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Exposing The Urgency Of Manipur NSCN-IM

Political pundits are of the opinion that the political movement of NSCN-IM (frontal organizations included) has reached its zenith at least in the case of Manipur. Difficulty to manage the outfit’s demands at the constitutional level by India have turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the Union Government has given them a free hand to create a political space of their own. Equally true is the tempo in which Muivah is working realizing the timely need, or perhaps the last chance, to honorably exit from Nagaland, so as to join his wife and family in Ukhrul, Manipur. Three important factors that compel Muivah to hurry up his activities are discussed in today’s edition.

Political: Autonomous District Council Elections (ADC) 2010

A political vacuum existed at the grassroots level in the hills areas of Manipur when in the 80s democratic institutions such as the ADCs were declared to be defunct after holding elections (ADC). This situation coincided with the creation of NSCN-IM, and provided the best opportunity to the outfit to penetrate to the hill areas of Manipur under the leadership of Th. Muivah. An irony emerged. On one hand, the government institutions were not functional. On the other, development funds never ceased to flow to the hill areas in the name of ADC and others for development of tribal areas. These funds were forcefully taken away by NSCN-IM and in fact formed one of the most important sources for sustaining its movement. The irony was politically exploited. For example, blaming the Meiteis became a political technology to substantially increase the amount of fund allocations for the hill areas and the outfit has reaped the benefits for the last two decades and a half.

The decision to hold elections for ADC by the Government of Manipur in 2010 came as a “shock” for NSCN-IM. Some of the important reason includes the fear of filling up the political vacuum by others, which the outfit has been enjoying for decades, and in turn challenge its dictates. At the same time, the process of creating grassroots leaders by the State is bound to create conflict with the outfit’s interests. Emanating from such fears, the frontal organizations of NSCN-IM, in the name of tribal rights, vehemently opposed and protested against holding of ADC elections. In essence, it was not a tribal issue but about using the language of tribal rights, which originated out of the fear factor of NSCN-IM. Thus, the protest against ADC received poor response and as such four out of six ADCs in Manipur responded with high voting turnouts. In the remaining two ADCs in Ukhrul and Senapati, the vacant seats (two) were filled up within a year and became functional.

Making the ADCs non-functional is strongly on the agenda of NSCN-IM. Non-functional ADCs gives the outfit to propagate that the Manipur Government is the same as earlier which does not take any interest in the development of the tribal areas, and thus, provides the political space to exploit the opportunity and gain solidarity from the hill communities, especially, the Nagas.

Development: Tribal (Area) Development

Tribal Development is another area where the NSCN-IM tries to draw their legitimacy by claiming that the Meiteis have snatched away the shares of the tribal. But one needs to understand that the outfit itself is equally responsible for the under-development in the hills. First, as a strategy it has forbidden any developmental work, particularly roads which will facilitate movement of security forces. Second, for the purpose of propaganda it has willfully created a cadre of activists who noisily complain about the underdevelopment of the hill areas as a result of exploitation by the Meiteis. As a result, the outfit has successfully propagated that the hill people are not treated as citizens by the Manipur Government. But what the outfit and its frontal organizations have not informed to the people is that development funds, either for valley or the hills, are being eaten up by the local leaders in collusion with the people in power (state and non-state). Common people in the valley and hills are not involved. So it will be wrong to blame a particular community, say for example the
Meiteis, for the woes of a particular area.
An examination of the Department of Tribal Affairs reveals that the Minister concerned has always been a tribal. Moreover, there are times when even the Chief Minister is a tribal. During such times one neither witnesses any development in the hill areas nor complains about the deficit. Here it is worthwhile to remember what Honorable MP Thangso Baite remarked on January 18, 2013. He said, “Till date, the post of Tribal Development Minister has always been held by tribal. No Meetei has ever held the post. Under such a condition it would be wrong to blame the Meiteis settling in the valley of snatching away the shares of the tribal. We should not blame others for the faults we have committed”. As far as tribal development is concerned, it is surprising to note that Manipur is one amongst the states in India with adequate/excess funding (budget allocations) for the same. The table given below is self explanatory.

