When push comes to shove, there is bound to be resistance and the Nagas in Manipur has done just that albeit in a way that needs to be respected for the simple reason that they have chosen to protest within the democratic framework of free speech and expression as per the five point resolution passed during the historic Naga Peoples Convention held recently in Manipur’s Senapati district.
The Non-Cooperation Movement plan announced by the Nagas in Manipur comes as no surprise given their long held grievance that justice and fair play was not to be expected of the government in Imphal. The decision to pay house tax directly to Delhi or Kohima sends a clear political message and questions the very legitimacy of the Manipur State as far as the Nagas living in the hill districts are concerned. The decision to return all the official red blankets issued to the GBs and also to change the names of all geographical structures into indigenous ones; their refusal to accept any development fund/schemes through the Manipur Government w.e.f. April next year among others may just be the tonic that would wake up the conscience of the civil society and leadership in India who had taken a similar path to political freedom under British colonial rule.
It has to be said that the decision to pay tax directly to Kohima also explicates the inherent desire of the Nagas to live as one. The Naga areas in Manipur bordering Nagaland exhibit commonalties with the latter in terms of race, language, religion, natural systems, environment, culture and ways of life. It would also not be hard to miss the strong cultural and commercial ties between say Senapati or Mao town in Manipur with Nagaland’s State capital Kohima. If the emotional distance between a Meitei and a Naga is manifest, their level of physical proximity is hardly encouraging and Imphal seems too distant for the Nagas in the hill districts.
By deciding not to cooperate, the Nagas in Manipur are only asserting their right for self dignity and by doing so it is not only questioning the moral limits of the State’s power but also the assertion of their own consciousness which can be traced in the political and economic subjugation perpetuated against them. On the emotive issue of integration, the Manipur government’s decision to declare June 18 as ‘State Integrity Day’ in commemoration of the 2001 anti-ceasefire uprising has been perceived as a challenge to the goal of Naga integration and another instance of the government’s insensitivity towards the hills people. It is hoped that the Nagas in Manipur use their right conscientiously and in a way that addresses all issues in a democratic manner and through non-violent means without jeopardizing the age-old ties with the different communities including with the Valley people.