TODAY -

Why Can't Th Muivah Visit His Village ?

R Raingam *



Why would he like to visit his native place at this point of time? "My parents died waiting for me there; I must visit my Birth place," is reasonable enough even as the Pacific Salmons would head back to its native fresh water streams in Alaska to die, after roaming the length and breathe of the Pacific Ocean. But, for a man of his stature with aura, every action has impacts and ramifications. At the same time, who knows if he intended to use this sentimental visit as a political gimmick to reinvi-gorate the moribund Naga movement led by him?

The second question is—why is the state of Manipur so alarmed about his visit? Why would Ibobi Govt prefer an international terrorist tag on him? The issue was mishandled so badly that the Manipur Govt made a mockery of itself. Instead of winning the four Naga districts, its dastardly Muhammad Bin Tughlaq-like action has drawn a further wedge between the valley and the hills. It, perhaps, acted in reflex driven by Meiteis' catharsis "The end of Manipur".

For the Nagas, Meities' (Dominant community in the Manipur valley) hyper sensitivity is a hindrance to their unification endeavour. The conflict is a love triangle with New Delhi, whose maidens are equally seductive and poisonous. The issue is too complex that the latter is unwilling to arbitrate and thus allowing it to linger on.

Initially, the Nagas were abhor-able to successive Central leaderships as one eminent political analyst would say, "It was believed, and is still believed by many, that the movement represented the arch stone to undo the Grand arch of the Indian Union, who tried to play China against it and spread its tentacles of secessionism across the length and breathe of the NE region". In this, Meiteis were seen a better option. However, time is changing and is closing in for final settlement to be made.

The valley has a deep sense of pride in their history, starting from Poireiton, Pakhangba down to Garib Niwaz who even defeated the Burmese (Awas), the hill territory of the four Naga districts and the district of Churachandpur (Haos) were considered as backyard of its domination. Though, historical records speak little about the nature of domination, it was not a direct rule but a mere acceptance of suzerainty by the hill chiefs.

The relation was exercised more on equal footing as traditions speak of Naga chiefs being honoured and treated as elder brethrens. But in the recent centuries, after the arrival of Vaishnavism, some superiority complex developed in the valley and began to look upon the hill people as uncivilised, who can be suppressed at will. This created a gap and distance between the two.

Still, Manipuri annals speak only a few number of hill expeditions. This shows that the domination continued to be ritualistic in nature. But certainly, the valley asserted its core position, facilitated it better after the treaty of Yandaboo (British-Burman agreement) in 1824, which made the Manipuri Kingdom, a British Protectorate State. It is only after this and at the turn of the century that the trade and administrative control began to develop. But it was the British who ran the Hill administration for the first time and later transferred to the state at the time of the Indian independence.

Even today, Meiteis in the Leikais (neighbourhoods) of Imphal and Khulaks (villages) continue to believe the hills as their possession and consider them as the decider of their future. They are yet to accept the changed power balance and are yet to consider the hills at parity. The hills on the other hand are no longer happy appended to Manipur. They no longer see valley as the core and themselves as the periphery. Rather, they have decided since the days of Z Phizo to chart out their own destination and the Naga nationalism or movement has never looked back.

No doubt, Naga nationalism is questionable to critiques in many ways. Can it pass the classical definition of nation? Western Yard Stick may fail it, but for existence of certain commonalities they could be mobilised politically under a single umbrella. Their desire to be united is growing. For them, what Vaishnavism did for the Meities, Christianity has brought unity and modernisation in many aspects of life. It's just a natural process, that the hills would soon catch up, and assert their rightful place.

Meiteis determination to hold back the Naga unification process appears to be a failed enterprise and is likely to invite a conflict involving a bigger theatre of struggle including the Nagas of Nagaland and other states. Nothing much can be done. Even through proactive publicity and opinion formation campaign among the third party, it can not last forever.

The role of Meiteis' civil society has been rather assuming. The alarmist approach of Apunba Lup, UCM or AMUCO radiates the message of impossibility of harmonious valley-hill relation and further whetted the desire of the hills to separate and push for 'Greater Nagalim'.

The state had the chance to consolidate itself for the past six decades. Yet successive state governments preferred to be 'Valley Centric' and squandered away in corruption and hill bashing. Even recently, the present govt raped the erstwhile Autonomous Hill District Council by stripping off the term autonomy reducing it into a mere District Council status only to displease the hills and has called for its election this year. Perhaps, the hills had demanded for the 6th Scheduled status. This episode shows the parochial mindset of the present state govt and its gross insensitive ethnic mismanagement. Even the Good God shall not Condon such irresponsibility!

Against the backdrop of this attitude, Muivah was denied of his right to visit his birth place while Right to Move Freely throughout the territory of India is guaranteed in article 19(d) (Fundamental Rights) of the Indian Constitution. Whatever alibi the state govt may offer for the use of violence against the civil population assembled peaceably without arms at the Mao Gate, in support of the visit, is a clear violation of Fundamental Rights; 19(b) right to assemble peaceably and without arms and 19(a) right to freedom of speech of expression. The killing was just a cold blooded murder and a murder of freedom.

Taking a plea of pre-emptive Entry Denial and Preventive Detention is unsustainable. His visit would have created no disturbance in the hills. It's for the valley that the govt represented and orchestrated the show. Ibobi govt has rather created an explosive situation. The valley is cut off from outside world except Air-transport; common-man is the one who is to suffer the spiralling economic scarcity and social distress. This will further embitter the hill-valley relation and may even lead to untoward incident of communal clashes exploited by extremist elements. The state govt should have acted with reasonability. His visit would have been of lesser consequence had he been permitted without any unnecessary objection.

Now there is a clear writing on the wall the danger of civil uprising and mass movement in the Naga Hills which will be more turbulent and difficult to control. The hysterical reaction has only made Mr. Muivah more popular and has provided disunited Naga tribes an object of common hate and enmity. The outcome is unlikely to be favourable for the valley. In this confrontation, the valley is the offender, if they will take the fight to the hills, they will lose all moral justification and achieve futility. Now is the age not of 'Kingdoms and Dominations', it's the age of democracy and community based on freedom.

To keep the hills, it needs shoring up good administration and see more closely to the welfare of the hill people. It is also better to keep silent over the Naga issue. The movement has its many defects and the promise that Manipur can offer may ultimately be able to veer around the four estranged Naga districts based on mature understanding, gainful for both.




* R Raingam wrote this article for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on May 16th, 2010.

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