UNPO APPEALS FOR AN EXTENSION OF THE CEASEFIRE BETWEEN INDIAN AND THE NAGA PEOPLE
Friday, 27 July 2007
The Hague, 27 July 2007 - After four decades of conflict, the representatives of the Indian government and Nagalim agreed to enter into ceasefire on 1 August 1997. The ceasefire was followed by many rounds of peace talks over the past ten years. While both Parties are yet to come to an agreement, the very fact that talks took place constituted a major step forward.
UNPO welcomes the ongoing round of peace talks resuming on 30 July 2007 between the Government of India and the representatives of the Naga People as an opportunity to put an end to this longstanding conflict.
UNPO resolutely invites both Parties to reach an agreement that will bring sustainable peace to the region while granting Naga People the means as well as the context to safeguard their culture, identity and fundamental rights.
The ceasefire is set to expire on 31 July 2007. Since an agreement is unlikely to be reached before this point, UNPO asks both Parties to prolong the truce and continue this dialogue through which progress has been made. Ten years of negotiations have brought both Parties much closer to a solution than have four decades of conflict.
UNPO has therefore appealed to Ms. Smt. Prathibha Patil, President of India, Mr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Mr. Isak Chishi Swu, Chairman of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim – Isak Muivah, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General as well as numerous foreign embassies in India to:
Maintain a peaceful and stable negotiating climate and demonstrate their commitment to principles of democracy and non-violence by announcing an indefinite ceasefire upon the expiration of the present agreement;
Assure that Nagas are being granted their full range of human, civil, and political rights;
Commit to the principle of pacific settlement of disputes as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations
Naga Integration Movement: A Historical Perspective
By: U A Shimray
Before the free India formally induct her Constitution, Manipur has already drafted Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947. In Constitution drafting, Maharaja of Manipur, Bodh Chandra Singh, invited Hill representatives including Athiko Daiho and Tiankham however; they demanded to incorporate a clause- “the right of any section of the hill people to secede at the end of the five year period, should the conditions within the Constitution not be satisfactory.” The Chairman of the Constitution Making Committee F.F. Pearson drew the personal attention of the Manipuri Maharaja to the dissension of the Hill people. However, it was not followed accordingly. The Constitution introduce as- “extend to the whole Manipur State inclusive of the Hill Areas saving that it shall not apply in any matter where a specific reservation of powers is made to any Authority in the Hills under the provisions of the Manipur State Hill (Administration) Regulation, 1947 (Chapter I: 2)”.
The Naga National League (NNL) headed by Athiko Daiho, in September 1946, was organised to consolidate Nagas of Manipur in order to bring together Naga people separated by colonial boundaries. In colonial period, the political department of the British Crown administered Naga areas of Manipur. The Manipur Maharaja and his durbar administered the valley areas. The Naga league categorically assert that they will not remain in Manipur since the Manipuri Maharaja had never conquered Nagas and declared that it would be impossible for the Nagas to preserve the best of their culture, tradition, customary laws and political practices. The movement expressed their strong desire to merge with the Nagas Hill district of Assam (now the present Nagaland state) through the boycott of the preparation of the electoral rolls in the Naga areas and the election to the first Legislative Assembly of Manipur in 1948.
Nagas protest against the dissection of the Naga Hills and sullen to the political arrangement of Manipur. A campaign led by the Naga League was launched during the Chief Ministership of Capt. Priyabatra Singh. The symbolic expression was “No House Tax Payment” to the Government of Manipur, but they decided to pay the tax to the Deputy Commissioners of the Naga Hills District in Assam. The Manipur Government took severe action against the revolting people, in which three persons were killed, four others received serious bullet injuries and Athiko Daiho and N. Modoli were arrested and imprisoned at Dum Dum Central Jail, Calcutta on 27 August 1948. The United Naga Council and Mao Naga Council resolved to observe 27 August as “Martyrs’ Day”.
The Naga People’s Convention (NPC) held at Kohima in 1957 pressed for integration of Naga areas. This was followed by Mokokchung Convention held in 1959, wherein the Sixteen-Point memorandum was adopted. The Clause 13 of 16-Point Agreement stress for the consolidation of contiguous Naga areas. In support of the Naga unification, Nagaland State Legislative Assembly have passed Resolutions, first on 12 December 1964 as, “It is hereby unanimously resolved that the Government of India be urged for the integration of the Naga areas adjoining the State of Nagaland to fulfill the aspirations by the Naga peoples’ Convention held at Mokokching in 1959.” The second on 28 August, 1970, the third on 14 September, 1994 and the latest resolution re-affirmed on 18 December 2003.
