Fighting for India, and Against Prejudice

KomNEW DELHI — MANGTE CHUNGNEIJANG MARY KOM, the most celebrated female boxer in India, grew up fighting.

She fought convention as the eldest child of a landless farmer in the fractious northeastern state of Manipur, where she drove steer across rice fields, work that boys in the village let her know, derisively, belonged to men.

She fought lack of means when she trained in the state’s capital as a teenager — buying knockoff sneakers in a black market bordering Myanmar, making do with two meals a day, shadowboxing her reflection in a mirror.

She fought her own body after undergoing one cesarean section for twin boys, then another for a third boy, then going back to train through postpartum sluggishness and her legs’ sudden unwillingness to bounce step.

It is perhaps not surprising then, that Ms. Kom, 32, who goes by the name Mary, cannot seem to give up the fight.

She is a five-time world champion, was the Olympic bronze medalist at the London Games, and gold medalist at this fall’s Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Her autobiography, “Unbreakable,” was released in 2013 at a ceremony hosted by the Indian actress and former Miss Universe, Sushmita Sen, who called it a story of “a woman’s road to emancipation and empowerment.” She was the subject of an operatic Bollywood biopicreleased in September that was a commercial success, perhaps the chief indicator of having arrived in India.

But her rise has been punctuated by deep grievances, often against what she describes as a sports bureaucracy stacked against her and fellow boxers. At the Asian Games medal ceremony in October, another Manipuri boxer, Laishram Sarita Devi, tearfully refused her own bronze in the 60-kilogram category, protesting the judges’ decision to award the victory in a semifinal match to her Korean opponent. Ms. Devi was suspended by the International Boxing Association for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Her colleagues, including Ms. Kom, stood by her, and India’s sports ministerwrote a letter to the amateur boxing federation pleading for the revocation of her suspension.

For Ms. Kom, a devout Christian from the tiny Kom tribal community, who has remained somewhat of an outsider in India and who has railed against bias in judging, Ms. Devi’s suspension reflects deeper fissures in the sport.

“Of course she won the bout,” said Ms. Kom, in a hotel suite not far from the presidential palace in New Delhi, asserting that the referee cheated, wanting to advance a Korean candidate to the finals. “We are always facing the same problems. Sarita was facing internationally. I was facing nationally.”

Some say Ms. Kom has used her grievances to her advantage, and they have certainly added color to her underdog story. But they have also isolated her, limiting her impact on India’s sporting culture.

“What is the use having a women’s boxer like Mary Kom?” said S. Sabanayakan, a sportswriter who has followed Ms. Kom’s career. “I hardly see Mary Kom talking to other boxers, giving tips. She only wants to be Mary Kom. Mary Kom is an iconic figure in Indian women’s boxing. Why can’t she motivate all the boxers in India? Why only Manipur?”

Her opponent, she said, had “never, ever beaten me. But the referees don’t favor me, they don’t give any points to me.”

Ms. Kom added, “In India, there is this problem facing most of the boxers from the Northeast.”

INDIA has struggled to contain multiple insurgencies within its cluster of northeastern states, thinly tied to the mainland by a 14-mile stretch of land in West Bengal. Most of the states are dominated by tribal populations with ethnic ties to their Southeast Asian neighbors. When they come to Delhi or Bangalore for school or work, many complain of discrimination.

Ms. Kom is no exception. On a Sunday several years ago, Ms. Kom was walking to church in a South Delhi neighborhood with friends, all Koms. A bus pulled up beside them, and the conductor called them Nepalis, implying, she said, that they were part of a migrant servant class. She does not remember who threw the first punch, but before she knew it, her male friends were fighting with passengers, while others fled.

Among northeastern Indians, she said, “the face is mostly similar, they think that we’re from Nepal, and they really look down on us. That’s the main problem. They don’t know where we are from.”

Many deflect criticism of judging bias in India based on state origins. But Ms. Kom represents a bit of a puzzle for the country — the pride and joy of Indian boxing, in the shape of a woman who bears little stamp of its dominant culture.

“People love Mary Kom,” said Mr. Sabanayakan, who attended the 2009 match. Mary had recently given birth, and Ms. Jangra “pounced on Mary like a lion on prey.”

Her complaints, he said, were an extension of the caginess she deploys inside the ring.

