By Rajkumar Bobichand
Due to the geopolitical situation of this part of the world which is presently known as Manipur, its land and people have always been threatened by various forces from many directions within and without.
No doubt! The kings and khullakpas, and peoples of different ethnic groups of Manipur have been defending its independence and territory. Unfortunately, short-sightedness of some kings and their advisors and disunity amongst the members of the royal families; and conflicts between different ethnic groups brought Manipur under foreign rules. The territory of Manipur once extended in the east up to Chindwin river in Burma has its territorial boundary fluctuated many times. So also the people whose origin rooted in this soil scattered and settled in many parts of the Northeast, Burma, and Bangladesh.
When the British left Manipur, its territorial boundary had already been reduced to the present boundary of Manipur with the exception of Kabaw Valley. But the independent Manipur with an elected government for the first time in South and South-East Asia was short-lived due to the coerced Merger of Manipur to Dominion India in 1949. The rage in the minds of the people of Manipur on the loss of resourceful and fertile Kabaw Valley in the form of a gift from India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1953 to Burma without the consulting the people of Manipur still remains.
With the signing of a Ceasefire agreement between the Isak-Muiva faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland, NSCN (IM) on July 25, 1997 and enforcement of the ceasefire from August 1, 1997, the various leaders of the civil society and different groups of people of Manipur could not remain as silent spectators. Because, people of Manipur believes that the Government of India might accept the idea of a Greater Nagaland by dismembering the states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. If once, the Government of India agrees with the demand of NSCN (IM), Manipur will be dismembered. So an Organising Committee on Territorial Integrity of Manipur (COCTIM) consisting of many civil society organisations including AMUCO and AMSU as the fore-runners emerged. Half a million people of Manipur took out a Mass Rally on August 4, 1997 for the protection of territorial integrity of Manipur and a public meeting was held at Mapal Kangjeibung.
Since then with no much trust on the assurance and towards the attitudes of the GOI and it behaviours, the civil society organisations have been restlessly working for the protection of Manipur’s already shrunk territory. On the other hand, the talk between the GOI and NSCN (IM) has been continuing with many rounds within and abroad India.
The movement for territorial integrity of Manipur continues. There was also another great mass rally for the protection of territorial integrity of Manipur on September 28, 2000 lead by AMKIL and NIPCO etc. But, as the NSCN (IM) persistently demanding the extension of ceasefire beyond present state of Nagaland, GOI’s NSCN (IM) appeasement policy came into a culmination as first step of recognising the concept of Greater Nagaland in the form of an Agreement in Bangkok on June 14, 2001 by extending the ceasefire without territorial limits. The Bangkok Ceasefire Agreement provoked the people of Manipur. The Government of India could not win the hearts and heads of the people of Manipur.
Following the declaration of June 14 Bangkok Ceasefire Agreement, the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) called a 72 hours General Strike in protest against the ceasefire extension without territorial limits and for protection of the territorial integrity of Manipur. Various organisations including women’s groups supported the General Strike called by AMSU. As the Government of India remained silent and did not show any significant sign to secure the territory of Manipur though India stands firm to secure its territory, the rage of the people could not cease. Instead of listening and respecting the democratic movement of the people of Manipur, the government didn’t bother to use security forces and fire against the people while its security forces ceasefire with the NSCN (IM). In protest against the GOI’s attitude and moves, the people’s uprising on June 18, 2001 had engrossed the state institutions and burnt down the Manipur State Assembly building. In the people’s great uprising for the protection of Manipur’s integrity, 18 persons paid their lives in the hands of the Indian security forces.
But this was not and would not be the end of the movement for protection of Manipur’s integrity. With this people’s uprising, United Committee, Manipur (UCM) was born out of bloods. On June 26, 2001, the UCM with AMKIL, AMUCO, AMKIL, IPSA, NIPCO and UPF as its constituent members, made a People’s Declaration to defend the territorial integrity of Manipur reaffirming the historic resolutions passed by the people on August 4, 1997 and 28th September 2000 resolving to protect the unity and territorial integrity of Manipur. AMSU was also a signatory to the declaration.
Since 2001, the UCM has been observing June 18 every year as the Great June Uprising while the AMUCO has been observing as Unity Day since it separated away from the UCM.
The threats to the integrity of Manipur are Thuingaleng Muivah’s persistent dream of Greater Nagaland called Nagalim, Supra State of Nagaland and other divisive demands of Alternative arrangement for the Nagas of Manipur and demand for Kuki State and some Meitei’s chauvinistic approaches. More importantly, the failure of governance beyond the valley areas is the most dangerous threat to the integrity of Manipur.
While Manipur is now facing threats from various divisive forces, the AMUCO and UCM are going in different ways for the unity and integrity of Manipur. How long AMUCO and UCM will continue to go in separate ways when various forces within and without are trying to divide Manipur? What is the irreconcilable matter between AMUCO and AMSU if both want to safeguard the integrity of Manipur? The old aged proverb – United we stand, divided we fall is still relevant in this globalised world. Now is the time for unity for Manipur’s integrity to envisage a vision for Manipur.