NSCNs Manipur project, which is being implemented by the United Naga Council (UNC), alleged several times as frontal organisation of NSCN (IM) by dependable sources including the Government of India, for a way out for the Manipuri Nagas from Nagaland has been losing ground in Manipur particularly in the hill districts in the last few years. UNC ‘press release’ movement in the name of 'Naga People Mandate’ has been tested many times. The press release is also a proof that it is not Naga people’s mandate but a dictated statement of the concerned Manipur NSCN Project officials. (For details on the project, see Yenning, The Manipur Project of NSCN-IM, January 19, 2013, The Sangai Express.) The Autonomous District Council, the Manipur Legislative Assembly and the Member of Parliament elections point to the losing ground of the project. Victory of Congress or rather defeat of UNC sponsored candidates is commented by the President of Congress Party, Mr. Gaikhangam, himself belonging to Kabui community as a mandate for a “United Manipur”.
The reason for the failure of the project is multiple but credibility of the UNC is one major factor. Credibility of UNC has gown down to such a level that they cannot engage in any activities except calling bandh/blockade which also can be done by any organisations in the hills district. UNC needs somebody or organisation to put their issues. It is in this background that the ‘Alternative Arrangement’ re-emerged in Manipur. The movement for ‘Alternative Arrangement’ has been a failure as nobody among Nagas responded to the movement including the family members of UNC. The lack of conceptual clarity on ‘Alternative Arrangement’ was also a major factor. (For analysis, see Yenning, Alternative Arrangement and the Nagas of Manipur, The Sangai Express, December 11, 2011.) However, after the 7th round of 'tripartite talks' involving Government of India, Government of Manipur and the UNC that UNC announced that the talk has been upgraded to the level of ‘political talk’ and was a success. Yet, what one fails to understand is the relevance of the ‘political talk’ or for that matter any name given to it as NSCN (IM) is in the process of the ‘political talk’ since 1997 at the highest level. UNC seems to undermine the capability of Government of India. There had been instances where people who were caught in Bangladesh were officially declared as caught in Bihar or people caught in Nepal as caught in Bihar. In such a situation, what is to be so happy of elevating the talk to that of political level? The claim of the UNC on the talk may be a process of their survival.
What is important is the rationale behind engaging UNC, who has no grounding and no capability, by the Government of India? The engagement is not because of the seriousness of the issue but because of the necessity to have an uninterrupted electoral process to project India as democratic state. Further, UNC even go to the extent of announcing to form a committee that too when the election code of conduct came into operation. At the same time, the ‘Naga Issue’ has become a slogan for every political party, unfortunately, for electoral purpose only. Misuse of ‘Naga Issue’ is not limited to the Delhi Based politician but also of the Naga’s particularly NPF and Joint Legislature Forum floated in 2012 by the 60 MLAs of Nagaland Legislative Assembly cutting across party lines. The latter had a short live span, till the end of state assembly election.
As such, NPF’s objective of seeking to achieve the integration of ‘Naga inhabited areas’ to one political unit continues to exploit the sentiment of the Nagas and thereby strengthened the party. NPF was supported, in Manipur, by UNC as NPF have no political base and no cultural affinity inspite of claiming to be for the Nagas. Yet, association with NPF by UNC is with a vision to strengthen the master plan of Manipur NSCN project. However, NPF has its own agenda. The agenda is reflected in the selection of candidate for the outer parliamentary constituency of Manipur, Soso Lorho, who happens to be the Minister of Health, Manipur when the infamous Oinam massacre took place. An individual, as per a health worker report, who ‘despite repeated requests by the villagers and people; never visited the people or offered any comfort to them’. According to Vassum, he did not know ‘why was his response this way? I cannot answer but hearing this from the people we interviewed and their pain and their tragedy although innocent was really saddening. I wonder what prevented Mr Lorho to make a visit when even the then CM Mr Rishang Keishing took a stand to confront the Army and the Central Government and eventually had to give up his post as Chief Minister” (Neson Vassum, The Sangai Express,25 March, 2014).
The intervention of the NPF is projected as a saviour of the Nagas of Manipur through the election process. But there are core reasons beyond such an understanding which are stated below.
First, the NPF was roped in by the NSCN (IM) to create a political space for the Manipur Nagas within NSCN (IM) to return to Manipur. They have realized that the peace process with the government of India is confined only in Nagaland and many in Nagaland have openly stated that Manipur Nagas will not be accepted as leaders in Nagaland. They are considered as Katch Nagas or Impure Nagas. They consider the issue of Manipur Nagas as the issue of a neighbouring state.
Second, the NPF was compelled to work out the exit of the Manipuri Nagas from Nagaland as they were helped in forming the government by the NSCN (IM). With little information, they landed in Manipur. We can see that as their campaign is only confined to the issue of greater or integration when they themselves know that it is not going to work. It is befooling the Nagas in the name of Nagas. So they have spending of 30 crores for the Manipur election. When some sections of its citizen is not getting developmental share (read as Frontier Nagaland).
Third, it is a fact that a state with no revenue generation of its own has little chance of ruling a state without the blessing of the ruling party in the centre. As such, Manipur experience president rule for nine times. On the other side, the ruling NPF is surviving in Nagaland. It is not because of their better governance but because of the blessing from NSCN (IM). The Government of India is doing everything to make them happy except their demand of sovereignty and integration. So supporting NSCN (IM) in their activities is a one way for NPF.
Fourth, It is a fact that the Naga movement in Manipur is diminishing and people are realising that the future of the movement in bleak with the endless peace process. LNarger sections of Nagas of Manipur are bearing the brunt while few are enjoying their life in the name of the movement. The defeat of UNC, which goes even to the extent of exploiting the Naga People Mandate, supported candidates in elections is a case in point. So, UNC take the opportunity of the talk to revive the movement. What they have not understood is that even Mr Muivah of NSCN (IM) has failed to revive the movement. The lost of NPF to Congress in the recently concluded election in Chingai the village of Muivah, is a proof. Similarly, emergence of United Naga People Front (UNPC) and Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front (MNRF) can be understood in term of the diminishing influence of NSCN or UNC.
Fifth, this point is linked to the earlier ones, NPF with the next election in mind needs to mobilise a strong armed group for the election process which they had done in the last election. So, if NSCM (IM) backed out, they realised that their days will be over. So they are doing the balancing act of helping the NSCN (IM) and in return they are expecting the support for the next election.
Six, it could be an attempt to divert the issue of Frontier Nagaland. The issue was getting intense with the memorandum submitted to the Government of India by the Eastern Naga People Organisation (ENPO). The issue needs to be diverted or subsumed by a large issue as they are the one claiming to be the champion of Naga cause.
Lastly, with new initiatives of natural resources exploitation in Manipur even with the guidance of UNC, the leaders of NPF who are close to NSCN (IM) forsees a future of their involvement, may be not in terms of sharing but in terms of involvement and earning benefits from it. So, the whole drama of NPF coming to Manipur is a well calculated move, which only benefits them. The Nagas of Manipur particularly who are associated with the developments, either within or outside Manipur, are all aware of it.
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, March 30, 2014