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.