“It’s the psychology of a boxer to keep everyone under pressure,” he said. “She has a knack of creating this psychological pressure on the judges.”

But even as judges defend themselves against accusations of bias, some reveal deeply entrenched attitudes in India’s heartland about Manipuris.

Mr. Sabanayakan said that there were a large number of boxers from Manipur because tribals tend to fight by nature. Jay Kowli, recently named the head of Boxing India, a national amateur boxing organization, said that Manipuris come from a martial society, and are “hot-blooded.”

“She comes from a tribe which is genetically aggressive,” he said. “They’re warriors. You don’t expect a man on the front, a soldier on the front to be like a gentleman.”

Ms. Kom, for her part, seeks a change in the boxing establishment through representation. She recently met with the sports minister and suggested three men who could be named as independent observers of matches, including one of her first coaches in Manipur.

Discovery of human skulls and skeletons FIDAM demands halt to digging school campus

IMPHAL, Dec 27: Suspicious that the skulls and skeletons dug out during excavation of Tombisana HS campus might be of those people who disappeared in the hands of the security forces during the period when ‘enforced dis-appearance’ was endemic in the State, the Families of Invo-luntary Disappeared Asso- ciation, Manipur (FIDAM) has urged the Chief Minister to halt the excavation at the complex and institute a high level commission of enquiry.

skullsOn the basis of initial expert opinion that the skulls and skeletons that were dug out might have been buried for 17 to 40 years, Md Baniyamin, general secretary of FIDAM said that this period roughly coincides with the time when the phenomenon of ‘enforced disappea- rance’ was endemic in Manipur.

Speaking to reporters today at Kwakeithel, Md Baniyamin said that the body has submitted a memorandum to the CM demanding immediate halt to excavation at former Tombisana H/S campus and constitute a high level commission of enquiry to be headed by a retired judge. The probe panel should include experts in various related fields.

FIDAM also demanded systematic excavation inside the premises to collect further evidences.

Several people had involuntarily disappeared during the said period.

Thokchom Loken Singh (1980), M Kaizalal Paite (1994), Kingsutlin Kom (1995), Ng Angpok (1995), NS John (1995), Laishram Bijoykumar (1996), Yum-lembam Sanamacha (1998), Khundrakpam Boyai (1998) and Md Tayab Ali (1999) are among those who disappeared during the said period, according to Md Baniyamin.

The campus was occupied by the BSF, CRPF and Manipur Police for many decades, he said. Other demands of the body included systematic examination of the dug out skulls and skeletal remains and verifying the same with DNA profiling of families whose ‘loved ones’ had disappeared during the period.

FIDAM also demanded that criminal proceeding be initiated in case any foul play is detected.

A team of FIDAM who went to the site this morning was shocked to find that normal digging activity was going on at the site, Baniyamin said.

The team was told by RC Chaterjee, an engineer of Simplex Project Ltd who super- vises the excavation, that normal excavation activity was being undertaken as no order to halt the digging was coming from the higher authority. The official also expressed his inability to halt the digging without orders from the higher authorities.

As such, Md Baniyamin urged the concerned authorities to stop the digging. Headlines

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MPP postulates ‘secret’ killings

IMPHAL, Dec 27: Referring to the discovery of eight human skulls along with a large num-ber of skeletons while digging earth at a place earlier occupied by Tombisana High School which has been shut down for quite sometime now, the Manipur People’s Party (MPP) has alleged that the skulls and skeletons were of people killed two/three years back when the Congress party was in power both in the State and at the Centre.

Speaking to some media persons at their office today, MPP president N Sovakiran said that some of the skulls have still hair and parts of brain.

At one point of time, CRPF and police commandos occupied Tombisana High School campus and civilians were barred from entering the school campus.

Taking advantage of enforcement of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, security forces have been commi- tting all kinds of excesses at their whims and fancy for a protracted period.

It must be checked whe-ther the number of missing persons as reported at different police stations matches with the number of skulls discovered, Sovakiran said.

Questioning why those disgruntled youths who had taken the ‘wrong path’ in pursuit of certain demands were killed and buried, Sovakiran asserted that the State Government has been deliberately keeping NIA/CBI at bay despite all the fatal bomb blasts which rocked the State every now and then.

