conflict or otherwise, it wants to give some positive inputs towards it. However, it is helpless as anything is revealed about the hurdles and achievements out of the peace talk between NSCN (IM) which was established in 1980 out of the bloodbath after Shillong Accord. The Peace Talk should start or take care of what had been achieved with Shillong Accord. As true lovers of Manipur and its neighbors, AMSU expresses its readiness to give suggestions, opinions or positive designs for a cordial solution of the ongoing conflict between Naga People and India. The only handicap is that AMSU, any Indian for the matter, does not know the intent of both the parties in the ongoing negotiation. Any one in does not know why Prime Minister called Framework Agreement a historic one. Tell us what is achieved so far and what is the point of disagreement as of now, we may help in solving the problem.
AMSU wonders, as expressed by its President in his speech on Hunger Marchers’ Day, of indifferent attitude of Government of Manipur to ‘Naga National Flag.’ While observing Naga Independence Day on 14 August 2019, a few civil bodies used Naga Flag use of which is not yet finalized in the Naga Peace Talk. The Flag was designed or proposed by NSCN (IM), which is still banned in the State of Manipur. Why did Government of Manipur allow hoisting on the soil of Manipur? By asking the question AMSU shows the debate over the use of a separate flag of Nagalim and inaction of the State in this politically charged debate. Government of India clearly shows its stand over the use of different flags in different States by deoperationalazing the Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Then, why did Government of Manipur allow a separate flag, an invented symbol, for a group of peoples in Manipur? The use of a separate flag is a serious political issue; any one should not misjudge the move.
The voice of AMSU should be heard and discussed so that a new path of conflict resolution in the North East can be identified. The arrogant approach by assuming that NSCN (IM) is mother of all the insurgent groups in the region will not bring any fruit. One should understand who is fathering the insurgency and from where the fuel comes without any bias. The solution should be for the brighter and stronger North East where all including Manipur will find a life with dignity. Over years AMSU showed that it could shape the course of current history of Manipur. The voice of the students should not be underestimated. 

Kashmir Lockdown and its Implications 

Removing article 370 and 35a were on the agenda of BJP for a long time. For BJP, it is a delivering of a promise to their constituency when they removed 370 and 35a. Hence, it makes sense for them to rejoice and take a moment off from the regular publicity and propaganda and move towards a widespread heightened propaganda till they reap the fruit of their recent doings. 
There are multiple arguments that are roaming around in favor of the removal of these provisions and against it.
First, no special status to a particular state must be given. Mainstream politicians in Kashmir, such as Mufti and Abdullah, have argued that these are not special provisions. These are rather conditions with which the state of Jammu and Kashmir joined the Indian Union. These provisions allowed Kashmir to have its own constitution, its own flag and it protects the land and resources of Kashmiris.  These conditions are now no more. For these politicians, BJP’s decision breaks the bridge that link India and Kashmir constitutionally.
Second, there is a new Kashmir on the way. We see on the ground another bridge being built using the brute force of military and paramilitary. In order to lay the foundation of this new relationship between Kashmir and India, there is heavy deployment of military and paramilitary forces with complete restriction on movements and communication. The brute force of the Indian state has put a lid to Kashmir. This is the foundation of a new Kashmir. 
Mainland Indian can buy property in Kashmir. Indian state wants integration of its peripheries culturally and politically. It is the duty of the state to do so. Congress directed it in its own way. BJP is building Akhand Bharat. Ultimately, it is about strengthening the unity of India. Furthermore, it will improve the material and social conditions of communities listed as Schedule Caste in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Most importantly, Ladakh and Jammu are happy about it. The territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been carved out into three pieces and people fear the beginning of settler colonialism in Kashmir.
Indian, if it makes as much effort as the Chinese are making in Xinjiang and Tibet, can push in people to Kashmir and motivations to settle there as a service to one’s country and get paid for a good job is high for Kashmir than the northeastern state. It could become a factor for rapid increase in settler population. However, we need to see the things as they unfold.
The implications of these arguments do not limit themselves to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir; it extends to the region with states such as Nagaland and Mizoram with so called special provisions. If the mood is to remove the special status of all the state, then there are reasons for the region to fear. The governor of Nagaland had to assure that the resources of Nagas will remain protected under 371A. The government of Jammu and Kashmir publicly went on saying that he has heard nothing before the abolition.
 With all these on its plate, BJP is not directing its attention on the Naga Issue. It wants to resolve the Naga Issue within three months. We can only hope to see what it unfolds. Whatever the outcome, it would entail more militarization of the region given that one or the other would be left unhappy and would have to be taken to task by the state. 
When it comes to Manipur, the civil society bodies are demanding special constitutional protection for the land and resources and for restriction of people coming to settle in the valley. The unfolding in Kashmir must make things unsettle if BJP is stripping off constitutional safeguards over land and resources and with the fear it can very well strip off similar safeguards in the north east state, the future of the indigenous people’s movement for the protection of their land and resources at least in the valley area looks bleak.

