Th Muivah's Visit to Somdal Will Propel Peace

Dr Yaronsho Ngalung *

Everyone wants peace as against conflict and bloodshed. The people in the North East have confronted and endured with several forms of violence perpetrated by the Indian security forces on the pretext of maintaining the law and order. Different resistance movements, starting with the Naga people were met with various draconian laws, such as, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, National Security Act, 1980 etc.

Due to virtual army rule in the North East, several thousand lives have been lost, uncountable gross violations of human rights have been committed against the innocent civilians, many women have been raped, many have become orphans and many do not have sons, daughters, husbands and wives.

Nevertheless, the people's struggles for their rights and freedom refused to die down in the face of such brute force. In the process, there was a certain change of policy on the part of the Government of India (GoI) approaching various conflicts. The Indian leadership and the Army Generals realised the fatal mistakes of resorting only to military measure to resolve these conflicts. It was realised that the issue is of political and historical in nature, and as such, the need for political dialogue was felt.

With this realisation, the Indian Government started sending feelers for peace dialogue to the leaders of the freedom fighter. It was in the early 1990s that the Indian Government sent out its feelers for peace dialogue to the Naga leaders which were responded positively. Consequently, ceasefire was signed between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) on August 1, 1997.

Since then more than 60 rounds of political talks have been held to resolve and transform the six decades old Indo-Naga political conflict. As an enabling stepping stone towards honourable negotiated political settlement, the two entities viz, GoI and NSCN had an official understanding of facilitation of a visit by the ATO KILONSER (Prime Minister), Th Muivah to Somdal Naga village mainly to attend the fasting prayer programme between May 4 and 7, 2010, and to hold public meetings and interactions in various Naga areas.

However, the proposed visit has been delayed due to deliberate anti-peace approach of the O. Ibobi Singh's Manipur Government by resorting to reign of terror against the peaceful protesters at Mao Gate on May 6, 2010, where two students were brutally shot death while more then 100 men, women and children were seriously injured due to indiscriminate firing and physical torture and assault by the notorious Manipur security forces. Those critically injured persons were hospitalised at Naga Hospital in Kohima, Nagaland State. Many villagers at Mao Gate and adjacent areas fled to Nagaland due to the fear of recurrence of such incident of State terrorism by the misguided Manipur security personnel.

The question is, why does the Manipur Govt adopted such an anti-peace approach when the Govt of India and the Nagas are giving their efforts to solve one of the oldest running conflicts in the world? Is it not a double standard policy on the part of Manipur Govt to talk of peace while adopting antagonistic step against the "journey of peace" by the Naga leader to his native village and various Naga areas.

In the opinions of O. Ibobi Singh and his Cabinet, there is no ceasefire in Manipur and that Th Muivah's visit should not be allowed. Moreover, they are immaturely apprehensive that if Th Muivah sets his foot into Somdal and Naga areas, then Manipur will be disintegrated, and there will be social tension. In more or less the same line of presumptuousness and apprehensiveness, the Imphal-based civil society like United Committee Manipur stated that it does not have objection to Th Muivah's visit provided he does not speak about the political rights of the Nagas.

The fact of the matter, however, is that it is not Th Muivah who will bring about disintegration of Manipur, rather it is the Manipur Government and the valley based civil societies which will be responsible for having initiated steps to disintegrate Manipur. Manipur Government and valley-based civil societies love only the lands and territories which belong to others while making the recently termed Manipur integrity as a rallying point among the valley people. However, it is very sad to point out that they do not have that same love and concern towards the people of the hills as it could be easily observed from their behaviours and actions from time to time.

The tribals have always been discriminated by the majority when it comes to political rights and material benefits in Manipur. Majority community has already achieved 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution with the support of the Nagas and other tribal communities. However, when it comes to 6th Schedule demand by the tribals, the majority community has deliberately shown its indifferent and chauvinistic attitude and failed to support the aspirations of the tribals. Moreover, Ibobi Singh has miserably failed to resolved varied problems including the Economic Blockade launched by ANSAM since April 11 against the enforcement of the 3rd amendment of Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 2008 in the present form.

