People’s Aspiration and Territorial Integrity

N. Rongkame
Morung Express
July 18 2011

The citizen’s aspiration for basic human freedom and dignity is often overlooked and meticulously manipulated by the people in power, the Government in the name of sovereignty or territorial safeguard of nation or state. The citizen’s aspiration to define its destiny to realize and restore their dignity is often miscalculated and underestimated by the people in power and loosely considered as secession and forces are used to suppress the people. This often undermines an individual’s freedom to live with dignity as a free world citizen. The nation state is composed of a group of individuals in form of tribe, race or ethnicity. Nation or state cannot exist in vacuum without the composition of group of individuals put together. Therefore, individuals are prior to a nation or state.

The Naga people since the formation of Naga Club way back in 1918 has been voicing for their political self determination consequentially giving birth to Naga National Council and later on split to NSCNs (IM & K) in 1980s. A peaceful and non-violent mass based movement started by Naga people was made to a retaliatory defensive arms struggle movement when the legitimate aspiration based on historical and political rights for self determination is being suppressed with violence and brute force killing thousands of lives, destroying millions worth wealth, properties and natural resources during the last many decades of Indo-Naga conflict. Literally, the peace loving Naga people are taken hostage as prisoners in their own land, in their villages and homes (in most recent memory, the Oinam Incident 1987 and Mao Incident May 2010).  

The division of Naga people to various states of north east India (Arunachal, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur) and some part in Myanmar become a bone of contention today. This article will focus on the Naga people living in the present state of Manipur. The Naga people in the present state of Manipur, a north eastern state of India, felt the burn of such divisive arbitrary territorial division without their consent and taking their aspirations to the confidence when such demarcation of boundary was made. This blunder of the past continues to haunt the present. That fallout has so many ramifications today that the Naga people living in the present hill districts of Manipur State of north eastern India reach to a stage whereby ‘severing ties’ with the present state of Manipur is seen as the only way out. Being pushed to a minority group in the present State of Manipur, the Naga people has been advocating the step motherly treatments, the communal prejudice attitude, attempt to grab tribal land, systematic ploy to down play the aspirations (anti ceasefire agitation uprising resulted in Meiteis burning of Indian National Flag and resultant death of 18 Manipuri youths on 18 June 2001, banning the entry of Th.Muivah, attempted but failed to ban the entry of Niephiu Rio, the Nagaland CM on 28th May 2011 and the infinite postponing of the schedule 30th May 2011 Tripartite Talk at Senapati, are some few classic verifiable instances), using tactical violent forces to silence voice of the hill people (killing of 2 young students at Mao 2010 and taking the hostage under terror in Mao Area for the months of May till July 2010 by Manipur State Forces, the deployment of Manipur Security Forces and IRBs in Mao Gate on 27th May 2011 prior to Neiphiu Rio’s visit to Senapati creating a fresh psychological threat to the victims of Mao Naga living in Mao Gate Area), using money means and pseudo power conferment (classic example is ADC 2010 election after 20 years where the Naga candidates are elected uncontested amidst opposition and protest from the people), appeasement gesture in the name of pseudo development (transfer of Diphu-Dhansari-Karong Railway Head to Silchar-Tupul-Imphal, Tribal Development Portfolio taken by CM from time to time, Construction of Indira Gandhi Tribal Hill University at the stone throw distance from valley at Makhan and much more), the unequal representation in the Assembly floor(40-Meities and Meiteis Pangals :20- Kuki-Chin-Mizos and Naga tribes), unequal distribution of educational, medical and administrative infrastructures, manipulative and divisive tactical diversion of funds and facilities to Imphal valley, the absence/irregularities of valley based officers posted in the hill districts hampering the day to day administration and much more. Most of the Offices like Block Development Officer Offices and other departments are running the administration at the residence of the Officers concern or a rented room in Imphal itself. Even for a simple work order all the hill people has to go down to Imphal to get their work done. Therefore, such Imphal centric administration and concentration of all facilities and infrastructures has deprived of basic amenities and entitlements to the hill people as the citizen of the present Manipur state whereby draining the resources to the valley. This indicate the countless hardships of the hill people to get things done in the light of the valley based officers running their show at Imphal valley instead of the delivering services to citizen at their places of postings.

