Naga national liberation movement ending up as building castle in the air/cloud?

Dr Nelson Vashum
Director, CHSRC Ukhrul

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars,
whose sages are silenced, and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation – oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away. 
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.
-Lawrence Ferlinghetti

As the ethnic clash between Meiteis and Kuki-Zo started on 03/05/23 – the erosion of land which were originally owned by the Nagas appeared clearly eroded beyond acceptability. T C Hodson, anthropologist historian wrote in 1908 in his book, “The Naga Tribes of Manipur”, 1st page that a line drawing on the map of Manipur - touching Aimol village in the East and extending Westward touching Bishnupur and then finally Chirighat–clearly defined the habitations of the Kukis to the South and Nagas to the North with a few exceptions. However, down the years after Independence of India, Nagas themselves paved the way for the Kuki influxion into Manipur, particularly in Naga areas. Late Maj Khathing Raleng, opened settlement for World War II porters, mostly from Kukis and Gorkha helpers and war veterans at Shepmanai (now corrupted into Saparmeina). This was followed by Kuki settlements all along the National Highway – 102. If late Yangmaso Shaiza did not shift Senapati district hq. from Karong to the present site in 1976, Kukis would have gone till Karong and even beyond. In 1955, late R Suisa during his tenure as MP, Outer Manipur Constituency, moved a motion to recognise Kukis as bonafide refugees and grant reliefs. Subsequently, there was floods of Kuki influxion. Kuki settlements grew by leaps and bounds and the so-called SADAR hills became hotspot of migration. Since the Nagas were at the height of fighting for Independence – the Meiteis were facilitating Kuki migration and encroachment of Naga areas with manipulative approaches. 

In 1974, 2500 Kuki refugees got stuck at Konkan Thana, these particular group were resettled in the valley between Yaingangpokpi and Sanakeithei by declaring open forest without consulting the owning villages (Hongman and Thoyee). From 1980, NSCN (IM) ruled Naga areas with no serious contentions from other factions. During Naga-Kuki’s conflicts from 1992 – 94, Kukis were displaced from interior parts and shifted to the foothills. Since Meiteis were abettors of that conflicts, Kukis felt secure at the foothills. Today you got yourself puffered with Kukis all around and getting the due returns of what you sowed in the yesteryears. When Nipamacha Singh was Chief Minister of Manipur in the late 90’s, he expressed in one occasion with amusement before public – what/why the Meitei valley is surrounded by Sadar hills as though two legs enclosing the valley. It was indeed funny looking but to make a comfort zone for the Meiteis free from harassment by the Naga hostiles. However, for the present generation – you find yourselves Kukis settlements like a noose around your neck. Good to introspect and work to rectify in such a way that all will have fair share of land and live with mutual respect.

Try to change many of your wrong attitudes to others especially the tribals. Bound by destiny you cannot afford to dictate the terms of relationships between the hills and the valley. Majoritarianism may work for a while all to your advantages but in the long run in this present age of enlightenment, your selfish instruments and schemes will work to your disadvantages and harms your best. Your best food may turn sour even poisonous. Even a king requires a tailor for his clothes, cobbler for his footwears, a cleaner for his decent living etc. Hence, only mutual respect and reformation/transformation of one’s own mindset – the only way of winning love and respect of others. In the word of Jesus, “do to others as you wish them do to you” (Matt 7:12). All the human rules and regulations are embraced by this truth.
The majority community of Manipur of today has raised your own militia, ‘Arambai Tenggol’ to subdue whoever may contend with Meitei/Meitei’s interests. However, does this approach guarantee your welfare or safety? We are living on a planet with multi-racial having countries with varied infrastructural setups. Tribals, especially Kuki-Zo, can you really subdue them with your number and might? We have enough legal and political instruments in India. As well as global institutions for human rights and social justice and against all these – you cannot gag/subdue to define your own terms. If the majority Meiteis abandon the fair means of settlements - the price will be very costly and you may not be able to swallow the consequences. Please seek the fair means of giving justice for all, peace for all, welfare for all, using the yardstick of Matt 7:12 …….the golden rule. In the same tone, Kuki-Zo also should not be over ambitious. Look at the facts of history and try to rationalise your aspirations and demands. Invoking the help of Israel and at the same time – after enjoying hospitalities of the indigenous Nagas calling yourselves the lords of the Nagas will not go for your glory. The Bible says, ‘do not move ancient boundary’, but if you look at what T C Hodson wrote in 1908, in his book, ‘The Naga Tribes of Manipur’, about your habitations and compared with the present claim of Zalengam, can you make any justification? Was there times of conquest/consent/concession by the Nagas at any point of time? It is unbelievable. Nagas were too naïve at the same time too preoccupied with freedom movement which was eye-sore to the Meiteis. Hence, through political manipulations, Meiteis and Kukis divided the spoils of land belonging to the Nagas.

Come now brethren of the Meiteis and Kuki-Zo, let us sit down and put our heads together and reason together. Might is right will not work nor craftiness will endure the test of time. Let us work with the principle of, “Do to others as you would wish others to do to you”.  If you cannot work on this principle to solve the problems at hand, you are doomed for a curse and the curse will be inherited by the future generations. Today you are scripting a monumental history of the land. Shall we give more weight for truth, fairness and justice? What shall be your choice?
May God help us to choose what is fair and best for all. Amen.