That no issues can remain static and unchanged over a period of time is a universally accepted observation and the Naga political issue is not an exception. However what makes the Naga issue unique in a sense is the manner in which it has mutated so fast in the last decade or so, particularly, vis-a-vis the Government of Manipur, which in turn means the State of Manipur. From complete sovereignty the Naga issue centred around the creation of a Greater Nagalim, where all Nagas are to be brought together under one administrative unit. That this is not so simple is borne by the fact that the creation of a Greater Lim also entails defacing the territories of neighbouring States, particularly, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. This change in perception and the stance of the Naga underground outfit headed by Messrs Th Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu became palpable when it entered into a political dialogue with the Government of India on August 1, 1997. More than ten years down the line, and we have seen different facets of the Nagas’ struggle for their right to self determination. From sovereignty to Nagalim, was a climb down by a rung or two and now, there is every reason to believe that it has now descended to the question of creating a Union Territory for the Nagas of Manipur or a separate State, if what the leaders of the United Naga Council had to say after the December 3 tripartite meeting held at Senapati district head- quarters is anything to go by. In other words, the Senapati Declaration of July 1 this year by the Naga People’s Convention that they would sever all ties with the Government of Manipur and to urge the Centre to intervene and make alternative arrangements was nothing but about creating a Union Territory or a State for the Nagas of Manipur. This is somewhat a departure from the earlier demand for integration of all Naga inhabited areas under one administrative unit. The Naga movement for their right to self determination has undergone different shapes and directions and one important year, which gave a defining point to the armed movement was the signing of the Shillong Accord in 1975. The armed organisation was then known as the Naga National Council and not all the cadres or the second rung leaders of the outfit agreed with the Accord dubbing it a sell out of the interest of the Naga people. Phizo, did not say anything on the Accord and he was then in England on exile. What followed was total mayhem and this is what Naga thinkers and erudite writers like Kaka D Iralu keep referring to, especially the mass slaughter of Nagas in Eastern Nagaland. The blood of the victims have definitely dried, but the scars and wounds remain fresh and this is beyond anyone’s doubt. It is the Shillong Accord which catapulted Th Muivah to the centre stage of the Naga underground movement and the NSCN was formed in 1980 with Muivah, Isak, Khaplang and Dali Mungro, leading the new pack. However as history shows, the honeymoon was short lived as the NSCN split into the Isak-Muivah group and the Khaplang group in 1988. The bloodshed that followed the split need not be elaborated here, but it tells something significant of the different turns and directions that the Naga political issue has taken down the years.
After the peace pact with Delhi was inked on August 1, 1997, the adversary was no longer Delhi or the Government of India but the Government of Manipur, which may be interpreted as the majority Meiteis. This may be a tactical ploy for any armed outfit to make its presence felt and not lose ground amongst its people, it is important that an adversary is created, whether real or something which an imaginative mind can cook up. So today it is the Meiteis who are standing in the way of the political aspirations of the Nagas while its earlier nemesis, the Government of India is now its bosom pal. This is the irony of the situation and there is something quaintly amusing about all these. And so it goes, from a demand for right to self determination to the creation of a Greater Nagalim to the creation of a Union Territory or separate State for the Nagas of Manipur. Of course, the NSCN (IM) has not said anything about the demand for a Union Territory for the Nagas of Manipur or a different Statehood, but the UNC representatives who attended the December 3 tripartite talks at Senapati district headquarters are not merely leaders of a civil society organisation but also have the ears of the IM leadership. In reciprocation for lending an ears to their stand, the UNC has also been reduced to the status of a mouth piece of the NSCN (IM). There is nothing wrong in developing frontal organisations and in fact it should be encouraged as they are the ones, who have direct access to the top leadership of any rebel group and can act as the link between the Government and the underground outfit. So far the metamorphosis of the Naga movement have been understood within the realm of a political issue or problem, that needs to be thrashed out at the negotiating table, but what does one say when a body like the UNC goes beyond the political boundary and start issuing calls such as to boycott the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers at the State level Orange Festival scheduled to be held on December 11 and 12 at Tamenglong district headquarters ? Either the UNC is determined to insult the institution of the Chief Minister (The CM could be anyone) or it is a deliberately worked out agenda to whip up sentiments, since the UNC has already dubbed the Government of Manipur as Meitei centric and a Meitei Government. It is a pity for the Naga people and a tragedy for the people of the North East that an apex body like the UNC should act like a bunch of juveniles throwing tantrums for some lollipops. The ‘Boycott the CM’ call has already given a new shade to the Naga movement. This in short sums up the different stages of the Naga movement and the UNC may be credited of pegging it down to boycotting the Chief Minister from attending the Orange Festival from the creation of Greater Lim.