The Naga Integration Committee (NIC) of Manipur made an effort to the cause. On 26th July 1968, the NIC submit a memorandum to Smt. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India stating for the integration of Naga area of Manipur with the state of Nagaland. The NIC’s memo wishes to integrate of all Naga areas within one administrative unit. It further states that integration would definitely strengthen the hands of the administration of the state of Nagaland and the solution of the present trouble there would become much easier.
First Convention of the Naga People of Manipur under the Sessional Chairman, James L. Kilakhe and Secretary Peter Pheiray was held at Mao (Gate) on 16th May 1970. The Convention unanimously resolved that, “the Naga people move to live together in one state has undoubtedly been motivated by genuine patriotic urge.” Convention acknowledges the Naga Peace Mission’s inclusion the Naga areas of Manipur into Ceasefire agreement is but recognition of the facts. The Convention outrageously condemns the delegation of few Nagas to New Delhi in demand of statehood for Manipur in the name of the Naga public. The resolution state that, “(T)he plain people and their Naga agents’ plea that on granting statehood to Manipur, the Nagas will cease their demand for integration into Nagaland State exposes only their political immaturity and utter incapability to measure the depth of Naga political mind. The talk of granting District Autonomy makes no sense at all. The Naga unilaterally uphold the sanctity of the16-Point Agreement.”
The Naga Integration Central Committee (NICC) under the leadership of Rev. Savino and T. Chuba, with its Headquarter at Kohima deliberated to work for early integration of all the contiguous Naga areas. The NICC meeting appointed Action Committee Members including Rani Guidiliu, Rishang et al. In the Executive Committee of the NICC on 21st October 1970 resolved to observe “Naga Integration Day” throughout Naga areas in the 20th November.
The NICC delegation including Chairman M. Savino, Rishang Keishing (Ex-MP, Gen. Secy, NICC), T. Haralu (Vice-Chairman, NICC), N. Theyo (Ex-Minister), Mason Riame (Joint Secretary, NICC), Kongsui Luithui (Joint Secretary, NICC), James L. Kilakhe (Joint Secretary, NICC)5, P. Shilu Ao (Ex-Chief Minister), K. Envey (Ex-Minister), NG Mono (Ex-MLA), D. Athuibo (Ex-MLA), TH Ngullie (MLA), Tokheho Sema (MLA) and M. Vero (MP) submitted Memorandum to Smt. Indira Gandhi on 9 November 1970. The memo says, “(T)he movement of the Naga integration of Naga territories, as a matter of fact, is nearly as old as the freedom movement in India. The movement gained momentum under the leadership of Rani Guidiliu which was in essence against the British Government who kept the Nagas divided into Naga Hills, Manipur and North Cachar of Assam…”
The General Meeting of the NICC was held at Shajaoba (Mao), Manipur on 22nd January 1972. The NICC emphasis and appeal to the Government of India and the Naga leaders to lose no time in resuming the negotiations, since protracted uncertainty and insecurity can only have the most harmful effect on the material, mental and moral well-being of the Nagas, as well as on the whole North Eastern region of India. Also, the resolution congratulates the Meiteis over their achievement of Statehood. And also appeal to lend their full support to the Nagas’ demand for the integration of all contiguous Naga areas.
What Went Wrong…
In spite of Nagas’ demand for integration, the state re-organisation upgraded Manipur into full-fledged state of the Indian Union in 1972. The upgradation strengthens the electoral politics in Manipur. NIC entered Manipur politics. This electoral politics bring new political paradigm vis-à-vis weakening the Naga integration movement. In other word, NIC entering into active politics of Manipur state eventually divert its aims and objectives.
The NICC also actively participate in the Nagaland State’s electoral politics. An eventual capitalisation of state politics deteriorate Naga integration movement resulting some members compelled to abandon NICC out of frustration whereas other continue their individual political game in the name of integration. The “intention” was clear in the NIC’s resolution of 23 March 1972 at Imphal, directing it’s MLAs to join the Ministry of United Legislative Party of Manipur and also to participate District Council election. This was followed by the political shift with the merger of some members of NIC to the All India Congress Party. The Joint Agreement for the merger on 4th August 1972 condition that, “the Congress Party does not oppose Naga Integration Movement and does not consider Naga Integration Movement as anti-party, anti- national, anti- state and unconstitutional activity.”