The hill people have to run from pillar to post in the Imphal city to take even a simple recruitment forms. Just a simple matrix here to justify the points why the hill people can never be able to progress and develop under the administration of Manipur Government among many other political, social, cultural and religious reasons. If an estimated 14000 Village Authority members (from Hill Districts of Manipur) travel to Imphal atleast 8(eight) times in a year to get their work done (collection of work order, meeting officers, submission of paper works, etc. excluding bribery paid to the officers concerns) spending Rs.1000/- per trip including fare, food, lodge and others, then simple calculation says, 14000x8x1000=11,20,00,000/-, 11.20 Crore Rupees is being spent annually. If 60,000(minimum) patients suffering from Malaria or other treatable diseases from hill districts go down to Imphal to be treated in RIMS, JN Hospital and other Private Hospital with atleast 3-4 attendants spending a week or more at Imphal will cost atleast Rs.30,000/-, then it comes to (60,000x30,000= 180,00,00,000/-, 180.00 Crore Rupees. If 10,000(minimum) serious patients (for major operation and the like) has to spend at Rs.80,000/- then it comes to 80.00 Crore Rupees. If the 1000 contractors from hill pursuing their contract works at Imphal for an estimated days of 20(twenty) in hotel to get contract works done spending roughly Rs.1000/- per day then it comes to nearly 2 Crores Rupees. Approximately 273.2 Crores of Rupees have to be spent annually by the hill people of Manipur simply because, Manipur is not beyond Imphal valley and Manipuris are only Meities and not Tribals (Naga, Kuki-Chin-Mizos) and others. If Government well-fare centrally sponsored schemes and state government assistance given to 5(five) hill districts with an approximation of 60 crore rupees on an average for each of the hills districts, it comes round about 350 Crore Rupees. Then, it is not so surprising that how hard the tribal people struggle for their survival even in the economic terms forget about promoting their political, cultural, social, educational and other human freedoms. The slogan ‘Peace and Development’ by the valley ruled Manipuri (Meitei) Government (because of 40 majority valley MLAs) is simply a farce and just a political rhetoric.  

It is not surprising to observe that there is not a single civil society where the hill and valley people shared a common platform. To be precise the Naga and Meitei civil societies do not have any common platform after having being in the same state since Manipur merged with Indian Union in 1973 onwards. To substantiate the point, UCM, AMUCO, MSF, AMSU, Meira Paibis represent the valley based Meities community whereas UNC, ANSAM, NWUM, NPMHR represent the civil societies of the Naga community and the Kuki Inpi and KSO represent the civil society of Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups. This also indicates that not only the Government has a step motherly treatment to the hill people but also the people themselves have a wide divide. The people also feel alienated among themselves as a group to live together excepting the just individual friendship and relationship. Also AMWJU- All Manipur Working Journalist Union confines its activities and roles in Imphal valley itself, this lead to even the divided opinion in the media house of Manipur state which aggravates the situation where there are already complexities. Their activities revolving round sitting in the chairs to churn the words to mend Manipur’s territorial integrity has got far more damaging ramifications inciting anger with their half truth reports and writings (classic example the Imphal based PTI reporter reporting in the national media that the two students who were killed in the last Mao 2010 Tragedy Incident reported to be killed in stampede.) As such banning of Imphal Free Press by the ANSAM some years back and the NPO warning to ban The Sangai Express recently are some few cases that substantiate the argument. It will do much good by getting their legs going around reporting the hardships and true suffering of the people in remote corners shaking the government to take actions for betterment of the whole state. But alas that’s a far cry to happen in the state like Manipur where the Government and all Meiteis are synonymous when it comes to trampling and thwarting the voice of the hills. 

Promoting human freedom should be the deep conviction call of any individual to spread democracy. However, it is as sad to see the people who are called the intellects of the society follow the old norms ‘might is right’ and continue to try to dominate the other with suppressive attitude and mindset. This intellectual bankruptcy limiting to see only the horizon of the valley is the darkest moment in the journey of civilization to enlightenment that should promote the basic human idealism and values. Rather concealing the true human values of liberty, freedom, fraternity, tranquility and peace to dust only attempting to thwart the hill people’s will is but just a mere servant to protect rising immediate perceived threat for one own survival and fearing to loss the control and comfort derived out of somebody’s unfreedom. This is but the saddest and darkness moment when the enlightened groups manipulate the facts to their own advantage.

The wide divide between the Hills and Valley are self evident in every spheres of live. This divide is beyond the rhetoric of ‘Territorial Integrity’ of present state of Manipur. There is no emotional unity, there is no sense of belongingness, there is no sense of ownership, there is no sense of participation in Manipur today. This disqualifies the basic democracy where participation is the backbone (Last ADC Election in Naga Hills Districts, NPC July 4th Declaration of Severing ties with Government of Manipur). Suppressing the citizens’ aspiration in the name of territorial integrity undermine the basic human law of right that questions the very foundation of the democracy itself. In the contestation of the territorial integrity and the constitutional provision, the premise needs to be established. The premise to put forth the argument rest on the Article 3 of Indian Constitution which says, ‘Formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of the existing States-Parliament may be law- (a) form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to a part of any State. Advocating territorial integrity of present Manipur State at any cost undermines the Article 3 Section (a). Therefore, it can be deduced that formation of new State is very much possible under the law and constitutional provision and strong slogan of ‘unquestionable territorial integrity of present state of Manipur’ directly question the validity of constitutional provision to form new states. 

