By: S.Kunjabihari Singh
The state of imbroglio that has seized the state of Manipur consequent upon the economic blockade launched with effect from April 11, 2010, by the All Naga Student’s’ Association (ANSAM), against the holding of elections to the six autonomous district councils, has literally left Manipur starving for want of essential commodities. The United Naga Council (UNC), apex body of Naga community, true to their sense of patriotism and element of solidarity, thought it wise not to be left out and promptly lent support to the indefinite blockade.Initially, the blockade was taken in light vein, on the presumption that it would pass away sooner than later, like in the case of scores of such blockades, after the two warring groups sort out matters. Of course, one still recalls with bitterness, the shivering toll of sufferings from the 52-days economic blockade imposed by the All Tribal Students of Manipur (ATSUM) and other Naga Civil Society Organizations ways back in 2005,(June 20-August 11).This time around, the blockade which already is in its 50th day, has not relented a bit. It has, on the other hand got intensified gripping the length and breathe of the state to a grapping hold of untold sufferings.
The supplementing force was not ,like in the past, any further dose for additional solidarity from sister organizations of the Nagas.It was basically a fall out of a bit of over enthusiastic diplomacy played by the Government of India. The severity of the blockade intensified on the wake of the Government of India’s unconditional assent to the proposed visit of Mr Th.Muivah,the high profile General Secy,of NSCN(IM) to his native village in Somdal,in Ukhrul district of Manipur and simultaneous denial of the proposed entry of Mr.Muivah to the soil of the state, let alone his home district, by a recalcitrant Government of Manipur. The situation further worsened on the face of an over bearing Muivah proceeding towards the border town of Mao on May,3,and camping at an adjacent village Viswema in Nagaland,some 19 km from Mao,the border town of Manipur, admittedly on way to Manipur waiting for an opportune time to sneak into the state, the subsequent sealing of the entry points with a huge deployment of forces by the GOM, the up- rise of the Naga communities against the ban of the government not only in Mao, but throughout the Naga inhabited districts, further intensified the economic blockade, coupled with the burning down of government properties and private trucks bringing in commodities from outside the state.
As it turned out, the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India were in the midst of their schedule “peace talk” in the last week of May, in New Delhi, when the General Secy. mooted the idea of visiting his birth place in the village of Somdal, that he had not seen the village for 40 odd years, that he could not be there when his parents passed away, that he would miss the opportunity to do so and such other personal reasons. The Home Minister who had understandably, intend to go along smoothly in the protracted negotiation with the NSCN (IM), could not be more than happy to sing a positive note and should have assured facilitation of the trip to Manipur, sensing a ready opportunity to appease the Nagas.This conjecture came out to be true when, in the Rajya Sabha in the midst of political fallout on the issue, the Home Minister clarified, on May 6,that since the GOM refused permission to entry of Muivah,the Centre would take care of the issue. He continued asserting that one (Muivah) wished to visit his homeland and the appropriate authority had refused permission. The tone and the context were indicative of the inherent tact for appeasing the General Secy. of the NSCN (IM) conveniently forgetting the likely fallout of the public meetings which the Naga leader would be addressing. On April 30, when the idea of visiting his birth place was shared, it was clearly expressed his desire to have consultative meetings in Naga-inhabited areas, meaning the 4 districts of Manipur during May 3 to 10.Reportedly, the MHA sent a draft itiniery to the Chief Secretary and the DGP, Manipur for necessary security tie-up, which the later promptly declined to undertake under instructions of the GOM. What exactly transpired in the crucial peace talk in the MHA could not be ascertained.However; the chain of developments that followed it amply clearly showed that there could be a hidden agenda in the proposed trip. The CPI (M) clearly conjectured in writing to the Prime Minister on May 6, on the issue, when it’s General Secretary, Mr.A.B.Bardhan, said, “Apparently Mr.Muivah’s visit to Manipur is intended to be a journey to his birthplace, but, in the context of the NSCN’s fight for Nagalim, for greater Nagaland, this innocent visit is pregnant with serious consequence.” This underlying issue should not have been downplayed by the MHA, in their anxiety to please the Nagas,if only the MHA did not fail to forget the upheaval in the state in June,2001, in the context of extending the ceasefire beyond Nagaland,without territorial limit, when Imphal literally burnt and was turned into a fortified military zone. Not only that, the GOI had to face the ignonemity of quickly correcting the infamous Joint Declaration of 14 June,2001(Bangkok Declaration)by promptly deleting the offending phrase-“without territorial limit” when normalcy returned to the State.