On the other hand, the 16-Point Agreement between the NPC and GoI (under the Ministry of External Affairs) open a new political corridor for the absorption to the Indian Constitution. With this agreement, the Nagaland Statehood Bill was introduced on 28 August 1962. The Bill entered as the Thirteenth Amendment of the Indian Constitution. The article was inserted namely 371(A)- Special Provision with respect to the State of Nagaland and accommodate many aspects of the 16- Points submitted by the Nagas delegations led by the Dr. Imkongliba. For instance, “no Act of Parliament in respect of- religious, social practices, customary law and procedure, ownership and transfer of land and its resources…” Unfortunately, the 16-Point Agreement was not adequately honour by the GoI. The important issues like “Naga areas under the Ministry of External Affairs”, “Consolidation of Contiguous Naga Areas” and “Transitional Period” are totally ignored by the government.
The Indian State has shown marked resilience in trying to accommodate the Naga revolt within the ambit of the Indian Constitution- for instance, creation of Nagaland State and the drawing of the Naga people into the democratic process being major success points. However, the pertinent issues raised by the Nagas remain unresolved. On the other hand, the success of creating Nagaland is eventual backlash political division among the Naga society. At the same time, encourage the Nagas to take part actively in the state’s electoral politics either in Manipur or Nagaland. The Indian policy to divide Nagas is crystal clear so that the unification movement is arrested and weakens the Naga insurgency.
Another misfortune to the integration movement is upheaval of insurgency politics that took the Naga civil society movement for the Naga integration as pre-mature politics based on Indian Constitution. At that moment, the Naga political movement is totally overshadowed by the concept of “sovereignty”. Also, the wisdom of Naga civil societies and integration protagonist simply drown itself into the electoral politics.
Ongoing Naga ceasefire and political talks opened a new political dimension based on ethnic politics and hegemony in the region. The recent introduction of “territorial politics” and revivalism of Naga civil societies’ demand for the Naga integration now play significant role in region’s politics. In other words, the old map, which the British had introduced, has become a major bone of contention between the different ethnic groups.
Naga unification process has already originated when the British unilaterally divided Naga Hills into Manipur, Assam and Burma with a vile motive of dividing them so that they might not be able to revolt against the British. This was done at the time when the Nagas were politically weak and disunited to resist their will and power. Indeed, Naga integration movement is not recent construct politics but have long historical struggle. But the Indian policy to keep the Nagas divided is clear. On the other hand, Naga civil societies could not sustain to the best due to the internal differences. At the moment, the Meiteis’ factor to the Naga politics vis-à-vis Naga politics “conditioning” the Meitei community puzzles government of India. The fact is the “conditioning politics” threatens the ethnic-co-existence in the region.
Naga integration/unification is an “unkind” word at the moment. And this is grossly misinterpreted in the present ethnic conflicts. The historical facts of the integration movement initiated by the Naga civil societies are misread overwhelmedly in the modern media. For the Nagas, unification and peace process is indispensable political agenda. Indian recognition “uniqueness of the Naga history and political situation” is important political steps. It is understandable that “uniqueness” and integration is nothing to be anomaly but shares the same political statement.
The 31 August 2005 Kohima rally for Naga integration is one historic moment for the Nagas. It again manifests the spirit of Naga to living together. If, the GoI is sincere enough to the Naga issue and Naga understand Indian commitment to the peace then the solution is not that far. However, one observation is that whenever, there is popular government in Nagaland and Manipur the word Naga integration can be troublesome
16 POINT AGREEMENT: THE GREATEST BETRAYAL IN NAGA HISTORY
By Kaka D. Iralu (Tuesday, February 25, 2003)The wider historical background:
July 18, 1947 - The British Parliament had passed the Indian Independence Bill on July 4, 1947. After 200 years of groaning under colonial rule, India and Pakistan were finally free to leave the British Commonwealth and become two sovereign dominions.
This was indeed Asia's hour of freedom from colonial rule. Very soon Burma o their northeast and Ceylon to their south would also become free on January 4, 1948 and February 4 1948 respectively. To their north and northeast, ancient kingdoms like Nepal, Afghanistan and Tibet would also breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of the departing British imperial power. New constitutions would be drafted, new national flags would be unfurled and Asia would never be the same again.
Foreseeing all these cataclysmic changes that would be sweeping through the entire Asian continent, the Naga National Council (NNC), under its farsighted leader A.Z. Phizo, had also declared Naga independence on 14th August 1947 and informed the UN headquarters in New York. In order to make their stand more clearly heard and established in the noise and din of Asia's awakening, they had further conducted the Naga Plebiscite events were done to declare to Asia and the world that Nagaland too would become an independent sovereign nation to take her rightful place in Asia's new chapter in history.
