TODAY -

Naga, Kuki, Meitei and Panghal youths should overcome disturbing history and shun ethnic politics

L. B Singh *



Disturbing history and narrow ethnic politics led to hatred, violence and movement for disintegration, separate state, secession etc. It severely affected the development potential of the youths of the State.

The lives of many brilliant youths have been devastated and they could not complete their study or pursue for excellence in various fields. Therefore, the youths of the state should overcome disturbing history and shun narrow ethnic politics.

Dark Spot in the History.

The Meiteis, Nagas, Kukis and Panghals co-existed harmoniously for hundreds of years till the Meiteis converted themselves to Hinduism about 300 years back. Some Meiteis became orthodox Vaisnavs and treated the other ethnic groups as untouchable. It severely damaged the harmonious relation among the various ethnic groups in Manipur.

Meitei insurgency against the Hinduism started in 1930 and "Meitei Marup" was formed to restore the original religion. A large section of the Meiteis has reconverted back to "Sanamahi" and the remaining Meiteis have also come out of the narrow orthodox mindset.

Now, the Meiteis have realized their mistake and trying their best to restore good relation among the various ethnic groups. However, the Meiteis were blinded by the religious belief and there was no hatred campaign by the Meiteis against any ethnic community of Manipur.

Naga Movement in Manipur.

The Naga movement in Manipur did not come up indigenously from the native tribes of the State and it spread from Nagaland as the Government of India (GoI) could not curb the insurgency in the initial stage. It is mainly due to the propaganda of hatred and discontentment by the Naga insurgents. The Nagas of Manipur did not take part in the plebiscite of the Naga hill in 1951.

In 1963, Nagaland State was formed and the population of the State at that time was about 4 lakhs only. The unique special status provided by Article 371A even placed certain subjects in the State beyond the jurisdiction of the Indian Parliament as desired by the Nagas.

No other Indian State enjoys comparable "Special Status". The GoI has not conceded the statehood demands of many other tribes, including the Bodo of Assam, the Bhil tribe (combine population 169 lakhs) of Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra etc. The Government had shown exceptional consideration for the people of Nagaland.

A large number of the Nagas of Nagaland have now understood that the maximum the GoI can give is Statehood and no Indian State can get "Sovereignty". They have also realized that the GoI would not disintegrate three adjacent states to fulfil the aspiration of one State or one ethnic group. It would open the Pandora's Box in other states and may even affect the bilateral relation with the neighbouring country as the next demand would be the integration of the Naga inhabited areas of Myanmar.

The majority of the Indian criticized Pandit Nehru and Indian National Congress for allowing a separate "Flag and Constitution" to Kashmir. It was revoked on 05th August 2019. The GoI would never allow a separate "Flag and Constitution" to any state in the future and even a cultural flag has the potential for creating problems in the adjoining states. Therefore, large sections of the Nagas of Nagaland want peace and are ready to sign an honourable Peace Accord, which gives maximum possible concession within the Constitution of India.

Nagaland now started feeling the disadvantages of having additional tribes from the adjoining states without the prospect of integration of contiguous areas. In 2017, the Nagaland Government withdrew the indigenous tribe status of the Rongmei tribe and it is a clear warning sign to the other tribes from the adjoining states. Only the Naga born in a Naga family in Nagaland would be eligible for inclusion in the Register of Indigenous Inhabitant of Nagaland (RIIN) and some have even advocated for the inclusion of only the 14 original tribes of Nagaland.

A large number of the Nagas of Manipur sacrificed their lives; and endured extreme hardship and misery in the prolonged movement. The movement has severely affected the progress of Manipur and life of the people. It has also created hatred among the various ethnic groups and a deep divide between the hill and the valley.

However, the Meiteis consider the Nagas of Manipur and the Old Kuki tribes as their brothers due to the conversion of Meitei to Naga/Kuki or vice versa. A large number of the Naga and the Kuki youths are now heading many departments in the Government of Manipur and other private enterprises in the valley and the hill.

It is time for the Naga youths to overcome the disturbing history and carefully examine the wisdom of our ancestors who shared so much value and affinities among them. They may consider for concentrating their efforts to the place of their birth, Manipur, and work for the peace and prosperity of the State.

Naga-Kuki Conflicts.

The Meiteis, the Nagas and the Old Kuki tribes were the original native settlers and the indigenous people of Manipur. The New Kuki tribes migrated from Burma (Myanmar) to Manipur after 1830. However, out of the 16 Old Kuki tribes, 11 have been identified as Nagas by themselves or by the Federation of Haowmee (FoH). Now, the ratio of the population of the Old and the New Kuki tribe is about 30:70.

The Maharaja of Manipur and the British political agent allowed most of the New Kuki tribes to settle in the exposed frontier near Moirang (present day Churachandpur and Pherzerwal districts). The remaining New Kuki tribes were permitted to settle in the other hill districts and the Nagas claimed that some of them have settled in their land.

Many Kukis were employed in the Army of the Maharaja of Manipur; and the Kuki settlement provided buffer against the Burmese and the Nagas. It created conflict between the Naga and Kukis. In 1881-82 about 300 Nagas and Kukis were killed in various conflicts

Even on the sidelines of the important historical movements against the British like the Kuki Rebellion (1917-19) and the Heraka Movement led by Haipu Jadonang/Rani Gaidinliu (1930 to 1932); the Kukis targeted Zeliangrong Naga and vice versa. Rani Gaidinliu belonged to the Rongmei tribe, a sub-tribe of Zeliangrong Naga.

