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E-Pao! Opinion - On integrity: Myth and reality

On integrity: Myth and reality

By: Nimai Ningthoujam *



It is heartening to learn that the Indo-Naga peace talk has reached an important stage which warrants immediate attention. Due regard is being given by both the parties keeping in mind the gravity of the problem by deciding to meet frequently to hammer out a solution. It is also encouraging to know the ongoing peace processes in different parts of the country.

In Jammu and Kashmir a credible peace process with various contending parties and organisation is moving forward with the completion of 2nd Round Table Conference. The modalities for talks with ULFA is already in place. The problem of the Maoists, the biggest insurgent organisation in South Asia seems to be heading for a moratorium in India also, as a result of the democratic revolution taking place in neighbouring Nepal.

Although inchoate and incomplete, one sees in these developments an Indian Govt, extremely weary of the unproductive military suppression tying its way out of the chakraviyu of deteriorating internal security problem. In fact, immediately after independence, the country has been reeling under this problem partly due to the faulty method of accession of the multifarious state into Indian Union and also due to avoidable administrative failure of successive Govts.

In fact that 80% of Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF) and more than 30% of the army (suppose to fight enemy outside) besides the State police forces among others, are pressed into service is evidence enough for the failure of the policy.

In 2005, Manmohan Singh mockingly told LK Advani during a debate in Parliament on the Presidential address that it was during his stewardship that Maoist spread from 55 district to 90! In the same vein one can say, as CM Ibobi Singh brings in more troops to the State, insurgent activities also increase by leaps and bound. On other words, when military suppression increases in arithmetic scale, insurgent activities increases in geometric proportion!

Now, the Central and State Govts have one beautiful chance to redeem itself from the past sins. But how one handle it, will be the million dollar question. The NSCN-IM for sure have eschewed their basic demand - sovereignty of the Nagas. It is understandable that NSCN-IM would be more keener than ever before to force the Centre to submit to their other demands a) Autonomy and b) Greater Nagaland.

After the shifting of goal post by NSCN-IM, the Centre on its part would be tempting enough to put the ball inside the post, over the defending keepers (here 3 States - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur). In fact, the myth that Nagas were/are independent community since time immemorial exploded with the giving up of demand of sovereignty.

The first issue (of autonomy) is more in line with the continuing process and theoretically and structurally more sound and sustainable within the federal framework. The second issue (Greater Nagaland) is absolutely untenable theoretically and unthinkable in terms of the consequence given the prevailing moods in the States. The issue is pregnant with far reaching consequences if the Centre fail to play its part of a responsible midwife.

Needless to maintain, it involves various contentious issues with various States. With the drumming up of the mood for Greater Nagaland by some section in Manipur, fear for the worse has gripped the State. Poor record of New Delhi's handling of problems in the region compounded with an overt easy clause of the Constitution (which allows alteration of State boundaries by a simple majority, without even consulting the affected States, if the Centre feels so) exacerbated their fear. The fear that they are going to loose their brothers who are very much a part of their consciousness, tradition, the valleys, hills and the soil.

A look at the root of their discontent is pertinent here. The theoretical underpinning of the comment is that Nagas are independent and homogenous (sic) communities, not under any rule in any period of history. And they are subjected to backwardness because of the oppressive rule of New Delhi and various State Govts.

As far as the case in Manipur is concerned, Nagas like any other ethnic group spread far and wide predominately in hills. without digging deep into the history and origin of the Nagas and its implications, it is well known that Nagas were an extensive phenomenon, encompassing various region of Indian sub-continent. written records provides unimpeachable, colourful evidence of the fact.

Coming back specifically to Manipur, we have different Naga tribe (not homogenous as NSCN-IM claims) who have been living with Meiteis as brothers from ancient times. Although, historical datas and archeology lacks pedagogic advancement, we have scores of living symbolism, practice and perform even today to substantiate the fact.

Few example could be taken up here. In Laiharaoba ceremonies, a microcosm for the creation of the universe, the Tangkhuls are regarded as indispensable part of it. The Mera Houchongba ceremony is celebrated to mark the parting of Nagas and Meiteis, who were together in the hills then. An instance to show how we develop from primitive to an advance stage. But one may note here the more important aspect of our history.

The social separation between various tribes in Manipur came in 17 century when Hinduism was forced on the people of Manipur by the fanatic king of Manipur. The religion brought all its paraphernalia -- good & bad. One of its evil, the caste system has a telling effect on our social set up.