However knowing that India could not be bypassed, Phizo after the Plebiscite had on behalf of the Nagas, written thus to Nehru on December 29, 1951:
..."With the verdict of the Naga adult population embodied in the plebiscite papers go our sincere feeling of goodwill to the Government and people of India. It is the prayer of the Naga people that the Government of India will respect the desire of the Naga people for having their own independent state, separate and sovereign. To allay the fears and suspicion of India, Nagas on their path will agree to accept an Indian national to be President of independent Nagaland for a stated period"….
He further added:
…"What the future has in store for the Nagas, time alone can show. Besides God, India today holds our destiny in her hands. Whether we, the Nagas shall shed our tears in joy or whether in sorrow and anger is a matter which India will decide"….. (See contents of the full letter in Nagaland and India, the blood and the tears, pp. 533 - 541)
Nehru and India's response to this Naga plea was to invade Nagaland with 2 divisions of the Indian Army and 35 Battalions of the Assam Rifles and Assam Police in the early 1950s. (For details, see B.N. Malik's book, My years with Nehru, p.312)
This invasion, by the late 1950s reduced 645 Naga villages to ashes resulting in the deaths of over a hundred thousand Naga lives that died from bullets, torture, starvation and diseases. By 1960, the Naga landscape was a wasteland of razed houses and broken lives.
In short, a nation that had desperately tried to raise its flag to take its rightful place in the new Asian scenario now lay devastated and almost destroyed.
However, Phizo had carefully escaped to London on June 16, 1960. His arduous journey across the Angami, Zeliangrong regions and on to East Pakistan too, had left behind a trial of blood, as villagers that had assisted his escape were burned and in some cases its male population wiped out by the Indian Army. But whatever the price paid in Nagaland, all Nagas were now looking with new hope to Phizo for their national salvation. Phizo had been sent with full plenipotentiary powers to present the Naga case in the UN. Therefore all the people in Nagaland were praying, when they learned that Phizo was going top address the world press on July 26, 1960. Phizo was also going to present the well documented booklet. "The fate of the Nagas, an appeal to the world" in order to bring charges of genocide against Nagaland.
However, the sacrifices of over a hundred thousand Naga lives and the divine providence of God in helping Phizo to escape to England would all be nullified by the 16 Point Agreement.
Hearing about Phizo's achievements, the India Government had hurriedly dispatched an IAF Dakota o Dimapur on the 25th January 1960. Members of the Naga People's Convention were hurriedly gathered from all corners of Nagaland. They were all flown to Delhi on the 26th July 1960, and on the same afternoon, the Indian manipulated 16 point Agreement was ready lying on the table of the Prime Minister of India. (For a detailed account of the Indian manipulation in creating the Naga Peoples Convention and the 16 Point Agreement in order to nullify the Naga Plebiscite of 1951; see Nagaland and India, the blood and the tears, pp. 18 - 27)
The Naga People's Convention members that went to Delhi were namely: Dr. Imkongliba Ao, Jasokie Angami, Chubatoshi Jamir, RC Chiten Jamir, Kelhoshe Sema, Etsorhmo Lotha, Sentsi Rengma, Lakhimong Yimchunger, Litinse Sangtam, Pauthing Phom, Pudemo Chakhesang, Imtichuba Chang, Thanwang Konyak, Thinuowholie Zeliang, T.N. Angami, Sashimeren Ao, H. Zopianga, Goyiepra Chakhesang and P. Shilu Ao.
The Indian side was represented by the following persons; S Dutt, Foreign Secretary, KL Mehta, Joint Secretary (E), NK Rustomji, Advisor to the Governor of Assam, M Ramunny, Commissioner NHTA, R Khathing, DC Mokokchung, TS Krishnamurthy, Private Secretary to the Governor of Assam, Har Mander Singh, Deputy Secretary (N).
The discussions from the meetings between the NPC and the Indian Government resulted in the State of Nagaland Act 1962 which converted the Naga Hills District of Assam into the Indian State of Nagaland on December 1, 1963.
From thenceforth, Naga lives would be divided into two camps. In one camp, the inmates would be provided with heavy security for their protection. In fact even till today their houses are still guarded by these forces. In the other camp, the inmates would be hunted like animals for the rest of their lives. Many of them would even fall prey from the enemy's bullets.