In the 1990s, ethnic conflict broke out between the Nagas and the Kukis in Manipur as the latter refused to pay land tax to the Nagas and due to the competition for the control of the Moreh town. More than 1000 people lost their lives and many villages were uprooted. The number of Kuki casualty was much higher than those of Naga and the Kuki termed it as ethnic cleansing for the creation of "Greater Nagaland". The Kukis then augmented their insurgent groups to protect themselves and demanded for the formation of a separate State of Kukiland.

The land dispute and ancient enmity were the main reason for the conflict. The Kuki National Assembly (KNA) had submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister in 1960 to form a "Committee of Land Enquiry Commission to settle the land problem of Manipur hills amicably". It would be essential for the long term peace and prosperity of all the ethnic communities to arrive at a consensus and constitute an independent "Land Commission" to examine the legitimate land rights of the all the ethnic groups.

The problems of the Naga, Kuki and Meitei can never be resolved by violence and hatred. Violence would lead to more violence. Therefore, peace and reconciliation is the most viable option to ensure safety and harmonious coexistence of the future generation.

Kuki Movement

The Thadou and the Hmar tribes belong to the New Kuki tribes and they constitute more than 60% of the total population of the Kukis in Manipur. The Kuki National Assembly (KNA) was formed mainly by the elite Thadou Kuki Chiefs in 1946 and demanded for the creation of a separate "Kuki State" within the Union of India. When it did not materialize, they supported the demand for the "Greater Mizoram" by the "Mizo Union" of Hmar tribe. However, the "Mizoram Peace Accord 1986" maintained the integrity of the adjoining States.

The Government of Manipur fulfilled one of the legitimate demands of the Kukis with the creation of new districts in 2016. However, some Kuki Chiefs/leaders are spreading hatred and creating fear of land alienation among the Kukis so that the youths continue to rally behind them. They are also pursuing populist narrow ethnic politics by protesting against the development of Moreh town to a modern international trade centre and a smart city.

Though 70% of the Kuki tribes are migrants, many of the Kuki youths are well qualified and they have the potential and capabilities to contribute immensely in the development of the State. The former US President Ronald Reagan once acknowledged the immense contribution of the brilliant minds of the immigrants to make America the greatest nation in the world.

Similarly, the Parsi community of India has contributed tremendously in the development of our Nation. It is time for the Kuki youths come out of the grip of the narrow ethnic politics and work for the overall development of Manipur.

Forcible Merger of Manipur with India.

The people born during the time of the merger of the State with India grew up learning about the honesty of Mahatma Gandhi and the bravery of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Bir Tikendrajit. The people were also very proud of the bravery of their forefathers who conquered the Kabaw valley and fought against the might of the British in the Anglo- Manipur War 1891.

However, by the early 70s, there was widespread discussion about the forcible merger of Manipur with India. It was emotionally very disturbing for the youths to learn that the Maharaja Bodhachandra was kept under house arrest in Shillong by the Governor of Assam and threatened him by using various methods to sign the merger agreement. Finally the Maharaja signed the merger agreement on 21st September 1949 under the state of duress.

I was emotionally disturbed and could not concentrate on studies. Further, in view of the rampant corruption which was prevailing at that time in the State, I had given up the hope for any Government job. As a result, I lost one year in B Sc 2nd year.

One old school teacher understood the state of my mind and explained how the Meiteis (Ningthoujas) took about fourteen centuries to subdue all the other six clan territories in the valley and another about 200 years to forcibly bring the tribal villages in the hill districts under the Kingdom.

He also explained that most of the communities in India, including the Aryans were invaders of the country at one time and the British rule enabled merger of a very large number of the Princely states to form our country.

He advised me to think about my future and for the well being of the State. Today, the quality of education in the State is much better and the youths are much better than what I was in the 70s. The Meitei youths should try to overcome the above very sad history of forcible merger; and they can excel not only in sports and physical activities but also in various fields in India and aboard.

Conclusion.

Every ethnic community has some disturbing history. However, the youths should not succumb to it and divert their mind from pursuing excellence in various fields. Narrow ethnic politics lead to hatred and violence. The youths should shun selfish leader who depends on narrow ethnic politics for their survival. Reconciliation is the most viable option to ensure peace, prosperity and harmonious coexistence of all the ethnic groups in Manipur.

Today Naga, Kuki, Panghal and Meitei youths are highly qualified in various fields. If the youths can overcome the disturbing history and work together without diverting their efforts in narrow ethnic politics, it is possible to bring everyone in the State above the poverty line within a very short time and the state can progress much faster than the other states in the region.

The ethnic politics also restricts the vision of an individual; and therefore, limits one's potential. The potential of every Naga, Kuki, Panghal and Meitei youths would be enhanced to the maximum level, if every individual has the overall vision and thinks of the welfare of all the communities and the overall inclusive development of the entire State.

It would promote not only peace and harmony among the various ethnic groups, but also ensures optimum progress and development of each and every community.


* L. B Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a Retired Captain, NM, Indian Navy and can be contacted at bimollaishram(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on August 28 2020.



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