The Saga Naga

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Oracle, Jun 27, 2010.

  1. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

    Mar 31, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Bangalore, India
    By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

    Nagaland state Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio (R) shakes hands with T. Muivah, leader of separatist group the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), at Viswema

    Nine years after the Greater Nagalim issue left Nagaland and Manipur on the boil, the planned visit of NSCN (IM) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah has again put the two states on the edge.

    Who is Thuingaleng Muivah?

    Originally appointed as general secretary of A Z Phizo’s Naga National Council (NNC) in 1964, 75-year-old Thuingaleng Muivah is currently general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim faction headed by him and its chairman Isak Chisi Swu, thus the acronym NSCN (IM). He, Swu and Khaplang (now heading the NSCN-K faction) launched the NSCN in 1978 following the Shillong Accord by the NNC in November 1975. The NSCN split into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) in 1988. Muivah is also ‘ato kilonser’ — “prime minister of the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim (GPRN)” — with Swu being its ‘yaruiwo’ or “president”.

    What is Nagalim?

    While Nagaland (area: 16,527 sq km) was created on December 1, 1963, out of the Naga Hills district of Assam, combined with the Tuensang Tract of erstwhile North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), Nagalim or “Greater Nagalim” is the proposed sovereign Naga state that the NSCN wants. It comprises the present Nagaland as well as all “Naga-inhabited” areas of adjoining Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Myanmar, together adding up to about 1,20,000 sq km.

    What is the current status of the NSCN agitation?

    The NSCN (IM) signed a ceasefire with the Government of India on July 25, 1997, which came into effect from August 1, 1997. While the ceasefire was an outcome of then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao’s first meeting with Muivah in Paris in 1995, successive PMs H D Deve Gowda and A B Vajpayee also met the NSCN (IM) in Zurich and Paris in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Since then over 40 rounds of talks have taken place between the government and the NSCN (IM) leadership. Muivah, who lives in Bangkok, Amsterdam and other places, has been in India since March, mostly put up at the NSCN(IM)’s general headquarters at Hebron near Dimapur in Nagaland.


    Why does Muivah want to go to Manipur?

    He is a Tangkhul Naga hailing from Somdal in Ukhrul district of Manipur. The hill districts of Manipur, especially Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong, are dominated by Tangkhuls and other smaller Naga tribes. With the NSCN (IM) demanding inclusion of Manipur’s hill districts in ‘Greater Nagalim’, Muivah expressed his wish to visit his ancestral village. It would be his first visit to Somdal since 1964, which he left after joining the Naga rebels. Since then he has either been underground or has lived abroad.

    Why does Manipur have a problem with the visit?

    The government of Manipur obviously does not want to part with even an inch of its territory. The Centre’s decision in 2001 to extend the ceasefire with the NSCN (IM) without territorial limits had evoked massive protests in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. In Manipur, protesters had even set the state Assembly building on fire. Eighteen persons were killed in police firing. Manipur’s stand is that Muivah is not just visiting his village but would also address public meetings to whip up the campaign for inclusion of the state’s hill districts in ‘Greater Nagalim’.

    What is the Centre’s role?

    Incidentally, the Centre, on April 29, asked the governments of Manipur and Nagaland to provide Muivah, a Z-plus protectee, “foolproof security” when he visited Somdal in Ukhrul, and held public meetings at Ukhrul and Senapati. But Okram Ibobi Singh, the Chief Minister of Manipur, is determined not to let Muivah enter his state.

    What is the current situation in Manipur?

    The Meiteis who dominate the Imphal Valley (and constitute about 70 per cent of the state’s population) are opposed to Muivah’s visit. The All Manipur United Clubs Organisation (AMUCO) has imposed a ban on vehicle movement from Imphal Valley to the hill districts. The United Naga Council (UNC) of Manipur on the other hand has resorted to strikes against the Ibobi Singh government’s stand against Muivah. Two persons were killed when police fired upon protesters at Mao in Manipur close to the Nagaland border on May 6. Protesters have also set on fire government offices in Manipur’s hill districts. The two highways which connect Manipur to the outside world — NH-39 and NH-53 — have been paralyzed due to blockades put up by both sides.

    What is Nagaland’s stand?

    While on the one hand Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphui Rio has accused Ibobi Singh of “using state machinery against the people of Manipur who are protesting democratically (against Manipur’s refusal of entry to Muivah)”, on the other hand, he personally went to meet Muivah to ask him to postpone his visit to Manipur till the situation improved. The Nagaland Assembly has in the past adopted resolutions supporting integration of all Naga-inhabited areas.