However, he is so adamant as to accept the demand for rectification and revision of the 3rd amendment of the Act simply because he knew that his Government enjoys the majority in the Assembly, and hence decided to go ahead with the elections without heeding the voices and grievances of the tribals. Why is Ibobi not willing to listen to the democratic voices of the tribals if he considers the Nagas and other tribals as citizens of Manipur? ANSAM would like the State to provide better provisions of the Indian Constitution.

What is the reason of Ibobi for not wanting to grant better and greater autonomy to the tribals. What is his intention to forcibly implement the 3rd amendment of the Act when it is being resisted by the people? It is everyone's knowledge that the present Act does not safeguard the rights of the tribals for which Naga Frontal Organisations are right to club the present Act as anti-tribal.

The situation has been worsening due to the counter blockade launched by the Meitei civil societies since May 8. The UCM's 'Public Emergency' declaration has created fear psychosis among the citizens as to the intension of declaring such an emergency in the midst of the total breakdown of the state system. A press release of some organisations has stated that a "day light-highway-thief" is being committed by some Meitei by snatching away meat, fish, vegetables and other items in the state highways.

However, the state security forces and Ibobi's Government are turning blind eye to this every day happening at the state highways, which could be interpreted as an act of encouragement to them. To the Naga organisations, Manipur Government has never been for the Nagas. Events after events, it is clearly observed that the state Government is bias against not only the Nagas but also to all the tribals. It has become very clear that Manipur Government is treating various communities differently which otherwise is supposed to treat them all equally. It may not be wrong to point out that Manipur Government and UCM are working hand in glove for some hidden agendas.

The policy and activities of the Manipur Government and the valley civil societies hardly encourages the feeling of oneness. The valley based civil societies have also been demanding the repeal of the dreaded AFSPA. They have been protesting against the killing of Manorama Devi in 2004 by the Indian security forces. In the recent past, students' careers were badly affected by the bandh called by Meitei civil societies against Ibobi's Government for killing Mr. Sanjit in fake encounter on July 23, 2009 by the Manipur Police Commandos in Imphal.

These groups of civil societies have been vociferously stating that these killings are gross violations of human rights of those who have been killed. However, it is ironical on the part of these groups of civil societies to have remained mute spectators when two Naga Students were mercilessly shot death and more than 100 Nagas were fired upon and atrocities committed against the innocent civilians by the Manipur state security forces at Mao Gate on May 6, 2010.

The pertinent question to the UCM is, does it have separate definition of human rights for the Meiteis and the Nagas who were killed by the Indian and Manipur security forces? Is it not a double standard adopted by the valley civil societies in regard to the issue of human rights of the people? It would be a feudal thinking on the part of UCM and other civil societies that human rights are only for the majority community.

From the above discussion we can rightly say that it is not Th. Muivah who will disintegrate Manipur, but it is the Manipur Government and the Meitei civil societies which will be responsible for disintegrating the state. Because Somdal Naga village in Ukhrul district is temporarily under Manipur administrative set up. And, everyone knows that Honourable Th. Muivah, the Ato Kilonser is from Somdal.

If at all Manipur Government and Meitei civil societies are matured enough and serious about Manipur integration, then, instead of adopting antagonistic approach to the proposed visit of Th. Muivah to his native place, they should have politically welcomed him with red carpet. They should have initiated a people-to-people dialogue to bridge the misunderstanding between the Meiteis and the Nagas. They should have warmly invited Th. Muivah for Meitei-Naga delicious food dinner together in Imphal where they could have the chance for raising their grievances and concerns.

The Meitei civil societies have even refused the invitation of the Coordination Committee of the Naga Civil Society for a people-to-people dialogue which was proposed to be held in Guwahati. Instead of such diplomacy for better relationship between the people, the Manipur Government unleashed its terror by sending misguided security personnel to Mao Gate to kill the Nagas which had greatly grieved and hurt the sentiments of the Naga people. And, instead of condemning the human rights violation of the Nagas by the Manipur security forces, the UCM declared "Public Emergency" against the interest of the people.

