Constitutional Crisis in Manipur By Nandita Haksar

Constitutional Crisis in Manipur

– Nandita Haksar

From the time I first visited Manipur I have been painfully aware of the divisions within the Manipur society. And I have also been aware how deeply ignorant the rest of us in India are about the history and geography of the area.

The first time I went to Ukhrul was in 1982 as a part of a women’s team to investigate into the human rights violations by the Indian armed forces during a counter-insurgency operation. The team was headed by Pramila Dandavate. In her first speech in Ukhrul she began by saying she was happy to be in the land of Arjun and Chitrangada. The people looked a little disturbed but politely translated the speech. She, like most of our team, was totally unaware that that one statement had many political connotations.

First of all, it was not until the eighteenth century that the kingdom was called by its present Sanskritised name of Manipur. Till then the kingdom was known as Meitrabak or Kangleibak. It was after the conversion of the Meitei King, Garib Niwaz, into Hinduism under the influence of one Shanti Das, a Brahman from Sylhet, that the culture underwent a process of Hinduisation. The traditional religious books were burnt, temples to the old Sanamahi God were destroyed, the Bengali script was imposed. This was done despite the strong opposition by the traditional priests and courtiers. The Meitei Kings started claiming they were descendants of Arjun’s son and they got integrated with the great traditions.

It was perhaps from this time that the cultural distance between the Hill people and the Valley people began to grow. A similar process can be seen in the relations between the Ahoms and the Nagas (and other tribal communities) after the Ahoms took to Hinduism. One of the most negative aspects of Hinduism was the caste system which denied the Nagas the right to equality and dignity. Added to the negative influence of Hinduism was the conversion of the Nagas to Christianity during the colonial rule.

Thus the present State of Manipur has five distinct nationalities with sub-groups in each. Broadly, in the Valley lives the majority community, the Vaishnavite Meiteis. However, there have been significant movements for a return to their pre-Hindu culture and revive their ancient script. Within the Meiteis there are the Brahmans which form a distinct community. The Meiteis have evolved a truly distinctive culture and civilisation with rich literary traditions and totally justified pride in their poetry, painting, theatre and dance forms. There are many Meitei armed groups, some of them asserting their pre-Hindu identity while others want separation from India.

The other community living in the Valley is the Manipuri Muslims who have a distinct history and cultural trajectory. In fact in recent years they have begun to assert their religious identity, especially after the first violence against Muslims in which Muslims were burnt alive and suffered all kinds of indignities. There are several Muslim armed groups representing the Muslims in Manipur.


There are five Hill districts which form the larger geographical area of Manipur. The district of Churachandpur is the home of many communities of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group. These communities have affinities with the Mizos of Mizoram and Chins in Burma and in the past there have been movements for joining with Mizoram. These people are almost entirely Christian. There are several armed groups in the district reflecting the grievances of the people in the district.

The other four districts in Manipur—Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Senapati and Chandel—are inhabited by the Nagas. The Ukhrul district is the home of the Tangkhul Nagas; Tamenglong is home to the Zeliangrong group of tribes; the Senapati district is the home of four Naga tribes: Mao, Maram, Thangal, Poumai; Chandel is the home of eight Naga tribes: Aimol, Anal, Lamkang, Tarao, Kom, Maring, Moyon and Monsang. Some of these tribes have been described as Kukis by the British but they have opted to identify with the Nagas.

The fifth community is of the Indians, who include the shopkeepers, rickshaw pullers and a few industrialists. They maintain their own culture.

These communities do live side by side and do have relationships with each other, especially in the workplace, in the market and in public places. However, there is no composite culture that binds these five communities. Over the years the Meiteis have dominated the political life of the State, notwithstanding the fact that there has been a Naga Chief Minister or tribal civil servants. On a daily basis the tribal people suffer humiliations and indignities in their interaction with the dominant community.