    Where is Muivah at the moment?

    Having set off from Hebron along with several top NSCN (IM) leaders for Somdal on May 5, Muivah is currently put up at Viswema, a village in Nagaland 10 km short of the border with Manipur. While the PMO and the Government of India have requested him to postpone his Somdal visit till the situation improves, Muivah is bent on going ahead. He had earlier turned down a government offer to take a helicopter to Somdal.

  3. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

    Mar 31, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Bangalore, India
    'The Centre Has Been Sleeping For So Long'

    The two-month long Manipur blockade has finally been lifted. As supplies start moving into the landlocked state, Pradip Phanjoubam, editor, Imphal Free Press, spoke to's Krishnakumar Padmanabhan about how soon the situation will return to normal, the risk of unrest returning to the region, what exactly led to the blockade and how those issues have been addressed.

    How did the blockade end?

    The information is from Delhi. The Naga Students Federation had a meeting with the prime minister and the home minister. They requested them to remove the blockade. But the home secretary (Gopal Krishna Pillai) supposedly threatened them. They were not very happy about it. So they made it a point to emphasise that they are doing it because the prime minister requested them to do so.

    The NSF has said it is 'temporarily lifting' the blockade. What does it mean? What do you think are the terms?

    There was no assurance from the Centre. It is a vague thing to say. It is just a way of surrendering, but couching it in better terms. They actually are lifting the blockade. I don't see them reinforcing it for a long time.

    Why do you say they won't reinforce it for a long time?

    I don't think so. Two highways serve Manipur: National Highways 39 and 53. NH 53 doesn't pass through Nagaland. It was partially opened. Some bridges on it were bad... weak. The government is trying to repair it in a big way. Except for a dam project on the way, which is likely to flood many of the bridges, this highway was more or less usable.

    Thus, they (the NSF) know that ultimately a blockade will not succeed unless they are able to block all the highways. The Centre is now looking to repair NH 53, which also falls in the Golden Quadrilateral project, properly.

    Is it totally safe for the movement of supplies or will rogue rebels cause a problem?

    Supplies have started. Truckers who have been stuck in Assam will have to organise and come. But the fear of rogue elements will be there. Also, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM is known for extortion.

    In fact, that could also be one of the reasons that they did not find the blockade feasible. That revenue has gone. The minute they have enough money, they might be up to something. But there is no denying the fact that the blockade was definitely making a dent on their revenue.

    Home Secretary G K Pillai said he would use the army to remove the blockade. But at the beginning of the blockade, he said it was a political problem and the Centre could not use the army...

    I found it surprising he made such a vague statement. When someone blocks a national highway, it is a national problem. What about the other 'political problems'? This is in fact a humanitarian problem. I don't know why he said it. It is a law and order problem.

    A national highway is federal property. They should have done something.

    Why do you think the Centre took so long to move?

    That is what is confounding. I think they were caught up in other problems like the Naxalite problem. And definitely, because Manipur is a peripheral state. Had it been in Haryana or somewhere, it would have been cleared in two days.

    The Centre was too insensitive. A national highway is Union property. If it is a problem between Manipur and Nagaland, it should be settled bilaterally. Attacking Parliament, though it might be a different thing, but you understand that a national property is under attack, do you?

    Are we soon going to see unrest return in some form or the other?

    I think a lot of people have been embittered by this long impasse. The Centre has been sleeping for so long. But I don't see any immediate return to unrest.

    What role does the state government now have? What does it have to do?

    The state government will have to work on the issues. The elections to the autonomous district councils was the reason this blockade happened. The state government should identify places where there was no voting, and there were no candidates, and have repolling there.

    The problem arose because the Nagas wanted the traditional system where there are chieftains who have the authority, and the state was pushing for an elected grassroots body.

    Very broadly, the protest began because the Naga bodies wanted the traditional system to be provided with same powers as that of an elected body.

    And then the state government should address the problem of the percentage of the Nagas and other tribes in the assembly.

    Will (National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM leader) Thuingaleng Muivah be allowed to travel to his village soon?

    That I am not able to say. When there was some trouble in the run-up to the elections, the government saw Muivah's hand in the problem. Naturally that was the reason for the opposition. Now that the election is over, the state should make some kind of concession and allow Muivah.

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