Facts about Naga insurgency and its impact on Manipur

LB Singh
Very few national news magazines, newspapers and electronic media cover the suffering of the people of neighbouring states of Nagaland due to the violence, intimidation and extortion by the Naga insurgents. Only a few defence related news magazines highlighted about the true facts of Naga insurgency. This article is written with an aim to expose the true facts about the Naga insurgency and its impact to Manipur to the citizens of the country. A brief introduction of pre colonial period of Nagaland and Manipur is placed in the succeeding paragraphs.
17 tribes of Nagas were living in independent villages in the Naga Hills and adjoining areas before the British annexed Assam in 1826. The Naga had a unique sense of responsibility for the security and the prosperity of his village, which was regarded as his country. The Nagas never lived as an integrated nation before the British colonization of the subcontinent. These tribes have distinct dialects, dress, culture and tradition. They practiced various forms of worships before conversion to Christianity. The Naga considered the people from other places as outsiders and dangerous to their culture and traditions. In 1873, the British promulgated “Inner Line” which prevented outsiders except Christian missionary to enter the area. In 1881, the Naga Hills became part of British India and the Nagas wanted to be independent after the departure of the British. Manipur is an old civilization and detail written history is available in the Royal Chronicles of Manipur “ Cheitharol Kumbaba” since 33 AD. The tribal villages in Manipur came under the Meitei king during the reign of Garibniwaj Maharaja (1709 - 1751 CE). The present territorial boundary was demarcated by the representative of British, Dr. Brown and General Thangal of Manipur on 13th December 1873. Manipur lost Anglo-Manipuri War 1891 and became a British Protectorate State. Manipur regained independence after the British left in August 1947 and in 1948, Manipur had a written Constitution. Manipur merged with the Union of India on 15 October 1949.
The Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis co-existed harmoniously for hundreds of years till the Meiteis converted themselves to Hinduism about 300 years back. Untouchable practiced by the orthodox Meitei alienated the other communities and the spread of Christianity to the NE in the last century aggravated the situation. The Meitei and Pangal (Manipuri Muslim 8.3% of the population) live in the valley and they constitute 65% of the population. There are 19 tribes of Nagas and 15 tribes of Kukis forming 18.7% and 15.7% of the population respectively as per 2011 census. The Nagas and the Kukis mainly live in 10 hill districts of Manipur; and 8% of them live in the valley.
The true facts about the Naga insurgency and its impact to Manipur are listed below in brief:
1. In 1947, the Naga National Council (NNC) demanded for “Sovereign State of Naga” in the then Naga hill district of Assam and the Tuensang tract. The Naga movement was instigated by the British before departing India to create a foothold for the future. In fact the Naga National Council (NNC) was established at the initiative of C. R. Pawsey, then British Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hill as the “Naga Hill District Tribal Council” in 1945 and after one year it was renamed as NNC.
2. In the early 1950s, the CIA handed the tribal leaders millions of Rupees, weapons and secret instructions from USA. Then East Pakistan supported them till 1971 and China provided training to the insurgents in addition to the supply of weapons till 1987. Pakistan ISI still supports the insurgents.
3. The spread of the insurgency in the North East also coincided with the spread of Christianity in the region. In 1872, American Baptist Mission (ABM) came to Naga Hills, in 1951, 46% of the Nagas converted to Christianity. The Naga insurgency emerged in Nagaland at that time and now, 98% of the Naga are Christian.
4. In Manipur, the first mission school and the first Baptist church established at Ukhrul in 1901 and 1902 respectively. By 1961, 19% of the population of the Manipur or 48% of the tribal population converted to Christianity and the Naga insurgency spread to Manipur around that time. The tribal are almost fully Christians now in the state.
5. The English language and the common religion of Christianity provided a new link between various Naga tribes in the region. Some missionary educated Naga youths and certain Christian organizations saw the potential to establish a “Christian Nation” in the region by integrating the Naga inhabited areas of NE India and NW Myanmar.
6. During the Simon Commission in 1929, the Nagas demanded “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient time”, but never mentioned anything about the Nagas in the kingdom of Manipur. However, the aspiration of the Naga changed after the spread of Naga insurgency to Manipur and Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. This led to the Change of demand of NNC from “Sovereign Naga State” to “Greater Nagalim”.
7. The Naga insurgency in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh did not come up indigenously from the native Nagas of these states. It had spread from Nagaland as the Government of India (GoI) could not curb the insurgency in the initial stage, and due to the propaganda of hatred and discontentment by the Naga Insurgents.
8. In July 1960, sixteen point agreements were signed between the GoI and the moderate, Naga People’s Convention (NPC). However the demand for the integration of the Naga inhabiting contiguous areas was turned down. It was pointed out on behalf of the GoI, that Article 3 and 4 of the constitution provided for increasing the area of any state, but it was not possible for the GoI to make commitment in this regard. Some Nagas interpreted it incorrectly as an assurance by the GoI for the integration of contiguous Naga inhabited areas.
9. During the discussion in the Parliament for the formation of Nagaland on 28 August 1962, members of opposition parties and even ruling congress MP expressed their doubts about the sagacity for the creation of the Nagaland state. Then Union Home Minister G B Pant was of the view that it would not be economically viable. J C Jamir then representative of Naga Hills spoke effectively in favour of formation of Nagaland state.
10. However, Pandit Nehru was convinced by the delegation of the NPC that granting statehood would motivate the underground to give up arms and join the mainstream. It was mainly due to the effort of Pandit Nehru that the Bill was passed and about 3000 insurgents surrendered. The population of Nagaland in 1961 was 339200 only.