As already stated, Phizo addressed the world press in London on 26th July 1960. Parts of his statement read:
"I have come to this country on behalf of the Nagas to tell the people of Britain, and through them the people of the whole world of the terrible tragedy that has overtaken our country. I have come here because we found ourselves helpless in the hands of superior forces. ….. I should like to make particular appeal to the people of India to understand what has been done in their names and to come forward to help bring these suffering to an end... Killing… raping….. forced labor… concentration camps….. torture must be stopped… this horrible tragedy must not be allowed to continue even for a day longer… The world press must be allowed to see for themselves the real state of things in any and all parts of Nagaland… we are helpless; that is why I am here and I am humbly making this appeal to the great people of Britain, to the Indians and to the whole world to help resolve our differences between India and the Nagas…." (Extracted from, statement by AZ Phizo, 81 Danison House 296 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, dated July 26, 1960)
Back in India too, and on the same day, the NPC delegates were having a closed session with Nehru and some Indian leaders. Immediately following these discussions (stretching to 27th and 28th July) a counter statement was given by the Indian Government declaring to the world that the Indo-Naga conflict had been amicably settled through the 16 Point Agreement.
In this way, as the Naga nation stood grievously wounded and tottering from its baptism of fire, and even as Phizo was pleading with the world for intervention, the Naga nation was stabbed from within by its own people who had collaborated with the enemy for their own ends.
This act of treachery would condemn Nagas to 43 years of Indian rule. And since the sacrifice of over one lakh Naga lives would have to be sacrificed again to defy that Indian state of Nagaland in the subsequent years.
In the light of all these historical facts, fellow Nagas - as you once again walk to the polling booths to cast your votes for this Indian state of Nagaland, remember this - that you are treading on the blood of your own kith and kin to justify India before the world.
The over one hundred thousand innocent Nagas who were killed by the 54,000 Indian troops in the 1950s were described by the Indian Government as goondas, gangsters, extremely blood thirsty and so on. Were they indeed such heinous criminals that their villages and houses had to be burned to ashes? As they perished staring and shivering in the jungles, was their fate a deserving punishment that they had brought upon themselves?
The destruction of their homes and lives were carried out under the authority of Indian laws. The Indian soldiers who carried out these heinous acts were operating under the sanction, protection and legal immunity of Acts and Regulations like The Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1953. The Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958 etc. etc.
Now, had these Naga villagers indeed created public disorders in Assam? Had they disturbed peace and tranquility in Assam that they could even be shot to death on mere suspicion as sanctioned under The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958?
The truth is, none of these innocent Naga villagers were anywhere near any Assamese lands when their villages were attacked by the Indian Army and burned to ashes. I repeat, none of the 645 villages that were burned- whether it was Khonoma or Longpha or Xhuivi- were in Assamese territory or Assamese lands.
Why then were over one hundred thousand Nagas done to death in the 1950s branded as bloodthirsty goondas and gangsters creating disturbances in Assam and India?
In the name of God and in the name of humanity, we demand an answer from the Government and people of India. If however, the people and Government of India cannot give us a satisfactory answer, then we shall take our question to the highest court of law in the world. We shall do this because thousands and thousands of Nagas cannot simply disappear from the pages of history without a reason or an answer.
Coming back to the subject of the article, Phizo had fled to London to present the plight of his suffering people to the attention of the world. This had become necessary because the world was not willing to believe the many reports that had been sent out from Nagaland to various Governments in the world. India had effectively seen to this by pulling down an iron curtain of total news censorship all over Nagaland. At that time, not to talk of foreign pressmen - even conscientious Indian journalists were not allowed to see what was happening in Nagaland. (see for example, The Tuensang Frontier Division [undesirable persons] Regulation Act, 1955).
But as stated earlier, all the sacrifices of the Nagas and all of Phizo's attempts to draw the attention of the world were foiled by the Naga Indian collaborators of the 16 Point Agreement.
At this juncture, someone might ask: But has not all the development in Nagaland come as a result of the 16 Point Agreement? Others might even say, where would Nagas be today if it were not for the 16 Point Agreement? My reply would be: But for India's interference, Nagaland today would be as progressed and developed as any of her Asian neighbors. This is because God had gifted enough resources for Nagaland to develop herself like any other nations.
As for India's development assistance to Nagaland in the form of roads, buildings, schools etc., if these so-called development works are meant as compensation for all the Nagas that the Indian Army had killed, then let India take away all their roads and buildings back to India. For we will not trade the blood and tears of our people for any of their development works in Nagaland. Yeah, we would rather, walk barefooted on bare footpaths than exchange the lives of our kith and kin for metaled roads and concrete buildings.
As for Phizo and the 99.9% Nagas of the Plebiscite, they refused to surrender to the treacherous betrayal of the 16 Point Agreement. From London, Phizo continued to plead with the Naga People's Convention not to go any further and conduct any election in Nagaland. In letters after letters running into thousands and thousands of words, he pleaded with the NPC members not to go ahead with the Indian elections in Nagaland. In one such letter he had written:
"If we simply barter away the birthright of our posterity due to fear or through selfishness, we shall have committed an unpardonable sin...”
