Human Rights issues in Manipur and participation of Tangkhul Women
- Part 4 -

Maireiwon Ningshen *

 Peace rally organised by United Naga Council (UNC) at Ukhrul district headquarters :: 30 August 2014
Peace rally organised by United Naga Council (UNC) at Ukhrul in August 2014 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

In addition to the appeal for the peace and reconciliation between the two Naga underground factions and for the unity of all the Nagas, the TSL together with the Naga Hoho, UNC and other civil bodies, also pleaded the Government of India to bring fast and amicable solution to the vexed Naga issue. They knew that without finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the problem, there will be no end to the sufferings which the Naga people at large has been experiencing since the emergence of Naga insurgency. As such, along with various civil organisations of the Nagas, the TSL has been giving pressure to the Government of India to find a fast and amicable solution to the problem.

Then, on 14 June 2001, Government of India (GOI) and NSCN (IM) entered into an agreement in Bangkok which declared the extension of cease-fire without territorial limits. This declaration invoked mixed reactions among the people of Manipur. The Meiteis residing mostly in the valley of Manipur received this declaration with vehement protests which resulted in the June 18 uprising that year against the Government.

Altogether 14 persons were killed and scores including women were wounded as the CRPF fired to the protestors coming towards the Chief Minister and Governor's bungalow. (North East Sun, Vol.6. No.23. July 1-14, 2001: 7). On the other hand, in the Naga inhabited areas of four Districts of Manipur viz., Chandel, Ukhrul, Tamemglong and Senapati, people welcomed the cease-fire declaration without territorial limits with joy and it was considered a great triumph in the Indo-Naga peace talk process.

Various Naga organisations - the Naga Hoho, NPMHR, UNC (M), NSF, NMA, NWUM, TSL, etc supported the cease-fire extension without territorial limits, saying that "the peace in one Naga inhabited area and violence in another Naga pocket will not lead to a permanent solution to the 53 year old problem". (North East Sun, Vol.7. No.1 August 1-14, New Delhi, 2001: 4). Against this backdrop, the Nagas residing in various places took up peace rallies in support of the extension of cease-fire without territorial limits and urged the Government of India to stand by June 14 Agreement which was signed in Bangkok.

In connection with this, the Naga student's community under the aegis of the Naga Students Federation (NSF) organised mass rallies on 24 July 2001 in all the Naga areas and wherever the Nagas are. The NSF in collaboration with the Naga Student's Union, Delhi, also held the Naga peace rally in Delhi. Many Tangkhuls who were studying, working, etc. in Delhi joined the peace rally.

The Tangkhul women together with the other Nagas tribe women wore their own traditional attire and marched peacefully from Mandi House to Parliament Street. After the rally, the students' body submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India where it appealed to all the authority concerned as well as peace loving people to extend support solidarity to the Nagas so that lasting peace could be realised.(North East Sun, Vol.7. No.1 August 1-14, 2001: 4).

It may be noted that a number of Tangkhul women who has been pursuing various studies outside Manipur always remained conscious about the happenings at home. Whenever the need arise, they will come forward and join men in protests and rallies that were organised in the interest of peace and for finding an amicable solution the Naga's demand for the merger of Naga inhabited areas into one political unit, independent or otherwise.

Prior to the NSF rally in Delhi also, the Naga People's Convention in a meeting of Naga leaders held on 28 June 2001decided to stage peace rallies in the four hill districts of Manipur - Ukhrul, Senapati, Chandel and Tamemglong on 4 July.(North East Sun, Vol.6. No.24. July 15-28, New Delhi, 2001: 6). Accordingly, in Ukhrul District also a mass peace rally was held in Ukhrul town on 4 July 2001. Many Tangkhul women with their traditional attire joined the rally. The apex Tangkhul women's organisation The TSL was one of the co-organisers of the rally.

After the rally, four civil organisations of Ukhrul District - The TNL, TSL, TKL and Naga People's Movement for Human Rights (Ukhrul Unit) sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India through the DCof Ukhrul District.

It said: " Nagas strongly believe in finding solution to the Indo-Naga Political issue through peaceful negotiation rather than armed and violent confrontation."(Memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister of India on 4 July, 2001 by TNL, TSL, TKS and NPMHR (Ukhrul Unit)). Apart from the peace rallies, the Naga People's Convention also appealed all the churches of different denominations as well as other Naga religious organisations to leave aside the second Sabbath/Sunday in July 2001 for fasting and thanksgiving Tangkhul women were again in the forefront in such kind of fasting and thanksgiving.

After the talk between the GOI and NSCN (IM) was resumed, the leaders of the NSCN (IM) also began interaction with the various Naga civil societies. To strengthen the peace effort through people's participation a delegation comprising representatives of the various Naga people's organisations and tribes were invited by the NSCN (IM) to participate in a Consultative Meeting held in Bangkok, from 7 to 11 January 2002.

Dr. Gina Shangkham, President of Naga Women's Union, Manipur (NWUM) went and attended the Consultative meeting. (North East Sun, Vol.19, Issue 03 February 15-28, 2002: 6). It may be noted here that the TSL is a unit of NWUM and whatever action the organisation took up, it always supported it. The moral and all the other necessary help provided by the Naga women including the Tangkhul women tremendously helped the NWUM to work successfully.