In addition, the people of the Hill Districts have been systematically been denied their fair share in the development funds and all the good hospitals and medical facilities are available in the Valley; so also colleges and educational institutions; apart from the such facilities such as electricity and water. There is also a high degree of corruption which further marginalises the tribal communities.

The State Human Rights Commission is entirely dominated by the Meiteis and even for the short time that a Naga judge headed the Commission, he was not paid for more than six months.

The Meitei institutions and organisations exclude the tribals. For instance, the All Manipur Students Union does not include tribal students. The tribal students have their own All Tribal Students Association of Manipur.

In the imagination of a majority of Indians, the Manipur State is identified with Arjun, the Manipuri dolls with their unique costume and perhaps with the torch-bearing Meitei women called the nigh patrollers. We are unaware of the fact that four districts of Manipur are the home of the Nagas whose history is a different history from the history of the Meitei people of the Valley.

The Nagas in Manipur have been demanding that their districts be integrated with Nagaland which is contiguous. It is not the demand of the NSCN which was born only in the 1980s. The demand for integration of all Naga areas goes back to before India became independent. In fact the Naga National League under the leadership of Mr Daiho had raised the demand for integration of the Naga areas of Manipur in 1940s.

Although the Government did not concede to the demands of the Naga National League it did concede to the demand of the Naga National Council which demanded the merger of the Naga Hill district of Assam and the Tuensang district of the North-East Frontier Agency under the Ministry of External Affairs in 1957 and later this became the present State of Nagaland.

In August 1972 there was a joint agreement between the All India Congress Committee (AICC), the United Naga Integration Council and the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC). The agreement stated: “It is agreed upon that the Congress Party does not oppose the Naga integration movement and does not consider the Naga integration movement as anti-party, anti-national, anti-state and unconstitutional activity.”

Why was it possible for the Meiteis to agree to the integration of Naga areas in 1972 and why are they opposing it today? The successive governments of Manipur have sabotaged the Indo-Naga peace process by opposing the extension of ceasefire to the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur. On one occasion in June 18, 2001 they even burnt down their own Legislative Assembly because the Central Government declared the extension of ceasefire to the Naga inhabited areas (all of them, not only Manipur). Then the Meities demanded that the day be declared “Manipur Integrity Day”. I had the dubious distinction of having my effigy burnt along with Prime Minister Vajpayee, Th Muivah on that occasion! This was because I had spoken on national television on the constitutional crisis.


Now the constitutional crisis has become full blown. What are the issues?

1. In the Indo-Naga peace process whenever the Centre makes a promise the Manipur Government undermines it in the name of law and order problem. And the Government of India says it is helpless because law and order problem is a State subject. Thus the Central Government agreed to the NSCN’s demand that Th Muivah be allowed to visit his home in Ukhrul distirct. There was no apprehension of law and order because the Nagas had unanimously welcomed the decision and Th Muivah’s journey would have taken him through Naga areas. But the government of Ibobi sent his criminal force called the Indian Reserve Battalion which created a law and order problem by shooting into an unarmed crowd killing two students and injuring more than 75 villagers at the Mao gate.

2. The Legislative Assembly has 60 seats but the Nagas have only 10 MLAs. Therefore the MLAs are unable to represent the interests of their people. When the government speaks for “Manipur” in fact it does not speak for the Nagas because their MLAs’ voices are not heard. The Speaker refuses to even record their dissent. Seven MLAs have resigned. They have followed the procedure and the Speaker even accepted their resignation. But the Chief Minister did not want to have an official constitutional crisis, so the acceptance has been taken back.

All the major Naga organisations, including the Naga Hoho, the apex body of the Nagas, have given a statement that it is no longer possible for the Nagas in Manipur to live under the Meitei Government. It is a constitutional crisis which will not go away and it requires statesmanship and vision to resolve.