11. In 1963, Nagaland State was formed by adding Tuensang tract to the Naga Hill District with the special provision of Article 371A. The state was put under MEA (Till 1972) and the GoI had fulfilled most of the demands of NPC. The special status to Nagaland and the statehood did not bring peace in the state. The Naga insurgency survived with the promise of sovereignty and integration of Naga inhabited areas in NE India and Myanmar.
12. The revenue and the style of functioning of the Naga insurgent inspired the emergence of many militant outfits in the North East. There are now more than 35 insurgent groups in the region. Most of these states were declared as disturbed area and failed to attract private investors. Therefore, Naga insurgency is not only the mother of all the insurgency in the NE but also the mother of the backwardness of the region.
13. It is the strategy of the Naga insurgents to encourage the formation of more militant groups to increase the security task of the GoI and divert the attention from them. These new militant groups provide additional shelter for them and increase their income from arms smuggling and they also get the majority share of extortion by these groups.
14. The GoI signed the Shillong Peace Accord in 1975. However, it failed to bring peace as A.Z. Phizo, Th. Muivah and some members of NNC were not included in the peace process. Further no action was initiated to dismantle the network of extortion immediately after the accord and it led to the formation of NSCN in 1980.
15. In 1988, NSCN split into two factions, NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K), the later is more active in Myanmar. NSCN (IM) realised that it would be impossible to integrate the Naga inhabited area of Myanmar and concentrated its effort in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
16. In the 1990s, ethnic conflict broke out between the Nagas and the Kukis in Manipur as the latter refused to pay land tax to the Nagas. NSCN (IM) claims that the land in Ukhrul, Kamjong, Senapati, Kangpokpi, Tamenglong, Noney, Tengnoupal and Chandel districts belong to them and the Kukis are recent immigrants. However, Royal Chronicles of Manipur “ Cheitharol Kumbaba” mentioned about old Kuki tribes in 33 AD.
17. According to Kukis, about 1000 people, including women and children lost their lives in the conflict. 350 Kuki villages were uprooted and the Kukis termed it as “Ethnic Cleansing” to facilitate formation of Nagalim. The Kukis then formed their own insurgent groups to protect themselves and demanded for the formation of Kukiland from the area of the above eight districts, Pherzawl and Churachandpur districts.
18. The demands by the Nagas to include the above districts of Manipur to Nagalim or by the Kukis to Kukiland are strongly opposed by more than 80% of the population of the state. Both the above tribes also oppose each others’ demand due to overlapping of areas. The above districts are cohabited by the Nagas and the Kukis and there is no ethnically homogeneous area that can be aggregated into either the Nagalim or the Kukiland.
19. Manipur is most severely affected as there are only two national highways connecting the state to the rest of the country which passes through Nagaland and the Naga dominated areas of Manipur. NSCN (IM) and its umbrella organizations imposed a number of economic blockades of the national highways to pursue their objectives.
20. Further, in addition to the ransom demands and extortion, the Naga insurgents also illegally collect money from the commercial vehicles passing through Nagaland and the amount varies from Rs 2000/ to 10000/ per truck, depending on the nature of the load. It increases the cost of all essential items and affects the day to day live of the common people.
21. The Naga insurgents deviated from their stated objectives and have been fighting for the control of networks for extortion, the collection of illegal taxation and control of smuggling centre. The people of Manipur have suffered more than 60 years due to violence, intimidation, ransom demand and illegal taxation by the Naga insurgents.
22. Only the Naga born in Nagaland is eligible for inclusion in the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN). It clearly indicates that the average Naga in Nagaland do not have any common value, sympathy and affinity with the Nagas of the other states. However, under the influence of the guns of the Naga insurgents they have the territorial ambitions of the areas occupied by the Nagas in the adjoining states.
23. The Naga movement has become longest, most powerful, well organized, most successfully internationalised insurgency in the North East and thousands of civilians and soldiers have scarified their lives. The Nagas have projected themselves to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) as victims of the occupation of India and Myanmar. However, the fact is that the people of the neighbouring states are the victims of violence, intimidation and extortion by the Naga insurgents.
24. The GoI initiated the peace process with NSCN (IM) in order to bring an end to the loss of precious lives, extreme misery to the tribal villagers. Former PMs PV Narasimha Rao and Deve Gowda met NSCN (IM) leader Th. Muivah in Paris on 15 June 1995 and in Zurich on 03 February 1997 respectively. The GoI signed the Indo-Naga Ceasefire Agreement with NSCN (IM) on 25 July 1997. However, NSCN (IM) has never honoured the commitment in the Ceasefire Agreement for stopping forcible collection of money and intimidation of individuals.
25. The GoI and the Government of Manipur also signed the Suspension of Operation (SoO) with 19 Kuki militant groups in 2008 and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with six Meitei insurgent groups in 2011. However, major Meitei militant groups have so far not responded to the peace initiatives of the State Government.
26. About 5000 NSCN (IM) cadres, 2100 Kuki and 400 Meitei insurgents stay in the designated “Taken note of camp”, “SoO” and “MoU” camps respectively. As a result of the above arrangements, direct confrontations between the security forces and the militants have significantly reduced thereby avoiding loss of precious lives. However, the militant outfits in the above camps continue extortion and illegal activities.
27. NSCN (IM) actually took the advantages of the safe haven provided by the Ceasefire Agreement; and in the last 22 years extended the network for the collection of illegal money, increased the strength of the group and enhanced its influence in the hill districts of Manipur. It is mainly due to the inadequate proactive measures by the Government to curb extortion and it has inadvertently supported the survival and the growth of the insurgency in the region.
(To be contd)