New Delhi: Two Naga organisations on Sunday slammed a rally held in the Manipur valley on Saturday purportedly for the “common future of Manipur” and to reaffirm and strengthen the integrity of the state.
The Naga People’s Union for Civil Liberties (NPUCL) and Forum for Understanding the Naga-India Conflict and Human Rights (Funich), in a statement slammed the rally organised by the the All Manipur United Clubs’ Organisation (Amuco), Committee of Civil Societies, Kangleipak (CCSK) and United Committee Manipur (UCM).
They said it was “a motivated reaction to sabotage the tireless efforts of the NSCN and the government of India to bring long lasting peace and development not only in the Naga areas, but for the entire northeastern region”.
The statement issued by Kahorngam Zimik, president of NPUCL, and Lakpachui Siro, convener of Funich, said the hills of Manipur were “never a part of the valley kingdom”.
“But by coining the slogan that the ‘hills and the valley people are one and can never be divided’, Amuco/UCM/CCSK’s project is nothing but another majoritarian attempt to deconstruct the history of hill-valley disconnect so as to muzzle the legitimate aspiration of the Nagas and other tribal communities in the state,” it said.
Tension has been simmering in the state since August last year when the assembly passed three controversial bills following a months-long agitation by people demanding an inner line permit system (ILPS) akin to those in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland to check the inflow of non-Manipuri people.
Ostensibly to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people, the state government, bowing to the pressure, convened a special session of the assembly on August 31 and passed three controversial bills – the Protection of Manipur People Bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (Seventh Amendment) and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill.
The very day the bills were passed, protesters, mainly from tribal organisations, torched five houses belonging to Congress legislators. Among them were the dwellings of Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Lok Sabha member from Outer Manipur Thangso Baite in Churachandpur district.
The violence and resultant police action left nine people dead. The bodies of the nine people are still lying in Churachandpur with the tribal people refusing to bury them.
According to the tribes inhabiting the hills of Manipur, the three bills would directly undermine the existing safeguards for the tribal hill areas regarding land ownership and population influx, as the primary threat for the tribal people came not from outside the state but from the Meitei people of the valley itself.
The tribal people’s organisations say they do not trust the state government, and want the central government to convene a tripartite meeting, and have also demanded a separate administration for the hills.
“Since the invasion of Imphal valley or Kangleipak by the colonial force in 1891, it has become one of the focal points in spreading the colonial interest in the hill areas of the present state of Manipur,” Sunday’s NPUCL-Funich statement said.
“Unfortunately, even after India’s independence, British colonial legacy and practice remain in the state of Manipur. It is disappointing to see the dominant community with the backing of the state government constantly trying to articulate history on the basis of colonial narrative.”
According to the Naga bodies, for real peace and development, “the dominant community or the Manipuris must accept the fact that there are two equally proportionate voices of contradicting aspiration”.
The statement said the Nagas wanted “complete separation from the state of Manipur” and that the position has been reiterated at various platforms by various legitimate bodies of Nagas like United Naga Council, All Naga Student Association, Manipur, Naga Mothers’ Union, and tribal apex bodies like Tangkhul Naga Long, Chandel Naga Peoples’ Organisation, Zeliangrong Baudi, Manipur and Naga People’s Organisation, Senapati.
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“If the dominant community is really for peace and development in the region and has concern for the hill people, then respecting the aspiration of the Nagas and other tribal people of the state and their aspiration is highly warranted,” it said.
“Otherwise, it will continue to remain a hollow slogan of unity and integrity without the participation of any legitimate hill civil societies.”
The statement also said that while all Manipuri civil societies went for the rally, the United Nagas Council observed a total shutdown in the four Naga-inhabited hill districts of the state.