Such acts and behaviours of the Manipur State and Meitei civil societies seldom help integrating the people within the present boundary of Manipur emotionally, politically and socially. Instead of winning the hearts and minds of the Nagas, the Manipur State' terrorism has pushed the Nagas to the extreme of no return. Manipur Government is responsible for the present tense situation at Mao Gate and other Naga areas. And, the disunity and disharmony created by the Manipur Government is the beginning of disintegration of Manipur because only love and craving for lands without true love and concern for the tribal people negate the verbal statement that people of the hills and the valley are one and should live together as one.

The problem is compounded by the bias reporting and analysis of the media at national as well as at local levels. Some newspapers and electronic media have tried their best to dilute different issues by reporting that the proposed visit of Th Muivah has caused the Economic Blockade at NH-39 and 53. However, the fact of the matter is that Economic Blockade is being launched by ANSAM since April 11 against the imposition of ADC elections on the tribals. The imposition of Economic Blockade by ANSAM has nothing to do with the proposed visit of Th Muivah. The NDTV reports regarding the Mao Gate incident project the peaceful protesters as NSCN (IM) supporters exclusively instead of reflecting the support rendered by the masses to a leader who stood for their aspiration.

The NETV has also reported erroneously that the gun firing was as a result of snatching AK-47 rifles from the security forces by the non violent passive resisters, instead of the preemptive display of terror on the part of the Manipur police commandos, to scuttle peaceful movement through provocation, threat and ultimate violence. The PTI report which appeared in The Hindu and other leading Delhi based newspapers has stated that 'those killed were due to stampede'.

It can be easily observed that the media reflection has been to a large extent manipulated and infiltrated by anti-Naga elements to paint the other side of fact. Even the local media in Manipur have not reported positively about the visit. Instead of ethical journalism for unbias reporting of the issues, the local media always tend to side with the majority community. It is also very sorry state of affairs to mention here that the national media are not sensitive enough to the diverse nature of Manipur. The National media has the habit of listening only to the voice of the valley as if this voice is sufficiently representative and incorporative of all communities in Manipur.

Be that as it may, the proposed visit of Ato Kilonser, Th. Muivah has nothing to do with Manipur law and order problem. His visit has also nothing to do with communal strife. He has come to visit his village mainly for annual fasting prayer and also public meetings and interactions with the Naga people. He does not come for war with anybody. He wants to visit Naga people because he knows the people are the foundation of the movement for rights and identity. Knowing his intension for sincere approach to bring peace between India and the Nagas, the GOI has no objection to his tour programmes in the Naga areas in the North East, though sincerity on the part of the GOI is another story.

The Indo-Naga political talks are in the 13th year running and democratisation of the peace process through interactions and participation of the people in understanding the issues is a welcome step. Th. Muivah is yet to arrive his village but his coming and stationing at Wiswema village has certainly increased the emotional integration and deeper bonding among the Nagas. Ibobi's Manipur Government is in a bad shape regarding emotional integration of the people in his state because he does not care about the lives of the Nagas. Instead bringing the Nagas nearer to him his misguided security personnel have chased away through the barrel of guns.

The Manipur Government decision to ban entry of Muivah into his village is a sham, most irrational, anti-Naga approach and anti-peace. However, the Nagas will still stand their ground and fight for their rights and freedom until they achieve what is due to them. As a right thinking people we should not be a stumbling to the peace process. Once there is peace between the GOI and the Nagas, it will have a wide ranging positive impact on the North East region.

A solution should be worked out to pave the way for peace, human rights and justice. It is hopeful that Dr. Manmohan Singh, honourable Prime Minister of India and P. Chidambaram, honourable Home Minister will not backtrack the Government's visa given for the visit. Th. Muivah's intention to visit Naga areas and interact with his people is to bring peace, cooperation and understanding not only for the Nagas but also for all in the North East. And, as such we can rightly say that, Th. Muivah's proposed visit is to generate and propel peace in the strife-torn North Eastern region. Therefore, opposing such initiative for regional peace is uncalled for from any section at this period of history.

* Dr Yaronsho Ngalung wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on May 29, 2010.

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