Naga-Meitei’s stance on ‘Manipur integration’ triggers debate on unity and peace talks

In a major development, the Nagas of Manipur and the majority Meitei community have resolved to strive to maintain the territorial integrity of the violence-hit state.
Naga-Meitei’s stance on ‘Manipur integration’ triggers debate on unity and peace talks

 NEW DELHI: In a major development, the Nagas of Manipur and the majority Meitei community have resolved to strive to maintain the territorial integrity of the violence-hit state.

Representatives, including village chiefs and authorities of 13 Tangkhul Naga and six Meitei villages, conclaved at Chandrakhong, a converging point of Kamjong, Kangpokpi, and Thoubal districts of Manipur, on June 10 and decided to work for the safeguard of Meitei and Tangkhul Naga villages and even demand an NRC.

A few days earlier, as many as 10 Naga legislators from Manipur had dissociated themselves from the demand for a “separate administration” for tribals by the Kukis and other smaller Zo communities and asserted that “Naga areas should not be touched” if at all any such arrangement is made.

These have triggered debate on the prospects of Naga peace talks and even so-called Naga unity.

“We the Nagas have been trying to go forward on a back gear, and perhaps we are soon about to reach the station called ‘Solution? What Solution?” asks retired IAS officer Khekiye K. Sema, questioning the very rationale of the ongoing Naga peace talks.

“To add salt to the wound, it appears that our Tangkhul brothers have finally shown their true character by openly joining hands with the Meiteis in a time like this, vowing to jointly safeguard Manipur’s territorial integrity,” he wrote in an article published in local newspapers.

“Are the Nagas of Nagaland awake to this recent development? For all practical purposes, the NSCN (IM) is a Tangkhul outfit”.

The developments are significant. The Nagas of Manipur have shown preference for a status quo arrangement with the Manipur state.

Moreover, since the ethnic strife broke out in Manipur on May 3 between the Meiteis and Kukis, there have been no untoward incidents between Meiteis and Nagas.

In fact, analysts also say that the efforts by Kukis to enlist the support of the Nagas of Manipur in their demand for a separate administration did not enthuse the latter, showing their clear preference to stick to their age-old friendship with the Meiteis.

The NSCN-IM, consisting largely of Tangkhul Naga cadres and leadership under a Tangkhul Naga Thuingaleng Muivah, has been insisting on a ‘greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim in their parleys with the Centre.

The Centre has, however, rejected the demand, stating that no compromise will be entertained to impact the territorial integrity of states like Manipur, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh.

NNPG, the umbrella organisation of seven Naga outfits with an overwhelming support base within the state of Nagaland led by N. Kitovi Zhimomi, is keen for an early solution pact with the Centre.

The NNPG had signed a foundation pact called ‘Agreed Position’ in 2017, while the NSCN-IM has its own Framework Agreement, which was inked with the Centre in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.

The Naga civil society and influential Naga Tribes Council (NTC) have been insisting on an early peace pact and do not want matters related to Manipur or Arunachal Pradesh linked to delaying the solution and a final peace pact.

The NSCN-IM, on the other hand, has not made any forward movement on the peace talks with the Centre since 2019.

Now a categorical assertion by the Naga legislators of Manipur that they would not like to be “touched” by the Kuki demand and 13 Tangkhul Naga villages backing the cause of a ‘united Manipur’ would have its ramifications in the peace parleys.

Former civil servant Khekiye Sema’s statement must be seen from that perspective.

“Despite such ruthless hatred plainly being displayed by the Meiteis right before their very eyes against a tribal brother (Kukis), the utter indifference and lack of unity amongst the tribals of Manipur is clearly unimaginable,” laments Khekiye, who is a Sema Naga and a Christian from Nagaland.

Khekiye suggests that the NSCN-IM leadership is still hiding from the Nagas of the state of Nagaland the details of its “negotiations” with the Centre.

“Their arrogant audacity lies in the fact that the NSCN (IM) has refused to transparently share their ‘Competency Clauses’ with the stake holders, which is predominantly concerning us, the Nagas of Nagaland! The Tangkhul brothers in the NSCN (IM), led by their unquestioned all-mighty Muivah, are playing a treacherous game with the lives and the future of the Nagas of Nagaland with half truths and sinister questionable motivations,” he says.

Khekiye maintains that by way of Naga Hoho, or an upper house in the new proposed system, the Tangkhul Nagas or the NSCN-IM leadership want to dominate the state of affairs in Nagaland.

Since May 3, the violence in Manipur has killed over 100 people and injured more than 300 others. Thousands have been rendered homeless, and around 9,000 Kuki-Zo community members from the hills of Manipur are already taking shelter in Mizoram.

A 10-member group, including MLAs from the BJP, NPF, and NPP, called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah last week and appreciated the latter’s ‘swift actions’ to control the escalating tensions.

MLA Losii Dikho said that for the first time in many years, there is now a Naga MLA forum in Manipur.

Meanwhile, the CBI has filed six FIRs and formed a special team to probe the alleged conspiracy related to the ethnic violence in Manipur.

The agency will probe in detail whether there was a ‘conspiracy’ to foment communal tension in the sensitive state and whether there was a coordinated effort behind the continued unrest, ethnic and communal clashes, and looting of arms and ammunition by security forces.

The state DGP has been replaced by a Tripura cadre officer, Rajiv Singh, and one security advisor, Kuldiep Singh, has been appointed.

There is also a judicial body probing the violence.

The Centre has set up a Peace Committee with Governor Anusuiya Uikey as the chairperson, which includes representatives from all communities and also Chief Minister N. Biren Singh.

Many leaders, including Naga politicians and civic body leaders in private and otherwise, have been insisting that the Centre should not delay inking a peace pact with the umbrella organisation NNPG.

The NSCN-IM is against the signing of a peace pact without a separate constitution and Naga flag. (IANS)

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