Based on the foundation of division and inequality between man and man, it began to take its toll. The people who lapped up Hinduism were regarded as Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas according to convenience. The tribals in the hill, out of the reach of Hinduism were regarded as sudras or untouchables.

The process of division is complete when the Britishers, who ruled Manipur since 1891 onwards separated the administration of hills and valley, by entrusting the entire administration of hill territory under a single officer. This they did on ground that the hill people are not Manipuris and have entirely different customs and languages disregarding the fact that we are of the same stock and linguistic category.

British system of administration (of dividing hills and plain) was taken up amazingly by the Indian Constitution makers. The 5th Schedule in Indian Constitution provides for special administration of tribal areas consequently barring the people of plain to reside in hill. This acted as thin edge of the wedge by cutting the vertical links between the communities.

Caste system loaded the gun and British administration triggered the dichotomy effectively by blinding us to the realities. Therefore, the notion of 'hill and plain' is colonial hangover which we should do well to exorcise ourselves of.

Nothing is worse than a bad Government. comparison between CM Ibobi's Govt and rule of the early kings, although spread far across in dissimilar situations is not unthinkable. The monarchs imposed numerous extractive taxes like lallup, Chandan senkhai, Pothang Bekari, Pothang Senkhai etc. Due to the typical nature of the problems associated with hills - difficult terrains, lack of proper infrastructure, connectivity, lack of proper attention by the power that be, they suffered the most.

The people who reside not far away from the palace also pay their respective share of taxes but they were relatively better of. May I here say that it was precisely because of the institutional set up i.e absolute monarchy under which we were then, that people suffer. Discontent well founded.

Now a question that naturally arise is that even inspite of being in a democrative set up why are we still suffering? The answer lies in the sincerity of the resolve and commitment of the rulers, unfortunately, we as peoples failed to produce good leaders.

Astonishingly, the Chief Minister stated very often that he is not sure who is running the Govt an obvious reference to the disturbance by the undergrounds. Seeking an alibi for the catalogue of his Govt's failure this outrageously irresponsible statement has taken away every single drop of faith we have in this dispensation.

Will this man be in a position to defend the integrity of Manipur when he himself implicitly acquiesce in public in Senapati district (banner topling him as Welcome to South Nagaland). An appalling ignorance of his duty and Constitution.

People tend to reflect in social category. The Naga integration issue which began in a diffident note fructified into some sort of a movement partly because of the pathetic administrative negligence of the hill areas thereby seeking an alternative and partly because of the apprehension as well as the temptation of smaller communities being sandwich between bigger communities in a threating environment.

One may also add the pressure tactics of the NSCN-IM and its related organisations. Some of the tribes began to visualise a State of Nagas from domination and under-development.

And the romance of NSCN-IM catches their imagination. But let us not forget that there are many Naga tribe who disagrees with NSCN-IM. And inclusive dialogue of all tribes is essential for a real solution otherwise they are big and powerful enough to queer the pitch. They nurses the natural apprehension that they would be ignored once again by the major tribes in the process.

The official document published in 2004 by Nagaland state recognised 16 Naga Hoho and Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) put the figure at 42. Still NSCN (IM) in their website claimed 43 tribes as Nagas. The figure might rise in future.

The so-called Naga nationalism is a recent phenomenon, consisted of 'imagined communities'. They are bind by various ties of eternicity, cultural, linguistic, religion, most important of all psychology - real or imagined. If they are thinking of integration of Nagas then why only for the four States (Assam, AP, Nagaland, Manipur) why not bring all the Nagas all over the sub-constinent or throughout the globe of like the creation of Jewish State of Israel?

Will it be feasible? It is proper to whip up the idea of taking some body land? Or is it proper to think of development only for the Nagas in this modern society? Doesn't sound quite civil Mr Isak and Muivah. Moreover, looking for homogeneity or for a single identity in this stage of civilisation where so much of inter and intra mixing look place, will be a futile exercise like these Vishwa Hindu Parishad searching for.

The plea is for a policy of reconciliation, for the benefit of all. The civil societies who are thankfully very active in these State should take the initiative. We can think of a working formula, exchange programmes, reviving the old tradition of mixing together etc. For the Meiteis they should shed their illusion of invincibility. They have to be more concern towards the plight of the hill peoples.

They should throw the motion of superwity to the melting pot to regenerate a society based on equality and fraternity. This assumed significance in their modern society where most people are well aware of one's right and duties. Condescending attitudes must go. One wonder why the civil societies in the valley did not react against the Parbung mass rape case, including minors.

These questions need to be address squarely if we are sincere toward Manipur and its integrity.


* Nimai Ningthoujam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 16th, 2006


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