Somdal is a quiet, unassuming village in Manipur. Until you hear its history
Angana Chakrabarti and Yimkumla Longkumer
Contd from previous issue
As the agreement had laid down the condition for the Naga groups to accept the supremacy of the Indian Constitution, it was vehemently condemned by Isak Chishi Swu and Muivah. The two leaders along with SS Khaplang broke away in 1980 and formed the NSCN. More factions came out of the NSCN over the next few years, giving rise to internecine conflict. The years leading up to 1997 were marked by violence and bloodshed as the insurgents and the counter-insurgent forces collided.
In 1997, a ceasefire agreement was signed between the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre under former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, marking a watershed moment in the peace negotiations. In 2017, two years after the NSCN (I-M) signed the Framework Agreement in 2015, the seven other factions entered the talks as the NNPGs.
So far, it seems, the NNPGs and the NSCN(I-M) have held opposing views over demands of the separate flag and Constitution. In August, tensions reached a fever pitch following a letter by the Governor RN Ravi, who is also the Interlocutor of the talks, in which he blamed the “grim” law and order situation on the groups who he described as “armed gangs”.
Soon after, the NSCN(I-M) demanded that Ravi be removed as the Interlocutor while the NNPGs said that it would derail the talks. In their 18 August press release, NSCN (I-M) stated that the Nagas now have to “choose” between the “the wave of anti-Naga forces in collusion with Ravi-led forces” or “to stay active defending the historical and political rights of the Naga people”.
What Somdal thinks
Some of the villagers of Somdal describe feeling weary at how long the talks have stretched on.
“It’s been a long time, we are tired. it is not like we can go to the peace talk and say something, but we are praying to God,” said 86-year-old Akham Ruivah, a village elder and former member of the NNC.
“We have suffered for a long time. We are praying to God and waiting for a quick solution.”
Akham also expressed his concern over the NSCN(I-M)’s supposed extortion activities, an issue raised by RN Ravi as well. “I believe that this talk will be successful but taking money and doing business is not necessary. It will not save the Nagas.
There might be those who are taking money and playing with money…I am not happy with that.”
Despite this, the Somdal residents ThePrint spoke to remain hopeful that the NSCN(I-M) would be the one to lead them to a “peaceful resolution” — the unification of all the Naga territories, a separate flag and a separate Constitution.
“We are Nagas, there should be a Naga Nation. There should be a Naga flag and Constitution. Why should we not have it then ?…From our Somdal village, there are around 80 Naga National workers (cadres of NSCN(I-M) under the leadership of Muivah. Around 31 people have been killed because of this Naga cause,” Pastor Aping Khamrang said.
“Many people and families want to send (to work as Naga national workers) even more now. There has been no exhaustion in our village.”
Beyond the proximity with the NSCN (I-M) leaders, another factor that seems to have driven Tangkhuls to participate in the movement and support the call for unification is the supposed discrimination by the Meiteis, Manipur’s largest community.
“We used to work together with the Meities and Kukis lovingly, but the Meities didn’t care about the Nagas at all. So much development has happened but what are the Nagas getting ?” a furious Akham Ruivah alleged.
“We are minorities in Manipur now, and this means that you have [to bear] all the disadvantages in the system,” Hopingson A Shimray, the president of the apex body of Tangkhuls, the Tangkhul Naga Long, said in a telephonic interview.
Shimray also said that the Tangkhuls haven’t had an easy time in the Naga movement either. “In 1991, the Tangkhuls were actually hunted down in Nagaland, because of the factional fight. Many Tangkhuls were killed,” he said.
“In spite of this, because the [NSCN (I-M)] leadership is with the Tangkhuls now, we had to have our patience and bear all the misunderstandings.”