New India in Konung Lampak

Lord Krishna married rather abducted an Idu Mishmi girl from a remote village of present day Arunachal Pradesh. Her name was Rukamani. There are many stories of Rukmani and her village is located in different places of India. However, the myth of marriage between Lord Krishna and Arunachali girl became a political weapon of India’s integration. Lord Krishna is projected as being first Indian hero who tried to integrate India. Then came Sadar Bhal Bhai Patel, an Indian politician from Gujarat. He was the man who merged more than 550 princely states in India. All other politicians, even the President of the party to which Patel belonged, were projected as being meaningless jokers of history. This new narrative of Indian integration is from BJP, the party Patel did not heard of in his life time.
Selectively remembering Indian heroes is a new art of politics of New India, newer than the India made by Patel. Of 1857 Sepoy Mutiny or otherwise known as India’s first war of Independence, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi was given more importance than Bahadur Shah Zafar and many others. She fought courageously against the colonial expansion of British East India Company and all the occupying forces to defend sovereignty of her state. Likewise, many Indian rulers and soldiers fought for their own cause against the external force to protect their past glories and prides, their sovereignty. The war that fought against brought a new consciousness of New India. However, remembering selectively those who fought against occupying force and considering Rani Lakshmibai only as symbol of Indian nationalism is new political move. In Manipur, there is confusion over the time line of political development: is 1949 before or after 1857. Could Indian nationalism arisen out of battles of 1857 reach the land of Rukmani?
In the twist of history, Manipur was last battle ground of WW II and was on the cross road of Independence with a ‘King’ and Democratic Republic of India. Debates among the elites, burnt of aristocratic puppet king in the person of Churachand, double burden of Feudalism and Colonialism kept the people in a collective confusion. In the dark background of confusion, Patel and his agents fixed the history of Manipur in Shillong on 21 September 1949.  After the merger, the princely states became part of India, India of ‘Patel’ if the new narrative is correct. Manipur was neither a princely state of central India nor a part of British India just before Patel’s action. Its voice was not heard as much as other princely states and it was not discussed much in the constituent assembly. Somehow, Manipur became a new Rukamani. Land of Rukamani, after merger, takes jo mera hai wo tera hai, Jo tera hai wo mera. This is once again expressed with the celebration of Patriots’ Day 2019 by RSS, Imphal zilla at Lamyanba shanglen.
In 1891 Manipur fought its own war against the British Crown. It was a declared war. It was sole war of the Manipur. British India was extension of the British Crown. Today, while celebrating the historical pride of the Manipuris who fought single handedly in 1891, RSS pay homage to the historical heroes, Tikendrajit and Thangal, as brave sons of RSS portrayal ‘Bharat Mata.’ Irony is the venue of RSS celebration of Patriot Day 2019 at Lamyanba shanglen. The Lamyanba Complex is known as the epicenter of Manipuriness of the universe and every pride of Manipuri wholesome. RSS somehow shows the Manipuri complex can become part of new mantra of jo mera hai wo tera hai. I do not know how historian will see it, this much can be said: the move is not a joke. It has a strong political implication.