Has the Govt. of India Lied to the Naga People, then?

The statement in the Lok Sabha on 19th August ’10, by the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram that the Govt. of India rules out any move to alter the boundary of the states in the North-East region to ACCOMMODATE the demand for ‘Greater Nagalim,’ is but a fitting example of the left hand of the UPA II not knowing what its right hand does. While the GOI is free to use its options in governing the country evaluating the consequences, its actions are expected to be within the parameters fairness, rationality and due protocol. If the statements were made at a press conference it would have been bad enough but having made the statement on the floor of the house he surely knows the total ramifications of his action. P. Chidambaram knows he treads dangerous grounds and is well experienced on the fact that loose talk from insulated high seats can cause tragedy at the ground level .While replying to discussion on the re-imposed economic blockade in Manipur there appear to be little reason to pre-empt the ongoing Indo-Naga peace talks, and make a policy statement on the floor of the parliament, against the spirit in which the peace talks are being held presently. Much because the Naga peace talks is also the Government of India agenda. More because the matter was still under negotiation with the Government of India. On 19th August ’10, P. Chidambaram represented the GOI .

The Home Minister is well aware that ceasefire declaration and the subsequent peace talks were being held a) at the Prime Ministers level. b) in a third country, and c) without pre-conditions. Though the conditions have been softened over the years due to the good rapport between the negotiators, the three guiding principles remain intact. The proper and honourable way to completely rubbish the on-going peace talks would have been to, a) first call-off the ceasefire with the Naga groups, b) unilaterally withdraw from the peace talks, and then c) make the declaration in Parliament or elsewhere.

The question here is not whether Nagas are to be united or not, the question here is why the GOI should serve an ultimatum on its own prestige and sincerity. The question here is not whether the Naga peace talks are ejected or not but how the Government of India really looks at the the much flaunted peace talks offers made across the country where peoples movements exists much for the same reasons, be it Kashmir, the Northeastern states or the Maoist areas of central India. The Indo-Naga peace talks are going on for the entire world to see but after the Home Minister’s statement in parliament, the questions in the minds of the people is – has the GoI fooled the Naga People and the whole world for all these years? Is it such that the GOI had never intended to keep its word as far as peace talks were concerned right from the beginning?

Chidambaram talks of “the pluralistic character of states that cannot be wished away”. What the he unfortunately does not realize is that all Naga area district headquarters and townships are miniature India’s where many communities co-exist peacefully. On “honour, dignity and equal rights” in Manipur state – the less said the better. On 28th August 1948, four persons were shot to death by Manipur Rifles exactly at the place where two students were shot dead by the Manipur Police commandoes on 6th May 2010. The meitei – Naga divide/conflict started more than 200 years back from the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826. The Nagas have time and again tried to swallow the bone of the meitei promises of “honour, dignity and equal rights” but have always ended up with lacerated throats and nothing else. So the H.M’s offer, passed on through meitei hands is not likely to serve any real purpose.

The statements that it will be ‘inconceivable that we break-up the states’ appear to be escapist politics and tantamount to saying we are not prepared to set things right or let justice prevail– let the situation continue. We don’t mind. His assertion of “no question of altering the integrity of the state of Manipur” he tries to imply that the political boundary of Manipur is sacrosanct. By that yard-stick then maybe no boundary disputes exist in the country between the states nor border disputes with neighbouring countries. However, the statement was in stark contrast to the press statement Shri. Pranab Mukherjee the then Defence Miniter of India made on the first of December 2006, where he went on the say “in the course of the settlement of Indo-China boundary dispute, the territorial integrity of Arunachal Pradesh may have to be compromised”. That he went on, less than two months later to receive the Padma Vibhusahm on 26th Jan 2007 is altogether another matter. It was not the territorial integrity of Arunachal Pradesh but that of India vis-à-vis China – between sovereign countries. Within the country at best it will be boundary disputes between neighbouring states which every state in the NE has with its neighbouring states. The issue of territorial integrity of a state within the country did not arise when Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal were created, simply because it does not arise. However, the Government of India, appear to have different ways of dealing with the same problem with different people in different parts of the country.

The local administration of tribal areas by the tribals granted by the Sixth Schedule amendment to the constitution was whittled down by the majority Meitei Government (40 reserved meitei assembly seats in the house of 60) to a loud sounding nothing. It was also kept in abeyance for the last 20(twenty) years. It must be appreciated that the Union Home Minister realises that the truncated caricature of the Sixth Schedule amendment granting the autonomous district councils is known as the Naga Autonomous District councils in Manipur It is unique in the entire country.

The socio political structure in the sate of Manipur is built like a Pyramid. The valley area of the state, (25% landmass 70% population) stands right at the top. All development activities, funds, educational institutions, medical facilities, markets infrastructure, sports complexes, everything you-name-it, is located in the valley area, the top of the pyramid and nothing percolates down to the Nagas who are at the bottom. Sometimes it is as though the hills areas are called part of Manipur just because two lifelines passes through Naga territory. These lifelines feed the whole of Manipur state and not only Imphal. In every economic blockade the worst hit are not the meitei people of the valley but the hill people of the six hill districts. All the godowns, wholesellers- government and private, petrol and fuel depots, all buffer and reserve stocks of all essential commodities are stored at Imphal. From Imphal these goods are collected/dispatched to the hill areas on daily- weekly-monthly basis depending on the goods. During economic blockades this transfer to the hill areas are completely stopped and all the quota for the hills are retained as the reserve stock for the valley. In Manipur, the oppressor have become the victim and the victims have become the oppressor. And the rest of the country realizes that the hill areas are inhabited only when economic blockade is called on the two highways NH 39 & 53.

Now it is upto the Prime Minister of India to make a statement on the same floor of the House on the status and life of the Naga Peace talks. The Prime Minister have to convince the people that his government had not lied to the Nagas , the Indian nation and the world at large. The denied people in the war zones across the country need to know and gauge the sincerity of the Government at the centre. They need to know whether the government really seeks peace sincerely or is not so adverse to use treachery and lies to suppress the rights of the oppressed indigenous tribals and alienate them from their land and resources to the advantage of majority advanced communities in the neighbourhood. Whether the Government really means to protect the indigenous tribes so that they may best preserve their traditions and customs, their lores and ways of life, their land and resources or whether they are out to annihilate the tribals of the land. Yes, the Prime Minister of the land owes it to the other people of India and the Naga people especially those living in the present state of Manipur an explanation on the stand of his Government in the light of what has been stated by his Home Minister on the floor of the Lok Sabha on 19th August 2010.

Puni Modoli
Former president, UNC

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