What the MHA, was considered to have overstretched their policy of appeasement, could be viewed from a few governing factors then in play in the state.
i) they didn’t think it wise to keep the Government of Manipur into confidence, when they showed a green signal to the proposed visit, nothwithstanding the fact that law and order matter in the state is the state government’s exclusive preserve and, therefore, any such visit by a person of Muivah’s complicity should be cleared only after a formal clearance of the state.Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. On the contrary, after the assent of the MHA to the NSCN (IM) and their announcement of the trip thereby meaning informal arrangement for the trip, the state was informed for adequate facilitation.
ii) at that point of time the Naga community, through their various groups, were in confrontation with the Government of Manipur, starting from he first week of April,to demand withholding the election to the District Councils. This demand and the ensuing blockade was largely considered to be a tacit ploy of a wider game-plan of the NSCN (IM); and any facilitation of the General Secretary for addressing the NAGA DOMINATED AREAS in the state,at such a crucial stage would cause insurmountable law and order concerns and would be obviously detrimental to the tranquility in the state.
iii) address by Mr. Muivah would centre on the formation of Nagalim and the implied corollary of merging all Naga-inhabited areas in the state including that of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.Such a move that would entail annexation of the 4 districts of Senapati,Tamenglong,Chandel and Ukhrul,from the present state of Manipur. This issue is very sore to the people of the mainland and would not pass off smoothly, as happened on 18 June,2001,in Imphal.The GOI gave their consent to extending the territorial limit of the Cease-fire, beyond Nagaland through clause 1. of the Joint Statement between the GOI and the NSCN,which read “The cease-fire agreement between the Government of India and the NSCN as two entities without territorial limits”,in the Bangkok declaration signed by Mr Th. Muivah,General Secretary,NSCNand Mr.Padmanabhaiah,Representative of the GOI,on 14 June,2001.The news reached the state by 16-17 May and the spontaneous uprising culminated in the death of 18 people, killed in the aftermath of the retaliation by the government to contain the situation when the Assembly Secretariat, the CM’s office, a dozen residential quarters of Ministers, all in the high security zone in Imphal were reduced to ashes by a mass uprising of people. With this bitter background in mind, any government for that matter, more so the State Government won’t, under any cirmstances, agree to be a party to creating a platform for a repeat of the episode.
The state government displayed matured statesmanship by repeatedly refusing to bulge to the pressure of the GOI.Initially when the GOM declined to yield to the pressure of MHA,the CM was flown to N Delhi by a special plane to face further pressure not less than members of the Core Committee-the FM,the DM and the HM.The CM didn’t bulge citing law and order issue and the likely turmoil in the valley as well as the Hills and the possibility of communal overturns that would ultimately emerge not only between the Nagas and the Meiteis but also with the Kukis,a formidable community sore with the Nagas who had during the so-called ethnic cleansing exercise in the early nineties succeeded in wiping out the Kukis from four hill districts to stake claim of only- Naga- dominated districts, a game-plan widely considered to be hatched with the knowledge of Mr.Muivah..Even though the Visit was stalled for the time being, and Muivah still insisting on the proposed road trip to the state, a tense situation still prevailed. Despite this impossible situation, the MHA thought it wise to depute a high level GOI team in the persons of .Mr GK.Pillai, Secy.MHA and the new interlocutor Mr. R .S. Pandey to Imphal to persuade the GOM to soften their stand.In the process he himself had committed that the GOI had made it clear that the integration of Naga inhabited areas was out of question. He was also recorded as asserting, “Because we don’t want more problems we have to find imaginative solutions to try and deal with this type of questions. I think his demand or his request to go to his home village is something which could have been accepted.” The centre apprehended a potential setback in the peace process and expected GOM to show ‘large-heartedness’ and welcome Mr.Muivah,conveniently sidelining the imminent backlash in the state.