In another letter he wrote:
"But for Shilu Ao or any other Naga to compel our people to do things against their will, and that with the force of the Indian Army, it is most unthinkable. We shall never agree to such a betrayal...”
In one of his last letters, dated December 5, 1963, Phizo even went so far as to write:
"The so-called Interim Body will be burying the Nagas alive if the proposed election takes place…"
(For details of Phizo's quoted words, see "Reminiscences of Correspondences with A.Z.Phizo, pp.13, 25, by SC Jamir, March 31, 1998).
However, the Naga people's convention and the Interim Body in collaboration with the Indian government went ahead with the first election in Nagaland on January 10-16, 1964.
Both the Indian general elections of 1952 and 1957 had been totally boycotted by the Nagas. But now, the NPC with India's armed assistance had successfully conducted the first Indian election in Nagaland. After consolidating their position firmly in the Indian Union, on January 24, 1964, eight days after the completion of the election, SC Jamir wrote to Phizo saying:
"It was not without difficulties, (that) the Nagaland administration obtained guarantees of safe conduct for you and your delegation… I personally feel that no better opportunity would come for our meeting and thus, we should not fail to meet at this stage...”
Phizo never replied him because he realized that the NPC had betrayed the Naga nation and there was no further point in meeting some Naga- Indian politicians.
Earlier on, even Jawaharlal Nehru, having realized that Nagas could not be intimidated into submission and knowing fully well that the 16 Point Agreement was not what Nagas were demanding, had, from the floor of the Indian Parliament expressed his willingness to talk to Phizo in March 1963. But some members of the NPC opposed even this desire of Nehru and successfully prevented him from meeting Phizo.
In one of his earlier letters to SC Jamir dated August 31, 1963. Phizo had written:
"But I know we have some excitable young men to deal with who does not care what may happen to the nation."
These 'excitable' young Nagas had through the 16 Point Agreement of 1960 and election of 1964 condemned the Naga nation to 43 years of Indian rule in Nagaland. If this is not treachery and betrayal, then what is it?
In conclusion, as for subsequent Naga history and tragedies, if there had been no NPC and no 16-Point Agreement in 1960, there never would have been Revolutionary Government surrender in 1973, or a Shillong Accord in 1975, or an NSCN in 1980 and 1988 or a second NNC in 1990.
In summary, the seeds of confusions, suspicions, corruption and fratricidal killings were all sown into Naga hearts and soil when the NPC signed the infamous with the Government of India in 1960.
(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)
Machiavelli’s Ceasefire and the Indo-Naga Peace Process
Thursday 9 April 2009, by Nandita Haksar
Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 16, April 4, 2009
For eleven years the people in the Naga inhabited districts of Manipur have been living in peace ever since a ceasefire was declared between the Indian security forces and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isac-Muivah) or the NSCN (IM) in 1997. As a result a generation of children has grown up without knowledge or experience of the cordon-and-search operations which invariably resulted in human rights violations of villagers. These children had no idea what it was like to stand for hours in rain or bitter cold while the Indian security forces searched their homes, tortured the men and sexually assaulted the women and young girls.
The children in Shirui Village of Ukhrul District, Manipur State slept soundly and felt no fear when they heard the sound of jeeps coming to their village on January 19, 2009. In fact most of them did not hear anything at all till they were rudely woken up with noise and chaos and they saw hundreds of uniformed and armed Indian security forces occupy every nook and corner of their village. The children were filled with fear and some went silent with terror while others started screaming.
It was 2 am and the winter cold was still severe. The Assam Rifles woke up the young headman and occupied his house. Soon the villagers understood what was going on. The Assam Rifles had come with the intention of attacking the NSCN (IM) camp established in the Tourist Lodge near the village. The Tourist Lodge was supposed to accommodate the tourists who came every year to see the famous Lily which blossomed every year in May at the height of 2590 metres on top of the Shirui peak but like so many government projects it was left incomplete and the Lodge had stood like a haunted house with no windows or doors. The Lodge had been restored when the NSCN occupied it.
The villagers panicked because they knew that there were many NSCN cadres inside the camp and all of them were well trained and heavily armed. If the Assam Rifles attacked the camp, the NSCN cadres would retaliate and there would be many casualties. The villagers were horrified to see the Assam Rifles put a barbed wire fence around the NSCN camp and cut off their water supply.