Source: Annual Reports, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, 2012.

Besides, there has always been complains of concentrating development in the valley areas as a way of discriminating the people in the hills. But, it is interesting to note that, when the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Regional Campus Manipur was proposed to be set up in Manipur, the tribal civil society bodies, academicians, politicians and advisors settled the location of the University at plain area. Officially, the area belongs to Senapati but it is just about 20-25 km from Imphal. None of the tribal activists complained about it. Similarly, it is the United Naga Council who give the permission to extract oil from Tamenglong while the non-tribal is the one who is leading the movement against the extraction of natural resources. It is unfortunate that only the tribal civil societies which areas are going to be affected are involved in the protest.
If we examine the present administrative set up of Manipur, it will not be wrong to call a Manipur a ‘Tribal Administered State’ as most of the high profile administrators or decision makers are from the tribal community. For instance, both the Additional Chief Secretaries are from the tribal community. Out of the eight Principal Secretaries, three belong to tribal community while one is a Meiteis and the rest is from outside the state. Similarly, out of the 14 Commissioners, six belong to tribal community, five are Meiteis and the rest is from outside the state. Moreover, nine out of 16 senior police officers are listed from tribal communities.

This set up does not include the 20 elected members (MLA) from the tribal community who also constitute the Hill Area Committee (HAC) which looks exclusively for the welfare of the hill areas. This also does not include the two Members of Parliament from the tribal community (out of three MPs).

This set-up simply negates the ill-founded complains against the Meiteis. Then, the issue is why is the tribal areas not developed when ample amount of money is pumped in and when such a huge number of tribal’s administrators are involved in the state administration. Now, it is high time the Government comes up with a “white paper” on tribal development in order to clear up the misinformation and confusion.
Territoriality: The Issue of Land

Land issue is the most contentious of all in Manipur given that every movement is based on a claim for territoriality of a particular ethnic group. When apprehension were expressed that the non-tribal will occupy and exploit the land of the tribal, the Manipur Land Reform Act was put in place to erase the fear of the hill communities. But a reversal in terms of land ownership has emerged. When administrative safeguards have been put in place, the tribal are the ones who are settling permanently in the valley areas. But they continue to use hill addresses to avail reservations. So, we see increasing number of tribal colonies such as Nagaram, Lambulane, New Lambulane, Paomai Colony, Tribal colony, Naga River Lane, Tangkhul Avenue, Haokip Veng, etc. These are people who do not intend to move back to their native villages. The new settlement areas in the valley are sites where one finds most of the anti-Meitei campaigns or where the sympathizers of hill based armed opposition groups reside and operate. As a result, the new settlers pretend to be hardcore activists out of fear and reprisal.

The contemporary scenario in the hills reveals that it is the tribal civil and armed activists who are exploiting the hill areas. For example, chromite mining in Ukhrul is done right under the nose of NSCN-IM. UNC is the one who gave permission for oil exploration to Jubiliant Energy in Tamenglong. Precisely, this is why they want to keep the non-tribal off the areas and also to keep some of their tribal communities as a ‘show piece’ to tell the world that they are not allowed to be developed.
Way Forward

It can be concluded that the source of Manipur’s NSCN-IM movement is drying up with the ADC elections. The rhetoric of underdevelopment of tribal area on account of the Meiteis is a senseless allegation but is an outcome of lootings and pilferages committed by the outfit in collusion with a section of elites who are settled in the Imphal. As far as land is concerned, again it reveals the extraction mindset of the outfit. In addition to these, the coming up election in Nagaland has been a worrying factor. Unlike the earlier election where NSCN-IM invests its resource and manpower, this coming election is doubtful as the organization itself has weakened and divided over the honorable settlement which is going to confine in Nagaland. One is not sure whether the next government will support the movement like the present one. The changing situation in the two core areas is a worrying factor so the need to hurry up in order to get at least something. As the saying goes “Something is better than nothing”; but that “something” has to be related with Ukhrul but in the name of the Nagas.

*The opinion is written by Yenning.

*The writer can be reached at yenning05@rocketmail.com or you can visit www.hoipolloiandmundanity.blogspot.com for further readings.

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