At one point of time,Mr.P.Chidambaram,Minister of Home Affairs, in a clear twist of the developments, was quoted as asserting ‘nobody has accorded permission to the entry of Mr. Muivah into Manipur’, according to a news report of the CNN-IBN on May 17.The news channel had telecasted an interview with the Union Home Minister and pointedly asked if he (Home Minister) still considered that it was fair on the part of the Union Government to have shown green signal to the proposed visit without prior consultation with the GOM.But again, there was another twist three days later when the Home Minister defended the center’s decision to allow Mr.Muivah and his entourage to visit his native village in Manipur saying it was done to ‘resolve the old and vexed Naga problem’. Elaborating on the philosophy of the on-going peace-talk, he asserted that the peace talk initially started on August 1, 1977 and in the long process of 13 years, a number of hard decisions had to be taken, and yet quite a few obstacles were encountered.True,the NSCN had softened from their earlier stand of Sovereignty and third country venue, confining to a Greater Nagaland and some kind of autonomy. The UPA government had in the proceeding two months of the latest peace talk, had worked hard to pave for a smoother platform for dialogue, urging Mr Muivah to come to India with an Indian Passport, which offer got stiff resistance from them so far, but was accepted then and thus paved ways for a more open and congenial dialogue.Phillosophising on the nature of complexity in the Indo-Naga Peace Talk, the setbacks faced, he asserted that attempts had to be made to come to an end to this protracted talk and in the process had to face setbacks on one or two issues, and the government had to bear with such upheavals. In the midst of the softening of respective stands in the common platform, Mr.Muivah expressed his long cherished desire to see his home village. As an act of reciprocal appeasement, the NSCN was assured that the centre would try to facilitate the trip. It was thus the whole episode got started Despite the GOM’s firm denial to the trip, after several protracted consultations in New Delhi, in Imphal and having realized the ramifications on the ground, the Home Minister still asserted, “The Union Government did the right thing.”Continuing, he said, “We will be able to do so in future, government being proactive in trying to resolve these issues and ensure that they were suitably dealt with.” Justifying the center’s decision, he added, “To resolve these issues, he took the decision”,a negation of his stand in the CNN-IBN interview.
Developments in the past and subsequent days reinforced the kind of unilateral approach of the centre. The April 29 message of the MHA to the Chief Secretary of Manipur was conspicuous by its clarity of and authority to the unilateral decision, again as a piece of diplomacy. It said Mr. Muivah would leave Delhi by an Air India morning flight and reach Dimapur via Kolkata.The message continued that the Naga leader would be in Somdal between May 3 and May 7.The rest is history by now. The big decision of the GOI could not be implemented for some slippage in the process, despite being well-intended.
Well, diplomacy is quite a different plate for the common man. It is as deceptive as it actually tries to convey. The saying goes-“When a lady says ‘No’, she means ‘May Be’; when she says, ‘May Be’, she means ‘Yes’. If she says,’Yes’, she is not a lady. In a similar vein, a Diplomat’s assertions are best taken in an analytical form. When he says, ‘Yes’, he means, ‘May be’; when he says, ‘May be’, he may in effect mean, ‘No’. If the Diplomat by sheer chance happens to utter, ‘No’, he is not a Diplomat.And, yes these are standard protocols of diplomacy and one can justify the stand, whichever ways the finger points and these are within the acceptable practices. Worst for worse, if placed in an uncomfortable corner, still they could indulge in another practice in vogue, be ‘ambiguous’, and still go for another cover-‘-shift the topic.’
Whatever have happened, the intelligentsia feels that there had been a slippage somewhere which could have been avoided to the comfort of three groups-the GOI, the GOM and the NSCN that possibly brackets Nagaland too. The GOI is apprehensive of revoking the assurance earlier accorded, formal or otherwise, to the NSCN,at the expense of the arch of Mr. Muivah.In the unlikely event of calling off the trip by the centre, such a step, would for sure, cause a backlash from the Naga fraternity not only throughout the 4 hill districts in Manipur but also in major areas of Nagaland. The aftereffect would be disastrous, Manipur facing the brunt of it. We can’t do anything at this stage but watch the fallout of this ‘diplomacy’.