L B Singh
Disturbing history and narrow ethnic politics led to hatred, violence and movement for disintegration, separate state, secession etc. It severely affected the development potential of the youths of the State. The lives of many brilliant youths have been devastated and they could not complete their study or pursue for excellence in various fields. Therefore, the youths of the state should overcome disturbing history and shun narrow ethnic politics.
Dark Spot in the History.
The Meiteis, Nagas, Kukis and Pangals co-existed harmoniously for hundreds of years till the Meiteis converted themselves to Hinduism about 300 years back. Some Meiteis became orthodox Vaisnavs and treated the other ethnic groups as untouchable. It severely damaged the harmonious relation among the various ethnic groups in Manipur.
Meitei insurgency against the Hinduism started in 1930 and “Meitei Marup” was formed to restore the original religion. A large section of the Meiteis has reconverted back to “Sanamahi” and the remaining Meiteis have also come out of the narrow orthodox mindset.
Now, the Meiteis have realized their shameful mistake and trying their best to restore good relation among the various ethnic groups. However, the Meiteis were blinded by the religious belief and there was no hatred campaign by the Meiteis against any ethnic community of Manipur.
Naga Movement in Manipur.
The Naga movement in Manipur did not come up indigenously from the native tribes of the State and it spread from Nagaland as the Government of India (GoI) could not curb the insurgency in the initial stage. It is mainly due to the propaganda of hatred and discontentment by the Naga insurgents. The Nagas of Manipur did not take part in the plebiscite of the Naga hill in 1951.
In 1963, Nagaland State was formed and the population of the State at that time was about 4 lakhs only. The unique special status of Article 371A even placed certain subjects in the State beyond the jurisdiction of the Indian Parliament as desired by the Nagas. No other Indian State enjoys comparable “Special Status”. The GoI has not conceded the statehood demands of many other tribes, including the Bodo of Assam, the Bhil tribe (combine population 169 lakhs) of Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra etc. The Government had shown exceptional consideration for Nagaland.
A large number of the Nagas of Nagaland have now understood that the maximum the GoI can give is Statehood and no Indian State can get “Sovereignty”. They have also realized that the GoI would not disintegrate three adjacent states to fulfil the aspiration of one State or one ethnic group. It would open the Pandora’s Box in other states and may even affect the bilateral relation with the neighbouring country as the next demand would be the integration of the Naga inhabited areas of Myanmar.
The majority of the Indian criticized Pandit Nehru and Indian National Congress for allowing a separate “Flag and Constitution” to Kashmir. It was revoked on 05th August 2019. The GoI would never allow a separate “Flag and Constitution” to any state in the future and even a cultural flag has the potential for creating problems in the adjoining states. Therefore, large sections of the Nagas of Nagaland want peace and are ready to sign an honourable Peace Accord, which gives maximum possible concession within the Constitution of India.
Nagaland now started feeling the disadvantages of having additional tribes from the adjoining states without the prospect of integration of contiguous areas. In 2017, the Nagaland Government withdrew the indigenous tribe status of the Rongmei tribe and it is a clear warning sign to the other tribes from the adjoining states. Only the Naga borne in a Naga family in Nagaland would be eligible for inclusion in the Register of Indigenous Inhabitant of Nagaland (RIIN) and some have even advocated for the inclusion of only the 14 original tribes of Nagaland.
A large number of the Nagas of Manipur sacrificed their lives; and endured extreme hardship and misery in the prolonged movement. The movement has severely affected the progress of Manipur and life of the people. It has also created hatred among the various ethnic groups and a deep divide between the hill and the valley.
However, the Meiteis consider the Nagas of Manipur and the Old Kuki tribes as their brothers due to the conversion of Meitei to Naga/Kuki or vice versa. A large number of the Naga and the Kuki youths are now heading many departments in the Government of Manipur and other private enterprises in the valley and the hill. It is time for the Naga youths to overcome the disturbing history and carefully examine the wisdom of our ancestors who shared so much value and affinities among them. They may consider for concentrating their efforts to the place of their birth, Manipur, and work for the peace and prosperity of the State.
The Meiteis, the Nagas and the Old Kuki tribes were the original native settlers and the indigenous people of Manipur. The New Kuki tribes migrated from Burma (Myanmar) to Manipur after 1830. However, out of the 16 Old Kuki tribes, 11 have been identified as Nagas by themselves or by the Federation of Haomee (FoH). Now, the ratio of the population of the Old and the New Kuki tribe is about 30:70.
The Maharaja of Manipur and the British political agent allowed most of the New Kuki tribes to settle in Churachandpur and Pherzawl districts. The remaining New Kuki tribes were permitted to settle in the other hill districts and the Nagas claimed that some of them have settled in their land. Many Kukis were employed in the Army of the Maharaja of Manipur; and the Kuki settlement provided buffer against the Burmese and the Nagas. It created conflict between the Naga and Kukis. In 1881-82 about 300 Nagas and Kukis were killed in various conflicts
Even on the sidelines of the important historical movements against the British like the Kuki Rebellion (1917-19) and the Heraka Movement led by Haipu Jadonang/Rani Gaidinliu (1930 to 1932); the Kukis targeted Zeliangrong Naga and vice versa. Rani Gaidinliu belonged to the Rongmei tribe, a sub-tribe of Zeliangrong Naga.
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 and due to the competition for the control of the Moreh town. More than 1000 people lost their lives and many villages were uprooted. The number of Kuki casualty was much higher than those of Naga and the Kuki termed it as ethnic cleansing for the creation of “Greater Nagaland”. The Kukis then augmented their insurgent groups to protect themselves and demanded for the formation of a separate State of Kukiland.
The land dispute and ancient enmity were the main reason for the conflict. The Kuki National Assembly (KNA) had submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister in 1960 to form a “Committee of Land Enquiry Commission to settle the land problem of Manipur hills amicably”. It would be essential for the long term peace and prosperity of all the ethnic communities to arrive at a consensus and constitute an independent “Land Commission” to examine the legitimate land rights of the all the ethnic groups.
The problems of the Naga, Kuki and Meitei can never be resolved by violence and hatred. Violence would lead to more violence. Therefore, peace and reconciliation is the most viable option to ensure safety and harmonious coexistence of the future generation. to be continued...
(Views expressed here are personal of the writer. The writer is a retired Captain, NM, Indian Navy. Email ID: [email protected]