The villagers decided to send all the children down to Ukhrul, the district headquarters 18 kms away, and that is how the Tangkhul women’s organisation heard of the siege of Shirui. The leaders of the Tangkhul women’s organisation met together and decided that they should send a delegation to Shirui and talk to the Assam Rifles officers. Representatives of the various Tangkhul organisations (Ukhrul is the home of the Tangkhul Naga Community) went up to the village. The CO of the 17 Assam Rifles was furious with the women, he said they were interfering in their work. They said they were just doing their job as peace-makers.
The Tangkhul women’s organisation (Tangkhul Shanao Long) organised a 24-hour vigil with groups of 50 women sitting all day and night out in the open next to the NSCN camp in the line of fire of whichever party decided to shoot first. They prayed, sang hymns and they even played games. The local villagers took courage from the show of solidarity from the women who came from neighbouring villages, from Ukhrul town and then as the news spread they came from distant villages. Naga public leaders also came from other Naga inhabited districts within Manipur and from Nagaland.
The siege continued for 15 days and the women had to organise food, tea and firewood for the women sitting all day and all night in the bitter cold. They also had to provide tea and snacks to the public leaders who visited the village and also those who took part in the sit-in at Ukhrul demanding the withdrawal of the Assam Rifles. The Assam Rifles personnel occupying the village numbered anywhere from 500 to 800 and they took vegetables, chicken and firewood from the village without paying any compensation. After the siege was lifted the villagers estimated that they had suffered losses amounting to 11 lakhs.
The siege was lifted and the problem was resolved because the Home Minister was going to visit Nagaland and Manipur and he wanted the problem resolved before he landed. Five Tangkhul elders were requested to negotiate with the Assam Rifles and finally it was agreed by all parties that the NSCN cadres along with their arms and ammunition would be escorted by the five elders and Assam Rifles to their designated camp at Oklong in Senapati District of Mnaipur State. More than 20 vehicles formed a convoy that left on February 2 from Shirui to Oklong.
Although the siege ended, it left behind in its wake a raging controversy about the legality of the NSCN camp and the ceasefire monitoring mechanism. A Manipur Government spokesman and some spokesmen of the Indian Army denied the existence of the NSCN designated camps in Manipur while others maintained that there were three camps which were “taken note of” but they did not include the camp at Shirui; and some denied that the ceasefire between the NSCN and the Union of India extended to Manipur while others said that the ceasefire was unofficially in place and that is why there had been no encounters for the past 11 years.
Four lawyers—Nandita Haksar, Timikha Koza, Sebastian Hongray and Edward Belho—formed a team and went into the whole question and released their report at Kohima on March 14, 2009 after a three-week study. The daily newspapers in both States carried the report but the national media ignored the entire issue.
The Lawyers Team found that the Shirui camp had been approved by the Ceasefire Monitoring Group way back in 2007. The letter written by the former Chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group (CFMG), Lt Gen R V Kulkarni (Retd) to Shri Naveen Verma, Joint Secretary (NE) Ministry of Home Affairs No CFMG/IM/2007-1566 dated 06-02-2007 is on the “situation in Ukhrul District of Manipur” and clearly states that the new location of the camp of the NSCN “stands approved”.
The team met the PRO of the Indian Army, Col Rajesh Sharma, at Imphal and asked him about the position of the designated camps in Manipur. On March 2, 2009 the Colonel told the team that he would check with the headquarters and give his reply the next day. True to his promise he gave the team his official answers: he said, according to the Ministry of Defence and the Army, there were no designated camps of the NSCN (IM) in Manipur and that the NSCN cadres were not taken to any camp in Senapati.
This denial of the existence of the camps came as a shock since the Minister of Defence, Shri A K Antony, had written in his letter DO No 22 (1)2009/D (GS-1)/773-F/RM dated February 18, 2009 to Shri Mani Charenamei, MP that “NSCN (IM) cadres moved out from Shiroy on 2nd February, 2009 to Oklang (a camp taken note of) in Senapati District thereby defusing the situation”.
The present Chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group, Maj Gen Mandhata Singh (Retd), told the team of lawyers that he had been contacted on the first day of the Shirui siege but when he checked with the Home Ministry he was told he had no jurisdiction in Manipur since the ceasefire did not extend to that State. When he was asked how the former Chairman had dealt with the incidents in Manipur he said he had no records of the decisions taken at the time and he had not ever met Lt Gen Kulkarni before taking charge as Chairman of the CFMG. This was indeed strange since Lt Gen Kulkarni had been handling the job for more than ten years.