Modus Operandi of the TSL

With regard to their struggle for human rights of the people: The TSL in all its agitations adopted peaceful and non-violent methods and never resorted to the use of violence in any way. The methods that they adopted are peaceful means like that of prayer and petition, submitting memorandums, organising rallies, boycott and strikes, appealing to the law courts, issuing press releases to give proper publicity of the issues at stake, etc. Regarding the leadership of the organisation, the TSL does not operate under the leadership of an ordinary woman.

Normally, the minimum educational qualification for the President and Vice-President is graduation. As such, most of the leaders are educated and well qualified women. Nevertheless, when any agitation was organised by the TSL all the Tangkhul women, irrespective of occupation or educational qualification, will join it. Even illiterate women from the villages also joined the agitations organised by the TSL. In this way, the TSL led out and the rest women followed. However, one of the problems faced by the TSL whenever it organised any agitation and fought a case in the court was that of the financial problem.

Because of financial constraints, sometimes the organisation could not accomplish what it set out to achieve. This also made it very difficult for the TSL to organise all the women in every nook and corner of the Tangkhul villages. However, in spite of the financial constraints, the TSL never rested and has always been ready to face any challenge and any situation that threatens the rights of the Nagas in general and that of the Tangkhuls in particular.

With regard to peace and unity campaign:

While giving pressure to the government to find a peaceful, speedy and lasting solution to the problem of Naga insurgency, the various methods and techniques adopted by TSL and other Naga civil organisations like Naga Hoho, UNC, etc. have been those of boycott, civil disobedience, strike, mass rally, demonstrations, fasting and prayer, submission of petitions and memorandums, realising press releases to promote awareness or to proclaim condemnations, trying to bring conflicting side to the negotiation table by initiating reconciliation campaigns through hosting meetings, inviting dignitaries from different quarters to deliver speech for unity and fraternity of the Nagas, etc.

In this movement, the TSL always works closely with the Naga Hoho, UNC, NPMHR, Naga Mother's Associations (NMA), NWUM and other student bodies working in the same field. As a result, the TSL, along with other women organisations like the NMA, the Watsu Mongdung (The Ao Women Organisation), etc. has gained great credibility as serious actors while initiating and furthering the peace process.(C.Joshua Thomas, Gurudas (eds.), 2002: 6).

The introduction of education and spread of Christianity by the Christian Missionary in the Ukhrul District have contributed tremendously in making the Tangkhuls in general and the Tangkhul women in particular more enlightened. Education gave the Tangkhul women the ability and courage to come out from within the four corners of the house and enabled them to take up various activities outside their home. At the same time, the embracement of Christianity by the Tangkhuls has inculcated in their mind the principle of equality between men and women. With this, the Tangkhul women were able to take up various church activities.

Their involvement in the church activities also serves as a training ground for active participation in other activities of socio-political importance. This also has significantly removed inhibitions on their part while participating in different aspects of public life and enhanced their self respect and self esteem. In this way, the Tangkhul women have been greatly benefited by the new religion and education that was introduced by the missionaries.

It was against the backdrop of such an environment that the Tangkhul women came forward and started addressing themselves to the pressing problems concerning their people at large. The formation of the Tangkhul women's organisation called as "East District Women Association" (EDWA) was a most significant example in this regard. Once the EDWA (which later got rechristened as the the TSL) emerged, it set into motion a tradition of Tangkhul women's involvement in a variety of issues concerning their people at large.

This tradition got manifested itself in a most remarkable way in their struggle to protect and promote the human rights of the people in the context of an armed conflict between the GoI and the underground Naga outfits, as well as in their active involvement in process of securing peace in context of the ongoing Indo-NSCN (IM) peace talks and for the reconciliation of different factions of the underground Naga outfits.

One could see a shift in the activities of the TSL from the year 1997. The year 1997 was historic for the Nagas. It was in this year that cease-fire between the Government of India (GOI) and NSCN (IM) began. After the agreement of cease-fire between the GOI and the NSCN (IM) took place, the TSL and the common Tangkhul women turned their attention to another issue without abandoning their role as a vanguard of the human rights of the people.

From the year 1997, the TSL in collaboration with the other Naga civil organisations like the Naga Hoho, United Naga Council (UNC) etc. began to involve in taking up initiatives for the promotion of peace and unity among all the Nagas against the backdrop of 'Indo-Naga' peace talk. The movement started to bring peace and unity among different sections of people and also for the amicable solution of the vexed Naga issue was joined by the common Tangkhul women as members of different civil society organisations as well as in their own individual capacity.

At the corporate level, the TSL joined in every initiative for peace organised by Naga Hoho, UNC, etc. The women societies within the churches also conduct fasting and prayer meetings for creating peace and unity among the Nagas. At the individual level many Tangkhul women also observe in their respective homes, prayer and fasting to bring peace in their land and for the early solution of the Naga issue which has created lots of hardship and sufferings for the Nagas.

Thus, from the year 1997 onward the Tangkhul women assumed a new role as a peace maker. In this work also the TSL and the common Tangkhul women adopted a non-violent method. The strategies they adopt include appeals to the different Naga underground outfits to maintain peace and unity among them; submitting memorandums to the Central Government for the peaceful and amicable solution of the vexed Naga problem; issuing press releases; organising peace rallies, prayer and fasting; sending representations to consultative meetings; etc.

Concluded ....

* Maireiwon Ningshen wrote this article which was published at Imphal Times

This article was webcasted on March 25 2021.

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