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Manipur Nagas Against ‘Disintegration of Land’, Meiteis Calls for NRC

The Nagas also want the Centre to resolve the pending ‘Naga political solution’ issue and the Meiteis have rejected the demand for a separate administration.
Tribal people of Manipur take part in a ‘Tribal Solidarity protest’ against the ongoing tension in the state, at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi (PTI Photo/File)

Tribal people of Manipur take part in a ‘Tribal Solidarity protest’ against the ongoing tension in the state, at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi. Image Courtesy: PTI

Kolkata: The situation in strife-torn Manipur could become more complicated with the United Naga Council (UNC) warning that the community will “not accept the disintegration of their land” and the Meiteis demanding the implementation of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to reassure indigenous people.

Both developments occurred on August 9, the second day of the debate on the Opposition’s no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha, almost three months since Meiteis-Kukis consumed the state.

The UNC organised rallies at the headquarters (HQs) of the four Naga-dominated districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong asking the Centre to resolve the pending ‘Naga political solution’ issue referring to the Framework Agreement (FA) signed between New Delhi and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah) on August 3, 2015.

The community warned that “the Naga people will not accept the disintegration of Naga land or any Act that adversely affects their interests while attempting to address the demands of any other community”.

“Such misadventures will have serious ramifications and provoke further senseless violence with other communities. However, we wish to clarify that any other community living in the Naga ancestral homeland will not be left out of the final settlement in consonance with the mutually agreed upon competencies,” the UNC said.

“These are the two key points mentioned in the UNC memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, copies of which were submitted to the respective deputy commissioners of the district HQs where the rallies were held,” the organisation’s general secretary Vareiyo Shatsang, told this writer.

The Nagas live in the hills, where the Kukis constitute the other prominent, numerically strong section of the population. Elaborating the demand for an expeditious ‘Naga political settlement’, Shatsang said that the FA is now more than eight years old and “we have information that the demand for a separate flag and Constitution is holding up the finalisation of FA. But they cannot hang fire indefinitely; already, many years have elapsed. Hence, the rallies to back up our demand”.

Significantly, the UNC’s rally decision was backed by Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), the apex body of Kuki tribes, and Hmar Inpui, the outfit of Hmar tribes.

“They [Nagas] have been fighting for their demand for a long time. We have expressed our solidarity with them; they are tribals. We wished them success—that’s all,” KIM president Ajang Khongsai told this writer.

Hmar Inpui secretary Richard Laltanpuia said that the Nagas “are not involved in the ethnic conflict and this mattered to us”. 

The UNC has remained neutral during the violence. Justifying its neutrality, Shatsang had told this writer that the community had no idea about the agenda of either the Meiteis or the Kukis.

Regarding the FA, sources said that the Intelligence Bureau and the Home Ministry met with NSCN (I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, who is said to be firm on the demands for a separate flag and Constitution despite New Delhi’s refusal, in July.

On the other hand, the working committee of the seven Naga National Political Groups, party to talks initiated by the Centre, is ready to give up the twin demands.

The NSCN had unilaterally brought the FA into the public domain in two instalments in mid-August 2020 although the Centre had issued through a short note via the PIB (Press Information Bureau) on the August 3, 2015 event at Modi was present. Since the UNC’s demand is regarding the FA, sources hinted at the likelihood of that organisation “acting/proceeding” with the knowledge of Muivah, who is originally from Ukhrul, Manipur.

While the UNC was holding the rallies, a delegation of 40 MLAs presented a list of demands to Modi at his residence, including complete disarmament by seizing all arms and ammunition looted by the perpetrators of violence, commissioning of an NRC to reassure indigenous people, reject the demand for a separate administration and strengthening the existing autonomous outfits.

The list of demands embarrassed the UNC leadership as eight Naga MLAs were part of the delegation without the knowledge of the top brass, which strongly objected to some of the demands. According to sources, the leadership “disowned the representation” made to Modi, which dented the organisation’s proclaimed neutrality.

A Special Session of the Assembly will be held on August 21 to discuss the ongoing crisis, but Kuki and Naga MLAs, seven of whom belong to the BJP, are pressured to boycott the session.

Meanwhile, CorCom (Coordination Committee), the apex body of seven banned Manipuri/Meitei militant groups, has called for boycotting Independence Day celebrations in the state.

The writer is a Kolkata-based freelance journalist.

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