The very one sided article of A Bimol Akoijam titled “Old Faultlines, New crisis” (published by Indian Express dated 27/12/2016 and Sangai Express dated 28/12/2016) where he portrayed very poorly the standpoint of the Nagas and United Naga Council (UNC) has compelled this rebuttal article which is given in detailed point wise presentation for readers to revisit the current Manipur imbroglio causes and likely solution. This is because the present crisis of Manipur State can only be understood when presented in a holistic manner with adequate framework which was intentionally omitted by the earlier writer.
1. The article began stating that “violence that erupted on December 18 is unfortunate.” However, it omitted mentioning that it was a Meitei mob that caused the violence where 22 Naga vehicles under police convoy were burned down which will make unacquainted readers wonder whether it was done by Nagas or Meities to which the writer belongs caused them.
2. Blockades are mentioned repeatedly but the reason for blockade being a protest against creation of new districts without democratic consultation is not mentioned clearly even once.
3. Nagas are mentioned as Christians and non-Christians are portrayed as appealing to the intolerant Christians. But the article did not mention the attack on churches such as Manipur Baptist Convention church by Meitei mob where notices were pasted that church attendance is banned without permission from Meiteis Chingmeirong locality. Many churches in the valley districts were burned down by Meitei mob which was hardly reported in local dailies. Who are the religiously intolerant community in Manipur?
4. The article says that the theme, “”we are discriminated” has gained currency over the traditional theme, “we are not Indians” in the Naga political discourse.” What about Meiteis? Aren’t they rather exactly doing the same when they asked for imposition of Inner Line Permit to protect them from mainland Indians and foreigners. Moreover, the Meities are now demanding for Scheduled Tribe categorization on top of almost Meitie now enjoying OBC or SC status. While the Meities are demanding ST status by claiming to be a backward class, on the other hand the Meitei language Manipuri has been recognized as a classical language under 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution. Isn’t a community with classical language asking for scheduled tribe status a great contradiction? In recent years, many Meities are becoming IAS almost through unfair means by scoring unfairly very high marks in Manipuri language in UPSC since invigilators are all from Meities community only. This can be verified from how many new Meities IAS and central services has opted for Manipuri as his optional subject and how much marks he has got in it.
5. The article states that UNC has asked for a “separate administration”. The article does not say that this is due to heavy discrimination of Manipur government in development policies, very low Naga employment percentage, denial of timely promotions, etc for government employees. The government of Manipur readily shows fantastic Power Point presentation to local and visiting scribes of the numerous development schemes undertaken in the Naga areas. But a visit to the field and ground reveals almost zero development under Ibobi government. Schools are left uncompleted and unroofed and used as cow sheds as reported often in media. That is why Nagas under UNC has asked for “separate administration” as the trickle down system from the hands of the Meitei dominated Manipur government has failed miserably and left them in backward condition comparable to the time during 2nd World War. Roads in chief minister constituency are black topped even to the paddy fields whereas road to even district headquarters like Tamenglong is yet to be black topped during Ibobi 15 years rule due to neglect and corruption.
6. The article states that “UNC is a front organization of the NSCN (IM). It needs to be clearly stated here that UNC is the apex organization of the Nagas with due democratic election of its office bearers and looking after the welfare of the Nagas. It is not the frontal organization of the NSCN (IM) although it may have consultative interaction with it from time to time. This should be clearly understood in the context that the NSCN (IM) which is in serious peace talks with Modi government is NOT A BANNED ORGANISATION under Indian government. This is in contrast to UNLF and the entire valley based Meitei underground organisations which are banned as per notification of the government of India as “unlawful organisations”. The Joint Committee for Inner Line Permit (JCILPS) Convenor Ratan Khomdram was caught red handed as a high ranking member of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) when a photo surfaced on the social media which shows him holding the UNLF flag in a allegiance swearing ceremony. Ratan was jailed as it was exposed in Indian Express and subsequent forensic examination of the photo found it to be genuine. However, Ratan was inexplicably let off on bail and resumed being Convenor of JCILP which seeks to drive out the entire mainland Indians from buying land and settling in Manipur.
7. The article says that “terming Manipur as “artificially” created by the colonial rulers, it seeks to split the state’s polity along communal lines (Nagas, Kukis, Meiteis). There is communal intention of the Nagas when it demands that the Nagas wants to live together as a community under a “separate administration.” The demand of the Nagas for a separate administration predates the Indian Independence as the Naga Club submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1928 that the Nagas be kept in the Excluded Areas administration and not clubbed with mainland India administration. The demand was duely accepted by the British and many Nagas areas were under external affairs ministry even after Indian independence. This historical fact shows that it is not the UNC creating a new demand but reiterating the almost century old demand of the Nagas to have separate administration of its own. It is the Meities that wants to bind some Naga tribes in Manipur along with it so that the Nagas are reduced to an insignificant political minority i.e. Nagas have only 10 seats in the 60 Manipur Legislative Assembly seats whereas the Meities have 40 seats. This political imbalance makes the Nagas have no say in the current situation (tyranny of the political majority) and this is why the chief minister Ibobi tries to bulldoze the Nagas by tearing apart the Naga areas into 7 new districts without consultation with the stakeholder Nagas despite strong protest against it in the form of economic blockade.
