The Hon’bleChief Minister of Nagaland, Shri Neiphiu Rio and the Hon’ble President of the Naga People’s Front(NPF) Shri Dr. Shurhozelie Liezietsu had created history when they formally launched the NPF Manipur State Unit on 28th May, 2011 at Senapati. The launching of the NPF Unit in Manipur sector can be considered as a significant event mainly for two reasons. First, the arrival of Shri Neiphiu Rio at Senapati was a diplomatic victory of the NPF over the Congress-led Manipur Government. Second, it fulfilled the long cherished dream of the Southern Nagas. This write-up is a humble attempt to understand the significance of the opening of NPF Unit in South Nagalim.
Need for a Regional Party
The Nagas of South Nagalim have been struggling very hard to achieve Naga Integration under the banner of United Naga Council (UNC). The UNC has launched a series of movements in pursuance of its political demands: (1) Non-cooperation movement against the Manipur Government (2) Boycott of the Manipur District Council election (3) Severance of ties with the Manipur Government and (4) Demand for an Alternative Arrangement outside the purview of Manipur administration. In addition to these, the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) had also initiated a drastic move seeking affiliation of the schools in the Naga areas of Manipur to Nagaland Board. But no positive response is forthcoming from the Government of India. Similarly, the Nagaland Government is also not fully prepared to shoulder its share of the responsibilities. Civil society movement alone has not been able to induce the government to enact any legislative measures in favour of the Nagas. This is precisely due to the absence of a strong political party that can plead for the rights of the Nagas in the State Assembly and the Parliament.
The ineffectiveness of the civil society movement has convinced the informed quarters of the exigency to take the struggle of the Nagas to the Parliament and the State Assembly. With this understanding, the Nagas of South Nagalim had extended support to the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) with the hope that it would be able to fulfil their political aspirations. But the PDA was unable to buildits mass base by mobilising the people at the grass root level. That was primarily the reason why it fizzled out into oblivion. The six independent MLAs who returned to the Manipur State Assembly with the blessing of the UNC also miserably failed to exercise the mandate assigned to them. They have not spoken out even a single word to defend the rights of the Nagas on the floor of the State Assembly. They had also remained silent when the Manipur State Assembly passed the controversial Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act by amending the earlier Autonomous District Council Act. Again, when the Naga people asked them to resign from their post following the ‘Mao Incident’ of May 6, 2010, they had adopted a very ambiguous stand. Though the elected Naga representatives had tendered their resignation, their status is not clear even today. Their resignation was nothing more than a mere act of ceremonial formality which was meticulously stage-managed under the compulsion of circumstances. People have reasons to believe that the six independent MLAs have a tacit understanding with the Ibobi Government and this is borne out by their day-to-day activities. Their political opportunism remains exposed.
The plight of the Nagas appears quite uncertain especially in view of the lack of sincerity and commitment on the part of the Government of India to resolve the protracted Naga issue. A keen observation reveals that Naga integration still remains a farfetched dream even after decades of intense struggle. If the past and the present are any indications, the Nagas may not be able to achieve integration, or for that matter independence, even after fifty years from now. The GoI does not have the political guts to formally declare ceasefire in all the Naga Areas, leave aside the ideas of ‘special federal relationship’, ‘shared sovereignty’ or ‘supra state body’. It is pertinent to recall how the Bangkok Agreement was unilaterally rolled back by the GoI under pressure from the belligerent communities by completely ignoring the sentiment of the Nagas. It may also be mentioned that the GoI could not prevail upon the Manipur Government to let Uncle Th. Muivah visit his native village at Somdal in Ukhrul District.
