By Dr. Khomdon Singh Lisam
The history of Naga National movement is a long and tragic history . The Nagas have suffered to the extreme and have made great sacrifice to achieve Independence. As early as 27 June, 1947., an attempt was made to resolve the deadlock with the coming of Sir, Akbar Hydari , the Governor of Assam to Kohima. Then there have been a series of agreements, accords, dialogues and discussions towards amicable settlement of the issues. . As a part of the peace process the state of Nagaland was created on September 4, 1962. On November 11, 1975, the “Shillong Accord” was signed between the Government of India and the Naga National Council (NNC) Under this agreement, the NNC had agreed (1) to accept the solution of the Naga problem within the framework of the Indian Constitution, (2) abjure violence, bring out the armed men (3) to surrender weapons and resolve the residual problems through discussions. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao set the ball of peace process rolling by meeting with Isak Chishi Swu and
T. Muivah in Paris on June 15, 1995. The Indo-Naga peace talk has been continuing for the last so many years without any tangible result except creation of Nagaland . Why ? May be because of so many complexities and one of the formidable factor is the Manipur factor or the claim of the Meiteis which can not be ignored altogether or absence of Manipur representative in the peace talk.
On one hand the Nagas are claiming that :-
1. The Nagas have unique history. These are the words first used by Mr. Charles Pawsay, Deputy Commissioner who became Sir Charles Pawsay . Still, it is being used. But Nagas do not have written history although oral folklores are very rich .
2. Nagas have a distinct Naga culture
3. Before the British Government conquered “our country in 1879-80, Naga lands were never part of India”
4. Before 1947, Naga lands was a sovereign country
5. Naga territories was never part of Manipur Kingdom
6. Naga territory was never conquered by the Manipur kings
7. During the British regime , Naga Territory was never a part of Manipur administration
8. Nagas have been discriminated, oppressed , ill-treated , exploited by the Meteis
9. Nagas were treated as Untouchables
10. Meitei are responsible for underdevelopment of Nagas
11. Naga peace talk is not successful because of objections or interference from the Meiteis .
There may be many other questions. This is not in the scope of this article to give all possible questions and answers to this vexed Naga issue .
The Meitei also claimed that :-
1. Manipur was a sovereign kingdom with more than 2000 years of written history .
2. The merger agreement signed between Maharaja Bodhchandra and the Government of India on 21 September, 1949 is still controversial. . The Constituent Assembly under Shri M.K. . Priobarta Singh , Chief Minister , Shri T.C. Teankham, Speaker declared on 28 September, 1949 that the said merger agreement signed by Maharaja Bodhchandra is invalid and can not be taken as granted as the authorities and powers of the king has been already vested with the Manipur Constituent Assembly whereas in case of Jammu and Kashmir, it was ratified by the State Assembly. The copy of the declaration was sent to the Government of India in time . This is the great injustice the Government of India has done to Manipur. Manipur has been discriminated by the Government of India since 15 August, 1947 . We want a special status under article 370 of the Indian constitution as done in case of Jammu and Kashmir because Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir were on the same footing in 1947.
3. There is no single tribe known as Naga in Manipur .
4. The suzerainty of Manipur. over Tangkhul and some other tribes was recorded in the early part of Manipur history. The territories of Manipur have been clearly recorded in the Pemberton Report-1835 and boundary pillars were erected by Sir James John stone in 1884.
5. The hill tribes were paying tributes to the Manipur King from very early days
6. It is not only the Nagas but also the Meties, Lois , Yaithibis who suffered at the hands of the kings . Mangba _Sengba culture was prevalent even among the Meitei . Slavery and Lalup Kaba or Forced Labour was prevalent even among the Meiteis . Lois and Yaithibis were also treated as untouchables . If we examine the situation of other countries like USA, U.K or any developed country or India during 17th to middle of 20th century , the situation was even more worse than that of Manipur . We are all aware how the native Americans have been mis-treated , massacred by the Europeans during 17th to 19th century and how six million Jews were exterminated by the Germans. during world war-II . Even the British encouraged caste system in India during those days for their political interest. Even now caste system is still prevalent in many parts of India . In the present context, the situation in Manipur is far better than most of the states in India . The only fact remains –the policy of divide and rule initiated by the British is still followed by the Government of India in the name of democracy to achieve their hidden agenda and to keep us divided.
7. Meitei are not responsible for the underdevelopment of Nagas. The Naga leaders themselves are responsible for underdevelopment of Nagas. The Government record will prove that. The so-called Naga leaders based in Imphal are instigating the innocent Nagas in the villages against the Meiteis to serve their own political interest.
8. The Naga Peace Talk is dragging for a long time . Who knows they may be waiting for the death of some prominent NSCN leaders to sabotage the Naga Peace Talk .