Maj Gen Mandhata Singh refused to speculate on why the Assam Rifles had taken this provocative action in Shirui. However, a human rights activist told the lawyers’ team that during the Shirui siege one of the Assam Rifles officers had remarked that they were in a mess because of the Pfutsero incident a few days earlier.
In that incident a Captain of the Assam Rifles had driven right into an NSCN designated camp on January 8, 2009 in Phek District of Nagaland in violation of the ground rule which clearly states that the Indian security forces will not go within one kilometre of any designated camp. The NSCN had disarmed the Captain and his five jawans. On the intervention of the local leaders they had released the officer and jawans but handed the arms only the next day when Maj Gen Mandatha Singh had flown to Pfutsero in a helicopter. Although he had defused the situation and there was no controversy over the existence of the designated camp the question on everyone’s mind was why did a Captain “wander” into the NSCN camp in the first place. Curiously, the Captain had been a Meitei.
Neither the Pfutsero not the Shirui incidents are isolated incidents. The Assam Rifles has been behaving in a provocative way and the Addl Chief Secretary (Home), Nagaland Government, Mr Lalthara, told the lawyers team that his government had expressed its concern about the way Assam Rifles was patrolling near the NSCN (IM) designated camps in an “irritating way”. The CFMG cannot effectively stop the Assam Rifles but it can only intervene in specific cases brought to its notice.
The Ceasefire Monitoring Group was set up way back in 1997 after the ceasefire agreement was signed between the NSCN (IM) and the Union of India. The members of the CFMG consisted of members of the security forces, intelligence agencies, government officials and members of the NSCN. The job of the CFMG was to enforce the Ceasefire Ground Rules.
The ceasefire Ground Rules had been made in a Review Committee which consisted of members of both the Union of India and the NSCN (IM). Both parties sit together and make the rules and review the rules from time to time. However, the rules or even the ceasefire agreement are not signed documents.
In addition to the Review Committee there is a ceasefire monitoring cell of the NSCN (IM) as well and that has actively enforced the ground rules and disciplined its own cadres if they violate the rules.
The entire ceasefire monitoring mechanism was a unique experiment in democratic principles. However, instead of the ceasefire providing an atmosphere for the political negotiations it became the centre of political controversy. The State of Manipur objected to the formal extension of the ceasefire to the State on the ground that they were not party to the Agreement and that the ceasefire extension would amount to conceding the main demand of the Nagas: the integration of the Naga areas under one administration within the Indian Constitution. The Meiteis (the people living in Manipur Valley who are mainly Vaishnavites) civil society also opposed the extension of the ceasefire to the State on the ground that it would threaten the “integrity of Manipur State”.
Thus the controversy has raged and most of the 70 rounds of talks between Government of India and the NSCN (IM) has been around the issue of extension of the ceasefire to all territory where NSCN operates which includes parts of North-East which are clearly not Naga inhabited areas such as Tripura.
Thus there is a strange constitutional problem: the Nagas are demanding the integration of Naga inhabited areas which are all contiguous—the present State of Nagaland, four districts of Manipur, a part of Assam and a part of Arunachal. This political demand is a demand which can be easily accommodated within the Constitution of India since under our Constitution it requires a simple majority in Parliament to change the boundaries of the States which were created for administrative convenience and not with peoples’ consent. However, the Union of India has refused to concede this demand.
On the other hand the Meiteis are demanding that the integrity and unity of Manipur be respected since the boundaries of the Manipur State go back to 2000 years. The Indian Constitution does not recognise the “integrity and unity” of States within India. In order to fulfil this demand the Meiteis would have to fight for a more federal system by which the boundaries of States cannot be changed except through a complex political negotiation as in the USA.
Both these political demands need to be negotiated. However, these political differences are being utilised by intelligence agencies to create divisions between the Nagas living in the Hill Districts and the Meiteis living in the Valley. Both the Nagas and Meiteis had in the past come together to fight against the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and together they had succeeded in making the issue a national issue. However, the tensions over the ceasefire has led to communalisation of the issue and a section of the Meitei civil society is even asking for more security forces to curb the NSCN.
This is the context in which the recommendation of the Lawyers Committee should be understood and supported: that the ceasefire should be “officially extended without territorial limit with an explicit clause to indicate that the extension of the ceasefire is a purely administrative measure and has no political connotations or implications”.
They have also recommended that the entire ceasefire monitoring mechanism must be made more transparent so that incidents such as the one at Shirui do not occur again.
The Indo-Naga political negotiations which started off as being a unique democratic experiment has been sabotaged by intelligence agencies to serve their Machiavellian politics of divide and rule.
The author is a human rights lawyer and writer.