The antagonistic attitude and movement from the valley people especially the Meiteis, however, should be taken as good stand for Nagas to move ahead more resolutely in asserting their rights and demand. That should strengthen the collectiveness and unity of Naga people to pursue their rightful aspiration. Such strong opposition should make the Naga more resilient and stronger people to defend their rights and promote their cause. The recent Arab world revolutions that usher in new era of democracy have proven that the people’s ‘right is might’.  Naga people asserting their rights do not undermine the right of other people and their neighbours. 

One wonders how one can support the Meghen, R.K.Sanayaima, the UNLF chief who is jailed and oppose Th.Muivah who is negotiating with the Government of India at Prime Ministerial Level? Is this only expose the dilemma that the Manipuri leaders/writers are living with? On one hand banning Th.Muivah as criminal and on the other hand patronizing Meghen as the Meiteis hero is so duplicitous of the Government of Manipur, Meiteis Civil Society and Meiteis Media. Is it so, because Th.Muivah happens to be the Naga and from the hills and Meghen is Meitei and from the valley, that is why the Government of Manipur discriminate the former and favor the later? This is a million dollar question the Government of Manipur has to answer before the world. Therefore, it is time to get the facts right and re-write what has been written wrong for all these years belittling the Naga People movement for Integration to just ‘Greater Lim’ issue ridiculing as IM’s agenda. This is far from truth. The Naga aspiration for Naga’s Integration is strongly founded and written with blood and tears. Generations after generations Naga people will never give up their history of blood and tears. If Naga Nationhood is only fueled by few leaders as projected by the Meiteis media, why not the Naga surrendered en mass while their villages were burnt to ashes for several times, why people speak up for their rights and live out their cause in the face of such brutal force, again repeat, it is never a one or few leaders idealized dream given to people but indeed it is a reverse, the people’s aspiration for their freedom carried out by some few dedicated and visionary leaders, that’s why the aspiration of the people cannot be inked away still by the Manipuri writers. People’s aspiration was there yesterday, it is here today and it will be there tomorrow. Perhaps, it should and will shine brighter. People’s aspiration for freedom is the deepest human longing. That longing for freedom is never forced from outside, it is from deep within individuals. People sacrifice their lives for those aspirations. Any Naga/Meiteis/World Citizen who come to know, understand and encounter the deep Naga’s aspiration for freedom will never wish away in writings as a mere idealized dream, which is illusive or a mirage in the desert. The million dollar question to the proud Manipuri writers is, how proud are they when the mainland Indian asked which country is Manipur located? Those who know Manipur, they knew either as the worst trouble torn state of bomb-blast, fake encounters, militants ridden place with rampant extortions and corruptions, jobs are auctioned with money the list goes on. In the land where the State is run by someone the Congress high command has to pick and keep as Chief Minister, what proud have they become, that’s a question for the Meitei’s intellectuals. It is a tragedy to note that destroying the Naga people’s history and aspiration seem to be the last resort for the Meiteis’ survival as people. What is the Meitei’s respond to the world when the Indian do not count them as people but want their land (Meitei’s land) to be part of India? Therefore, as much the Meiteis’ are opposing the Nagas, the Nagas must work that much harder, sincere, and never give up their historical and political rights in the face of such adversaries. The mere claim of territorial integrity can never merit over people’s aspiration. The mere want of land and resources can never give meaning to human existence. 

Therefore, the pursuit for ‘alternative’ outside the given present State of Manipur by Naga people needs a clandestine understanding by the Central Government (Ministry of Home Affairs- which has taken the initiative for convening Tripartite Talk) and all concern. The creation of separate administrative unit out of the present State of Manipur is altogether not impossible. Such creation is attainable within the ambit of constitutional and legal provision of the country. This can be translated in the form of another new State for Naga People from the existing State of Manipur as far as the available arrangement under constitutional provision in the country is concerned. Therefore, such options need to be explored out by thinking out of the box to create a safe space for the Naga people and others. That can create new opportunities. Such possibilities to find new alternative should not be blocked by the constricted thinking of only territorial integrity.  The constricted and one sided stand to protect the territorial integrity for mere want of ‘land’ and ‘resources’ can have far more damaging ramifications. And to which the Central Government cannot wash off its hand easily by pleasing the Congress ruled SPF Government of Manipur. It can be costly affairs for the Central Government to lose the opportune moment when the Tripartite Talk has gaining momentum of continuity to reach at an amicable settlement sooner or later. 

Like it or not, it is indicative that there seems to be no other way for Naga people in Manipur but to find alternative outside the present State of Manipur. As long as this contentious contestation is not been solved, there will be endless tensions and conflicts. Solving this long standing issue through democratic means and ways will add another feather to the pursuit of peace and stability in the north east region of India. In any case it can be strongly argued that collective freedom and aspiration of the people is prior to mere territory of any State. Therefore, with given time and situation all must give a thought for the new alternative that will allow the Naga people to have their own self governance outside the present state of Manipur.   All and all people’s aspiration merit over mere territorial integrity in situation like present Manipur State in the north east region of India

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