By Haoginlen Chongloi
Since its independence, India witnessed some of its glaring features of a democratic set up to the outside world; earning admiration around the world. Some isturbing experience like the Gujarat Riots, Blue Star Operation, Anti- Sikh Riots, and the controversy behind the Ayodhya Temple have put its democratic foundation to test. Unbeaten and unshaken by it, India once again disprove the notion of its democratic values as still at infancy.
The projection of India’s maturity, however, is not without question- especially, when it comes to its dealing with the northeastern states and its people. From illegal Bangladeshis in BTAD to Kuki statehood issue in the east, Chakma problems in the south to the frequent provocations made by the China’s PLA, northeast has been continuously in danger of identity crisis, where exertion for control of ‘land’ becomes the bone of every contention. Besides, there are numerous issues still at the court of the centre awaiting state intervention.
The Naga issue is one among many such genuine cases spearheaded by the NSCN-IM. Also acknowledged as the mother of insurgency of the northeast by some writers, NSCN-IM gains huge admiration for gaining international recognition which their other counterparts lacked. However, one mistakes committed on the part of the Naga leadership totally eliminate its vigor to push forward its movement.
It is reported that, on 13 September 1993, unarmed villagers numbering about 104 were waylaid and butchered using spears, daos and other sharp weapons by the NSCN-IM militants in Tamenglong district of Manipur. The villagers, mostly Kukis, were reported to have followed a decree served by the said terrorist organization that they left the villagers by September 15, else face the consequence. Compliance to the ‘Quit Notice’ served seems to have little purpose. Women, children and aged were not spared. Thus NSCN-IM shocked the world.
A movement that fights for ‘rights and dignity’ of mankind have committed the same blunder what is thought as committed to them. Human Right Activist Yambem Laba lamented, ‘The Naga cry against human right abuse perpetrate by the India Army for over Fifty years was completely overshadowed by one incident of Naga atrocity against the Kukis of Joupi village on 13 September 1993.’ Such was the expression on the gravity of massacres carried out to Joupi Villagers.
‘Armed movement’ as espoused by the NSCN-IM is questionable too. According to data provided by US-based Minority At Risk (MAR), NSCN-IM committed altogether 63 raids, ambushes, attacks and other illegal acts starting from 1992 till 1997. Of all events, about 33% of the incidents, accounting 21 were launched against security forces while the innocent public endures almost 70% of the violent acts of the NSCN-IM.
Taken the data of MAR as authentic, approximately 367 lost their lives during the Naga secessionist movement from 1990 till 1997. Of the 367, about 18% of the casualty falls on the state and central security forces, while the remaining 80% which constitutes about 290 souls belongs to the Kuki ethnic group.
However, a more detailed report published by Kuki Movement for Human Rights gives more disturbing picture than the former. From 1990 till the signing of the Indo-Naga ceasefire, 823 innocent Kuki villagers were killed while 239 settlements/villages were turned into ashes leaving lakhs homeless, and thousands left incapacitated to earn their own livelihoods.
Well, to be pragmatic, ‘Why was ceasefire agreement signed?’ with an organization whose target mainly was innocent civilians. By signing an agreement with a banned organization that waged war upon innocent civilians, the Union of India, seemingly, mandates violence upon its citizens as a legitimized means of gaining ones’ political momentum. Thus, centre’s conflict resolution model for the northeast, as applied to the Nagas, may be well attributed to the rise of insurgency and ethic polarization in the northeast. In India’s northeast, Gandhi’s principle of non-violence is yet to gain its relevance in place of Mao’s word- ‘Power comes from the barrel of a gun’.
Numerous bills have been introduced and passed in recent times for the welfare of its citizens. A lot has been talked about transparency and accountability as the main criteria of a democratic life. However, it reliability is always a question where ‘being equal in the eyes of the law’, itself becomes a debate to the stakeholders.
Tribal Kukis has been reeling under continuous subjugation and maladministration since the last many decades. Besides, the NSCN-IM mass killings during the early 1990s have left lakhs still awaiting resettlement and rehabilitation in a dignified manner. The Kukis under the banner of Kuki Inpi (Apex Body of the Kukis) and the Kuki Movement for Human Rights have submitted over 60 memorandums to the Union of India for amicable political settlement. However, democratic means of raising issues have little effect to democratic India. Memorandum submitted to the successive governments of Union of India became of scrap of Paper. Even a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Kuki Inpi Manipur was turned down, making it more controversial.
The manner in which the government at the state and at the centre handles the case has left a bold mark on its accountability as a democratic state. For five years long, innocent civilians were forced to endure life at the mercy of the NSCN-IM which otherwise can be termed as a ‘free hand’ given to them.
Surprisingly, banned organization adopting Mao’s strategy in democratic India receives more attention than that of Gandhi’s. With such character, India as a nation founded on the values adopted by Gandhi is questionable. Kuki Black Day, as observed all over India today, is one such parallel principle to that of Gandhi. By being hesitant in recognizing and rewarding his ideas, our survival as a nation ‘India’ will always remains at stake.
(The writer is a PhD candidate, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org, the views expressed in the article are his own)