Now, the question is; why does the GoI always relent to the pressure of the Manipur State Government? The answer is not far to seek. The Nagas constitutes only a microscopic few in the Manipur Legislative Assembly with only 10 or 11 seats out of the total 60 seats. What is more unfortunate is the fact that there is no unity among the Naga representatives with most of them owing allegiance to the Congress Party. Obviously, there is no one to argue for the legitimate cause of the Nagas on the floor of the State Assembly whenever any issue emerges. The Nagas in Manipur have not been able to make their presence felt in the state politics in the context of Naga integration or Naga peace process. The prevailing political situation in Manipur, therefore, calls for the establishment of a strong hill-based regional party. Such necessity has arisen largely on account of the fact that the Naga MLAs who are in the national parties, particularly the Congress Party, are not in a position to plead for the rights of the Nagas due to the existence of party whip.
Congress Party and Naga Integration
As a matter of fact, it has become increasingly difficult to work for the cause of the Nagas within the Congress Party because of its stringent anti-Naga policy. There is no democratic space to discuss anything relating to Naga Integration within the Congress Party contrary to what was agreed earlier between the MPCC and the UNIC (United Naga Integration Council) way back in 1972. When the UNIC was merged with the MPCC, it was agreed upon that the Congress Party would not oppose Naga integration movement as anti-party, anti-national, anti-state and unconstitutional activity.
However, the Congress Party and the Congress-led State Government of Manipur under the Chief Ministership of Shri O. Ibobi Singh have been scheming to derail the legitimate cause of the Nagas. The obstructionist and confrontationist policy of the Congress Government that culminated in the “May 6 Mao Incident” in which two students lost their lives smacks of majoritarian chauvinism and communal hegemony. Even those Naga leaders like Shri Rishang Keishing who was a signatory to the above Agreement and Shri Gaikhangam who is the President of MPCC remain mute spectators to the repressive rule of the Congress Party.
The Naga Areas of Manipur are witnessed to extensive militarisation under the Congress Rule. Deployment of IRBs and the Manipur Police Commandos in Naga Areas has resulted in rampant violation of Human Rights. The Congress Government is determined to suppress the democratic movement of the Nagas through application of brute forces. The systematic use of state forces by the Congress Government against the Nagas in the present state of Manipur is nothing but state sponsored terrorism. Today, Manipur has become the “Prison House” of diverse ethnic groups each struggling to protect its own identity and rights in the face of ruthless state repression. And the Congress Government is the one that rules this “Prison House” with an iron hand. How could one be a party to such a repressive regime?
The Congress-led government is hell bent on denying the tribals their democratic rights which have long been overdue. The Autonomous District Council election had not been held for the last 20 years. In fact, the tribals had boycotted the ADC election demanding extension of the Sixth Schedule to the Hills of Manipur. Ironically, far from fulfilling the political aspiration of the tribals for more autonomy, the Congress Government had made a mockery of democracy by frequently amending the Autonomous District Council Act thereby completely stripping of its autonomy. The super imposition of the District Council election in the Hills in general and in the Naga Areas in particular was a clear sign of ignoring the will of the Nagas. It was also a part of the government’s divisive policy to drive a wedge amongst the tribals. Therefore, as long as the Congress Party remains in power, the Nagas or for that matter, the tribals of Manipur will never attain real autonomy.
Dawn of a New Era
The people of South Nagalim have been longing for a strong regional political party for quite a long time as they feel that the struggle of the Nagas needs to be elevated to the political level. Therefore, the launching of the NPF Manipur Unit was heartily welcome by the people of South Nagalim considering it as a mark of heralding a new era. The Southern Nagas can now see a new ray of hope in the NPF. The NPF is the right party at the right time.
The national political parties have completely failed to fulfill the political aspirations of the tribal people. Under the circumstances, regional party like the Naga People’s Front (NPF) remains as the only political party that can fulfil the democratic aspirations of the tribal communities, particularly the Nagas. Only a regional party can fulfil regional aspiration. No force on earth can stop the Nagas from coming together under a single political unit if they are firmly united under a correct political leadership and the Naga People’s Front is the only political party that can provide such leadership.
The writer is Vice President, Youth Wing, Naga People’s Front Manipur State Unit