I have spent many years in Manipur and they have been the most meaningful ones in my life. I have learnt so much from the people living in that war-torn State. It genuinely pains me to write this article because it seems to be a betrayal of the friendship and warmth I have received from friends and acquaintances in the Valley. This article is as much an appeal to my fellow Indian citizens as to my Meitei friends to see that the integrity of Manipur lies by preserving Meitei culture and civilisation not by suppressing the development of other nationalities. I say this in much the same way I would say to my fellow Indians that the integrity of India can never be based on suppression of the democratic aspirations of Kashmiris, Bodos or other minority nationalities.

The author is a human rights lawyer and writer.


Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 26, June 19, 2010

A Brief Review of literatures on Naga Books

A Brief Review of literatures on Naga Books

Some of the earliest literatures on Naga tribes are the work of A. Mackenzie (1884), Sir James John stone (1896), B.C Allen (1905), T.C. Hudson (1911), J.H. Hutton (1921), J.P. Mills (1922) etc. Sir James Johns tone (1896), one of the earliest literature, “Naga hills and Manipur” attempted to highlight briefly about the different tribes in Manipur and Naga Hills; the expedition of British in Naga Hills, education and religion. He also wrote a brief early history of British in connection with Manipur king-Ghumber singh.

A. Mackenzie 1989 (1884), in his book worth to mention is the discussion on Naga tribes about their early history and in particular to the government policy on the Inner line and non-interference policy. According to the Inner Line in 1872-73, the power is given to the Lieutenant-Governor to prescribe a line, to be called, “the inner line” in each or any of the district affected, beyond, which no British subject of certain classes or foreign residents can pass without a license.

B.C. Allen (1905) had attempted to throw some light on Nagas in their physical features; the British expeditions to Naga Hills and socio-economy life of the people.

J.H. Hutton (1921) in his book, “The Angami Nagas” discussed the occupation of the people, general appearance of the people; the law and customs; religion; folklore and language of Angami tribe.

T.C. Hudson (1911), in his book “The Naga tribes in Manipur” attempted to discuss about the Nagas in Manipur in particular to their geographical location; general physical appearance of the people; different legends of origin and socio-cultural life of the people.

J.H. Hutton (1921), in his book “The Sema Nagas” attempted to discuss the origin and migration of Sema tribe; he also briefly covered on occupation and food habit;social life, religion, language and folklore. However he skipped the culture of the Sema Nagas.

J.P. Mills (1926) in his book “The Ao Nagas” covered the domestic life of the Ao people, their law and customs, religion and brief introduction to language and folktales.

J.P. Mills 1980 (1937), “The Rengma Nagas” He attempted to study on origin and migration of Rengma tribe. He also studies on economic life and social organization. He covered the folktales, songs and language in his study.

Christoph Von Fiirer-Haimendorf (1939), an eminent Anthropologist discussed some important culture like feasts of merit; headhunting; Morung and some experiences he had visited the Naga Hills.

Elwin Verrier (1961), in his book, “Nagaland” attempted to observe the nature of Naga people and their history also about the Naga National Council. He also observed that the form of Christianity they follow will broaden out and adjust itself to the modern world and the greatest achieving of the Naga awakening has been to unite the formerly divided and warring tribes.

Elwin Verrier 1969 (1959), “The Nagas in the Nineteenth Century”, Is the collection of tour notes from different people who had visited the Naga Hills. It attempted to edit and put together all the tour notes on physical features; socio-cultural life of different tribes; early history and economic life of the Nagas.

North and North-eastern Frontier tribe of India 1983 (1907), Compiled by the chief of the staff army head quarter in India. In this book, relevant to review is about the early British expedition to Naga Hills. The country up to the Patkoi came nominally under British rule with the rest of Muhammadas possession in Assam in 1765, but no British came to contact with the Nagas until 1832.

Tajenyuba Ao, (1957): “Ao Naga customary laws”, one of the earliest literature available on Nagas written by the Naga scholar, attempted to study the Ao Nagas customary laws, which are practiced among the Ao Naga tribe.