8. The article mention the slogan “Nagaland for Christ” and “God gave a plain area to the Meitei… and …hill areas …for the Nagas..” As the BJP proudly declare Ram Rajya as an ideal to be sought for India, so also the NSCN (IM) and Nagas proudly have the slogan of “Nagaland for Christ” as virtually all Nagas are Christians. The Meitei from time immemorial have lived in the valley ONLY and there is no instance of Meities settled in the hills till date and so also the Nagas have traditionally lived in the hills and have hardly settled in the Imphal valley till date. This is a fact and should not be presented as a grouse as attempted by A.Bimol.
Nagas are today positively oriented themselves for an honorable political solution with India where it can coexist as friendly partners.
9. The article states that “some tribal communities resists attempt to incorporate them under the Naga fold” but gave for the “some” only the single example of the Aimols in Manipur. This is dishonest portrayal. The Aimols have stated that they want to remain as Aimol tribe without coming under the umbrella of Nagas or Kukis because they find that their tribe are scattered both in Naga dominated areas and Kuki dominated areas in Churachandpur district. So in order to safeguard the physical safety of the small tribe consisting of about only 5500 population in total, some of the Aimols are unable to declare themselves as Nagas to avoid harassment from Kukis.
10. The article states about “deploying expressions like “Naga areas”, “Naga dominated areas” and “contiguous Naga areas” and that the “present blockade is a part of that mobilization.” Can we not say that Mizoram is “Mizo areas” or “Mizo dominated area” or that Haryana is Jat dominated area and Tamil Nadu is a “Tamil area” or “Tamil dominated area”. Why this should be portrayed in a negative statement while this is just about facts and nothing negative is there in the phrases.
11. The article makes the worst accusation that “expressions like “Naga dominated” and “contiguous areas” have a historical precedent in the Muslim League’s campaign for Pakistan.” The alluding to Pakistan is most unfair because the article tries to portray the Nagas like Pakistanis knowing that Indians are allergic to Pakistan. We need to be reminded that the major states reorganization of India was done on linguistic lines. Commonality is a positive cohesive factor for development and peace as much as unity in diversity is also to be sought at the macro national level. Also let us in passing remember that the Kargil war was largely won by the gallant conduct of the brave Naga Regiment fighting in the front lines for India against the Pakistanis.
12. The article again states that “there is a seething resentment amongst the people against the attempts of the UNC and NSCN (IM) to disintegrate Manipur along communal lines.” This is a false statement as “people” here means only the Meiteis. The famous 18 June 2001 incident when there was great protest in Imphal leading to the burning of Assembly building was 100 percent composed of Meities community only. Not a single Naga were there in the mob protest. As stated earlier, the Nagas are not communal when they want to integrate among themselves in a separate administration because their demand is almost a century old dating to demand for being in the “Excluded areas” during the Naga Club memorandum to the Simon commission. If the colonial Britishers wisely listened to the Nagas at that time, isn’t it time for the Indian government also to listen to the Nagas under the wise leadership of Prime Minister Modi? Nagas are today offering the olive leaf of friendship and mutual respect under “honorable solution” to the Indo-Naga issue and peace for the whole of the North East India as it is the resilient mother of all insurgencies in the region.
13. The article lastly states that “these groups have got the tacit support of India, and the hardship caused by the recurrent blockade has compounded the resentment.” This is a one sided observation. Government of India has played as a mediator and has told the chief minister Ibobi several times not to create new districts in face of strong opposition from Nagas in Naga areas and also to roll back the 7 new districts for the economic blockade to be immediately lifted which is the UNC stipulation. However, the government of Manipur under CM Ibobi does not think on the lines of a democratically elected government but a feudal lord and therefore have tried to push with creation of 7 new districts down the throat of the Nagas despite strongly protesting against the possible creation of 2 new districts from Naga areas.
The solution now lies in sincere tripartite talks between UNC, government of Manipur and the central government as strong facilitator. The Meiteis and the government of Manipur should keep in mind that India is a democracy and things should not be imposed dictatorially against the wishes of stakeholders without consulting and obtaining their consent first to avoid turmoil in days ahead.
Lakpachui Siro is the Convener of Committee for Joint Naga Civil Societies, Delhi (CJNCSD).