9. If India is a secular country , why should they encourage fragmentation of India into smaller pieces based on ethnicity . What will happen to India if the Dalits (166 million population across India ) start demanding separate states imitating the Nagas, which has got very small population. There are many tribes among the Nagas who can not communicate with another Naga group.. What about Kukis, Muslims ? Why should the interest of Nagas be exceptionally treated . Is it because they are more violent or it is because their advisors are Americans and Europeans or Baptist Church leaders ?
10. Since the Peace Talk revolves round the territory of Manipur , it is the right of the Manipuris to participate in the Peace Talk . The Indian democracy should respect this right . The State Government should have full authority to ensure, peace, prosperity, development of all districts and villages and should be responsible for implementation of all programmes covering all departments and all agencies like any other state in India.. That is the normal physiology of governance of a state. What is the use of anatomy without physiology ?. What will happen to the brain if all the blood vessels to the brain are cut and connected to the heart ? Let the Meiteis also express their grievances . Why the Naga leaders are afraid of or fighting shy of facing the Meiteis? Let the Nagas also speak the truth and let the Meiteis also speak the truth . Whatever Meitei says will be based on historical facts based on documents and records. Whatever Naga says will also be based on facts and documents. Any one should not try to mislead the people by twisting facts and history. That will unnecessarily delay the peace process .
11. Nowadays, the discrimination is against the Meitei . No Meitei is allowed to settle in hills whereas hundreds of thousands of hill tribes are settled in the valley . Is it not discrimination perpetuated in the name of secularism .Sometimes, Indian democracy is funny. If it is not discrimination, what is discrimination ?
12. The Manipur Kings always preserved and respected the identify and culture of the hill tribes as evidenced from history . T.C. Tiangkham and Major R. Khathing were ministers in the Council of Ministers after independence . In spite of their small population, there were two Naga Chief Ministers and they were extremely popular among the Meiteis.
13. It was through the kind courtesy and broadmindedness of the Maharaja of Manipur that Christianity arrived at Ukhrul on 10 February, 1897.
There maybe many more questions and answers which can be discussed at the time of the talk. Let the NSCN leaders raised questions during the talk. The Manipur representative will clarify their position . The Manipur representatives also may raise questions which the NSCN leaders will answer from documented facts .The only condition is that the interlocutor must be somebody who have full knowledge about Meiteis and Nagas It should be borne in mind that Mr, Chidambaram knows about Nagas and Meties as much as I know about Tamils. If the Manipur representative can , not give a proper reply, the final solution will be to the advantage of the Nagas . It is as easy as that . But there should not be any coercion or undue pressure from the Government of India. It appears that presently there is a lot of misunderstandings which need to be addressed and which can be cleared through discussions and dialogues. Perhaps, it may be enlightening on the part of Government of India representatives and NSCN representatives to listen to the version of the Manipur representatives.
According to the Telegraph Newspaper’s report under the caption “ PM Rules out NSCN Core Demands : Rio Plea for Right Choice” ( 18 April, 2012) , the Prime Minister reportedly expressed his inability to accept the NSCN ‘s core demands of “ integration of contiguous Naga areas . The Prime Minister reported said to Rio “ Whatever is possible will be possible even after 100 years , whatever is not possible will not be possible even after 100 years.
In order to speed up the peace process, the UNC and NSCN leaders should move to the Government of India for participation of Manipur representatives in the peace talk . Otherwise it will be like a mirage or a “pipedream” in the language of the Congress President. .The Government of India may not be genuinely interested to solve the Naga issue . Why should they be interested ?. Their motives may be “ Let them fight and we will enjoy the fight in the TV” They may be more interested to keep us divided by playing Divide and Rule Policy. “To keep the North East India divided through politics and fighting among themselves “ may be a Top Secret Agenda of the Government of India. Because the North East India as a whole is like a sleeping giant. When it wakes up and when the 2 5km long chicken neck is blocked , India will be utterly helpless. The Government is more worried about this. The NSCN leaders should see beyond Nagas . Why not they become leaders of North East –not only for Nagas . The mainland India may want us to fight but that will never happen. We are wise enough to know their hidden agenda It is time for the Naga leaders to re-think alternative strategy to bring about a speedy settlement of the Peace Process .and to bring peace, prosperity and development to the North East including Manipur . United we stand, divided we fall.
The Manipur State Assembly also should pass a resolution without further loss of time to move the Government of India to include at least one Manipur representative in the Indo-Naga peace Talk. Even the version of the criminals are taken and the criminal is allowed to participate in the trial before pronouncing the death penalty –that is called fair trial. Why the Naga Peace Talk is so secretive that no affected party is allowed to participate ? Is it the true meaning of democracy in India ? . Our Hon’ble Chief Minister may be doing some serious thinking for speedy settlement of Naga issue and may be examining various other options in case the Government of India does not listen to him. Another possible option may be the demand for provision of Special Status of Manipur under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution as done in case of Jammu and Kashmir . The initiative of the Hon’ble Chief Minister in this direction will help in bringing a respectable peaceful settlement to all parties involved in the greater public interest.