Manipur a mirror of Nagaland

Robert A. Silverstein *

It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the newly elected member of the Lok Sabha for the Outer Manipur constituency, Dr. Lorho S. Pfoze, in his maiden speech before the members of the Lok Sabha on June 25th, made clear that he intends to represent only the Naga members of his constituency, and no one else.

In his approximately five minute’s speech, he thanked the Government of India (GoI) for its work in attempting to solve the Indo-Naga problem, mentioning, specifically, that the NSCN (IM) has worked hard with the GoI for the last 22 years, and, following the Framework Agreement of three years ago (now almost four), it expects the GoI to pursue these talks to the end. He says, in part, “the Nagas in the Northeast look with great hope” to the Centre for a successful conclusion to the talks.

The problem is this: the demands of the NSCN (IM) (hereinafter IM) are contradictory to the demands of many of his other constituents, more specifically, the Kuki people. The IM talks of a “South Nagalim,” and although there has always been some ambiguity as to what territory that consisted of, we now have the answer.

On June 25th, coincidental with Pfoze’s speech, the representatives of the Kuki people met with the GoI’s representatives for their own talks, which have been going on for years. In an article in an Imphal based newspaper dated June 25th, titled, “7th round of ‘Political Dialogue’ with Kuki militants held in Delhi,” the talks were discussed.

The article informs the public what groups were representing the Kuki people: the “Kuki National Organization (KNO) and [the] United People’s Front (UPF)....” They met with the interlocutor for the GoI, A.B. Mathur, and KNO spokesperson Dr. Seilen Haokip, said afterwards, “The dialogue is progressing very positively.”

The Kuki community has been demanding a “Kuki Territorial Council,” modelled on the Bodo Territorial Council, with the hope of improving on it.

In response to the said report of the ongoing negotiations between representatives of the Kuki people and the GoI, the IM issued a press release. It is dated July 1st and is titled, “Naga people will not tolerate attempts to carve out Kuki homeland from Naga territories.”

Sections of the article paraphrase the IM press release. But a verbatim copy of it appears in the Eastern Mirror, titled, “GPRN: Nagas Can Never Part with Their Land.” The Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland/Nagalim (GPRN) represents the IM in this press release, as it always does. It is important that the Manipuri and Naga people understand exactly what the IM is saying.

It describes the Kuki tribe in Manipur as a “nomadic people,” as refugees “from the Chin Hills in Burma,” who were brought to the Manipur area by a British political agent “to use as mercenary forces in fighting against the sovereign independent Naga villages....” The IM says, “But, on what kind of historical basis the Kukis are trying to build ‘Kuki homeland’ in Naga country? They may have every right to do so in CHIN HILLS, but not here in Naga areas....”
(Emphasis added.)

Be clear on what the IM means. It means that, since the only place the Kukis have a right to build a “Kuki homeland” is in Burma (now Myanmar), it is clearly saying that ALL of Manipur is the birthright of the Nagas, except for the valley area where the only other indigenous tribe in Manipur lives but for the Nagas (according to the IM), the Meitei tribe.

The Kuki leadership denies everything that the IM has said about the historical record of the Kukis, above. The IM has a well-earned reputation for lying. If the IM were challenged to produce the “hundreds of documents in support of” for their so-called history of the Kukis and of the Nagas in Manipur, those records would never be produced because they do not exist.

The IM, allegedly originating as a Maoist revolutionary organization, is no such thing and never has been. It is, as you all know, simply a bunch of corrupt people. But it has adopted one tactic the Maoist revolutionaries are famous for, that is, lying to your face whenever it feels it is necessary to do so, with confidence in the knowledge that everyone is too terrified to challenge them in the first place.

The IM goes on to do what it does best: threaten violence against anyone or any institution that disagrees with its view of history and its demands.

Related to its claim that all of the Outer Manipur constituency (that Pfoze is supposedly representing) belongs to it, the IM says, the Nagas “can never part with their land, which is their inheritance from God....” It continues, “...Naga people will never allow and tolerate any attempt by the Kukis to carve out Kuki homeland from Naga territories in collusion with the Government of India and Manipur government....”

It is this sort of contemptuous threat that it spits in the face of the GoI in the Indo-Naga talks, as you all know. The IM’s philosophy of “compromise,” is that the IM gets a sovereign Naga nation and Nagalim and the GoI gets a thank-you and peace, because the IM will be forgiving enough, in its beneficence, not to release its soldiers in Camp Hebron to attack the GoI and will not head back to China for training and weapons. And the GoI should be happy with that.

Please, my oh-so-wise mailing-list members, keep in mind that this article, word for word, was published in Nagaland, as I mentioned above, in the Eastern Mirror.

For the IM to get away with these threats and contempt for the GoI is to encourage the Naga nationalist fanatics in Nagaland, who still exist in substantial numbers, to continue dreaming of Nagalim, at the expense of the Kuki tribe and other tribes in Manipur, which, if the IM had its way, would be intimidating all of the Kukis in the way it does in the Tangkhul area of Manipur, and in your own Nagaland, where it is despised and feared by all of its own Naga people.

The IM ends its press release this way: “Let it be known to the whole world that the Nagas will never part with their God given portion of land and defend it eternally against any aggressors big or small....”

The IM, in its delusional grandeur, thinks that, with an army of 5,000 soldiers, armed with small arms and capable of being wiped out in a day by the Indian military, it can tell the world, the GoI, the Kuki and other tribes in Manipur, and all the Nagas in Nagaland, that it will get what it wants or others will die.

And, in its delusional and violent world, the last thing the IM needs is the constant assistance of the only Lok Sabha member, Lorho S. Pfoze, representing the Kukis in Manipur.

The Kuki tribe has been harassed, intimidated, and murdered by IM members for decades, Kuki tribes have been intimidated and coerced into joining the Naga community, under threat of extermination, and the IM is a menace to anyone or any institution who or which has the backbone to think differently than it does.

What I described above, the obsequiousness of the member of the Lok Sabha representing the Kukis of Manipur, is mirrored in the obsequiousness of the Nagaland member of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, both pushing the GoI for a successful conclusion to the Indo-Naga talks, but not having the courage to point out the obvious: the IM is blind, or just delusional, to the clear statements that the Naga people are NEVER getting a sovereign Naga nation, that any settlement will be under the Indian Constitution, and that Nagalim will never be mandated, by threats, god, or in any other way by the IM, but will be addressed under the Indian Constitution with the participation of all the states concerned.

What is happening now in Manipur is a mirror of what has been happening here for years, with this difference: the Kukis are willing to stand up to the IM, and the Naga people in Nagaland and Manipur (and perhaps the other two states involved, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam) are not.

* Robert A. Silverstein wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a Vietnam War veteran. He lives in Albany, New York. He can be reached at lil1914harry1912(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 12 2019.

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