Respected leaders of various civil societies and concerned individuals from the State who have gathered here today to address common concerns and issue faced by all sections of the population, irrespective of whether you are from the Hills or from the Valleys.
Today, I belief, we all are given a unique opportunity to address collectively on issue that concerns us all. Our ability to seize this given opportunity to meet our collective interest can create a new chapter of a new level of trust and friendship between the Naga People and the Meitei people. The collective wisdom and united strong voice of each one of us can help us defeat any force that tries to weaken collective peoples’ aspiration to live in liberty, peace and dignity. Let us learn to fight together anything that threaten our basic rights and common interest. The threat might come from the State, security forces, big multinational companies, our own organization, etc. we must say no to any form of injustice. However, to create such kind of collective consciousness we must first learn to raise a united voice against issues such as AFSPA, Corruption, lack of development, unemployment, etc. In doing so, we are more likely to realize the scope of enormous opportunity where people across different ethnic communities can come together. Unfortunately, in Manipur State such common platforms are not visible. We all can continue to have differences on many issues but it must not shun the door where we can work together.
It is true that in any given society conflict of interests are bound to exist; perhaps, it is part of human characteristics. However, no differences are bigger than the collective interest of peace, liberty, development and prosperity. And we are not exception to this. The present crisis in Manipur has caused us enormous hardship. Our basic needs are falling short, our economy is badly hampered and to be precise, almost every family in Manipur is affected in one way or other. I am sure any sensible leader would not like such a situation to happen at all and more so for a democratic institution such as the United Naga Council (UNC). Now, this bring us to a question, why the Naga leaders especially the United Naga Council decided to start an economic blockade? To answer this, we must go back to the background of the issue leading to the economic blockade. It is quite clear that the issue started when the Government of Manipur (GoM) secretly planned to declare Sadar Hills and Jiribam to a full-fledged revenue districts.
To help us better understand the background, the following points can be considered:
- The decision of Indefinite Economic Blockade (including the banning of the construction of Trans Asian Railways, Jiribam to Tupul and other National Projects in all the Naga territories with effect from the midnight of 30th October 2016) was taken only when the Government of Manipur did not pay heed to the 48 hours of Total Shut down announced against the lopsided decision to create the so called SADAR HILLS and JIRIBAM into full-fledged revenue districts by the GoM.
- The wishes of the indigenous Naga people on the issue of the so called SADAR Hills have been expressed in the four Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) there were signed: (a) between the Naga representatives and the GoM on 14th December, 1981, (b) between the GoM and the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) on 10th November, 1992, (c) between the GoM and Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) on 27th September, 1996, and (d) between the GoM and the United Naga Council (UNC) and ANSAM on 23rd June, 1998 . These agreements agreed that “not even an inch of Naga ancestral land and its original should be touched while creating any new district”. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India had also given a written assurance in this regard on 24th November 2011.
- The Government of Manipur under the leadership of Shri Okram Ibobi Singh did not bother to send representatives to New Delhi for the proposed tripartite talk convened by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs with the Naga Organizations on 15th November, 2016. Had he been serious enough to send his representatives, the situation would not have become worse thus far. His outrageous behaviour is responsible for the grave situation prevailing in Manipur.
- We also condemn the immaturity conduct of the Government of India. Instead of playing the role of a good mediator, GOI has done injustice to the Nagas by acceding to the request of the Government of Manipur for sending more central forces to the State. We want to remind both the Governments that the land of the Nagas is inseparable. Every Naga is obliged to protect and defend our ancestral land, people, identity, history, tradition, culture, custom and time honored-institutions at all cost. We are the owner of our land and we will never allow anyone to decide for the Nagas. Therefore, the carving out of the land that belonged to the Nagas to form/create the so called SADAR HILLS and JIRIBAN SUB-DIVISSION into a full-fledged revenue districts does not arise at all.
Given this background, for the collective interest of all sections of the State here are few points that I would like to suggest in resolving the present crisis.
- The public, especially both the Meitei and the Naga peoples must pressurize the Government of Manipur for immediate and unconditional release the two UNC leaders.
- The Government of Manipur must be pressurized to respect the four Memorandums of Understating (MoUs) signed with Naga bodies on the issue of district creation at the expense of the Nagas’ ownership rights over ancestral land.
- Upon fulfilling the above two points the United Naga Council must immediately stop economic blockade.
- The people must pressurise the Manipur Government to create conducive environment for public discourse and at the same time various civil societies must initiate a dialogue for the best possible solution on the issue of district reorganization.
Forum for Understanding Naga-India Conflict & Human Rights (FUNICH)
Date: 9th December, 2016
Venue: GM Hall, Imphal West