V.K. Anand (1967), he studies on Naga social-cultural life and in his observation he found that the way of life seemed to be changing fast. He found that Morung is completely absent in today’s Naga villages also found that means of communication and lack of transportation facilities is the biggest difficulty. As an administrator, he also found that in no way casual treatment of their problems and dispute will win their heart. One has to know the history of the dispute before giving a decision, which might have started sixty to hundred years back when their grandfather were at the helm of affairs.

M. Alemchiba (1970), one of the Naga writers in his book “A brief history account of Nagaland” attempted to trace about the origin of Nagas, etymology of the word Naga and migration of Nagas to their present Naga Hills.

M. Horam (1975) is one of the eminent Naga writers attempted to discuss the socio-cultural life and starting of Naga National Movement in his book “The Naga Polity”. He also discussed the historical background and entomology of the word Naga.

M. Horam (1977), in his book, “Socio-cultural life of Nagas” attempted to have case study on the socio-cultural life of the Tangkhul tribe and tried to trace the social change. He stated that looking at their economy, political, social or religion, many transformations have taken place. He observed that some of the factors leading to social change are due to British intervention in headhunting, contact with plain people, Christian missionaries, and craze for westernization. In political sphere, the Naga underground held some responsibility to change in social life. In his conclusion, he found the awareness of the Tangkhul people in education.

S.T. Das (1978), he studied the Zelianrong tribe (Liangmei, Rongmei and Zemi) in particular to Zemi tribe. He discussed in brief about the socio-cultural life of Zemi tribe. He also mentioned that shifting cultivation is changed to wet cultivation due to not enough land for jhum cultivation.

Ringkahao Horam (1998) in his book “The Genesis of the Naga political movement” highlighted some historical background of the Nagas and the causes of he Naga political movement in Naga Hills.

R.R. Shimray (1985) had made a good attempt to elucidate about the origin and culture of Nagas in his book “Origin and culture of Nagas’. He had discussed different theories on origin of Naga and the etymology of Nagas. He gave his own hypothesis about the origin of the word “Naga” and he supported with some example that the word Naga was derived from the Myanmares word “NAKA’. He also discussed all the important culture of Nagas.

Imchen Panger (1993), another Naga scholar has done the work on Ao tribe. He had discussed on ancient religion and culture of Ao Naga.

R. Vashum (2000), in his book, “Nagas’ Right to self-determination” deals the Nagas in general aspects and Naga National Movement from commencing to 1999. He also discussed different perceptions of the different sections of the Naga people on self-determination.

Murot Ramuny (1980), the Indian author on Nagas, attempted to discuss on the early history of Nagas, how the British came to Naga Hills and the formation of Nagaland state. He also writes about the Christianity in Nagaland. In one word he described in brief about he Nagas history from ancient to the present world of Nagas.

Major General S.C. Sardespande (1987), one of the Indian authors on Nagas wrote about the Khiamnungans and upper Konyaks tribe inhabiting on both sides of India-Myanmar border in Tuensang and Mon districts of Nagaland. In his book, “The Patkoi Nagas” he attempted to write about the origin of these two tribes and their socio-cultural life. He also highlighted in brief about the change in socio-cultural life of the Khiamnungans.

Kanwar Randip Singh (1987), another Indian author on Nagas, in this book “The Nagas of Nagaland: Desperadoes and Heroes of Peace” writes about the outcome of his experiences and observation during his stay in Naga hills as a superintendent of police in Naga Hills. He writes in brief about the different tribe, then he attempted to trace the course of turbulent events ushered in by Phizo and the Naga National Movement Council and assess the forces working for and against peace and Nationalism among the Nagas

Sipra Sen (1987) in her book ‘Tribe of Nagaland” deals little about the different tribes of Nagas and she compiled the bibliography on Naga tribes.

Kiranshankar Maitra (First Ed.1991), “Nagaland-Darling of the North East”, He attempted to study on various Naga tribes on their socio-cultural life. He observed how the simple tribal people of the Northeast embrace Christian and he writes-
i. The missionaries impresses upon the ignorant dim-witted people that all the non-Christians, the heathens, are to pass through the hell fire
ii. Missionaries, and many pioneering works in the field of educations, medicals services, humanitarian social services
iii. The protective British helped them above all the various ways
iv. The pioneers worked with grit and determinations; they had in their mind a tremendous missionary zeal.
He also writes the changes in dresses, life style, cooking system, pattern of house-building, personal hygienic etc.

Subhadra Mitra Channa (ed.1992), in his book “Nagaland-A contemporary ethnography” In this book, one of the important topic worth to mention is the changing agrarian structure in Nagaland.

Ringyuichon Zimik, (1992) attempted to observe the change in Landownership and practice of jhum cultivation in recent years.

Joseph Athickal (1992), in his book, “Maram Nagas-A socio-cultural study,” attempted to study the socio-cultural life of the Maram Naga tribe, the only primitive tribe in Manipur. He also attempted to find the impact of Christianity in this tribe. He observed that the advent of Christianity seemed to have made the people dependent on institutions as in the case of Maram, whether it is education or social. In his conclusion, he also observed that Maram villagers show a tendency to move down to those sites where communication is easy and have better economic prospects. He also found that education certainly brought with it, a sort of affluence, hygiene ways of living, influence and development of ones own particular tribe, which the Marams failed to enjoy as they were comparatively late comers to benefit from fruits of modernization.

Hargovind Joshi (2001) another Indian author on Nagas attempted to discuss about the Nagas origin and migration to the present inhabitation; he writes the Naga history from ancient time to the present situation in term of socio-cultural and economy life of the people.

Note: The latest books published after 2000 AD are not included except one book.

Source from:

NSF lifted ban of vehicles but ANSAM continues economic blockade

NTIMES: 15June: NSF temporarily lifted ban vehicles in Nagaland but it is not related to ANSAM’s economic blockade, reliable source said.

Naga Students Federation (NSF) the apex body of Naga students temporarily lifted ban of Manipur trucks plying in NH39 in Nagaland. However All Naga Students Association, Manipur (ANSAM) continues the Economic blockade. The economic blockade by ANSAM and ban of vehicles plying in Nagaland by NSF is not related, the source said.

The NSF bans Manipur vehicles plying in Nagaland was for not allowing the Students executives to enter Manipur to holds it annual program at Oinam village on 7th May. The NSF demands the Govt. of Manipur to apologize and later the Secretary of Govt of Manipur sent “regret for the inconveniences” caused by Manipur security forces. Then the NSF replied to govt. of Manipur to consider lifting of ban soon. The NSF also met the PM of India and after assurance received to consider the current situation in Manipur, the NSF lifted the ban temporarily.

ANSAM imposed economic blockaded in National Highways 39 and 53 since April after the govt. of Manipur did not meet the demand made by the ANSAM and UNC to amend the Autonomous District Council 2008 Act.  Then the  govt. of Manipur also held the ADC election, which is going against the wishes of the tribal people and the counting of vote is postponed indefinitely till the next announcement.  The govt. of Manipur declared “Wanted” to ANSAM and UNC President and the reward is given as Rs 1 lakh each leading to arrest the president. Earlier the Christians from Manipur went to Nagaland to meet the Christians group and NSF and the NSF soften to lift the ban. However the govt. of Manipur declaring “Wanted tag” did not make much improvement in their relationship.

The United Naga Council (UNC), Manipur has served 5 days ultimatum to the govt. of Manipur to remove “Wanted tag” and the UNC threaten to go on more intensive bandh. There was total bandh yesterday in all the present Hills districts in Manipur (Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong) in support of UNC demanding to remove “Wanted Tag” and to remove the Manipur State security forces from the Hills districts.  All the institutions, offices and shops were closed.

Home Secretary GK Pillai said that the Centre  is sending 1600 personnels including one ladies company to assist the Manipur govt. to lift the economic blockade and today the centre govt. is sending the troops to assist the Manipur in lifting the economic blockade in Manipur. Pillai said that the chief secretaries of Nagaland and Manipur will meet tomorrow to review the situation there.