He went on to allege that the incumbent Government led by O Ibobi is working at the behest of certain intelligence agency and all the bomb blasts which killed many precious lives were carried out by certain elements sponsored by the Government.

MPP working committee member Y Priyokumar said that the discovery of eight skulls and a large number of skeletons would certainly spark off a serious human rights issue in Manipur.

All necessary laboratory tests should be conducted without any delay so as to identify all the skulls as well as the skeletons.

In case the State Government cannot identify the skulls and the skeletons within seven days, the National Human Rights Commi- ssion as well as the Union Home Ministry would be apprised about the disturbing discovery.

MPP vice-president M Amutombi speculated that many unknown persons might have been killed and buried taking advantage of the layers of security rings put around Tombisana High School campus when it was occupied by CRPF and police commandos.

Similar secret killings might have been committed in other places occupied by security forces. The discovery of eight skulls merits thorough investigation, he added. The Sangai Express

A Naga perspective of Naga struggle: GOI stop sleeping

Published in Feb. 2012

Press Release

Naga struggle for independence not a law and order problem, argues Naga Peace Facilitation Committee

The history of the resistance movement of the Nagas is dated back to 19th century when the colonial British and other forces ventured into the Naga Ancestral Domain. The Nagas as a nationality group distinct from other races have always been fighting against any intrusion and outside interference in their day-to-day independent affairs. Thus, when India forcibly tried to bring Nagas into the Indian Union, the Nagas refused and rejected such idea of being an Indian. While the Indians were preparing to celebrate their Independence on August 15, 1947, the Nagas under the banner of Naga National Council (NNC) declared their own Independence on August 14, 1947, a day ahead. The history of Indo-Naga conflict incepted since then continued until today without solution insight.

Due to the historical, political, socio-economic, religious and cultural incompatibilities, clash of civilizations and differential national identities between the Indians and the Nagas, the conflict over a political issue has become more complicated and protracted. One can vividly recollect the Memorandum submitted by the Naga Club to the Simon Commission on January 10, 1929 which stated that “Nagas should be left alone like they were in ancient times”. History has clearly shown that Nagas never want to be under any hegemony and domination by the foreign forces.

Indian and Burmese States have always been trying their utmost to subjugate, suppress and crush the Naga National Movement by using various strategies and policies. However, the Nagas, being a warrior nation, continued to have faith and aspiration to be a distinct national entity. Defying the Nagas’ yearn for Sovereign Independent Naga State, the Government of India, in order to bring more division within the Naga family, created Nagaland State on December 1,1963 which was out-rightly rejected by the NNC.

Nevertheless, in order to thrash out a solution, the Government of India (GOI) and the Nagas entered into the First Ceasefire in 1964. The ceasefire collapsed like a pack of card after six rounds of talks at the Prime Ministerial Level, because of the GOI’s rigidity to solve the issue only within four corners of the Indian Constitution disrespecting the Nagas’ aspiration for Independence. Since 1972, the Naga Affairs was transferred from Ministry of External Affairs to Ministry of Home Affairs to project Nagas’ struggle for political rights as mere “law and order problems”.

The conflict and war continued resulting in the death of many Naga civilians apart from combatant Armies on both sides. Unaccountable gross human rights violations were committed by the Indian armed forces against the Nagas. Undeterred by such military assaults and atrocities, the Nagas hold fast to their hope for equal political status as any other nation-state to build the Naga cultural communities into single political entity with pride and fervor. There was an increased spirit of Naga nationalism in the face of brutal military campaign and various repressive agencies trying to disunite the Nagas.

As late as in the 1990s, the Indian leadership and many military generals came to realize that Naga issue is a political one which cannot be solved through military might, but should be solved by political means and dialogue. Indian Government started sending its feelers, met the Naga leadership for political discussion to solve the issue through peaceful means. The Naga leadership responded positively to the call of time. Several years of bloody battle between the Indian and Burmese States on the one side and the Nagas on the other gave way to a bilateral political dialogues when Second Indo-Naga Ceasefire was signed on August 1, 1997 with three primary principles of negotiation, i.e., (a) the talk is unconditional, (b) at the highest level, meaning at the Prime Ministerial Level, and (c) the talk will be held outside India, meaning at the third country. The signing of Ceasefire between the GOI and the NSCN-IM was subsequently followed by a Ceasefire between the GOI and the NSCN-K in 2003.

However, the hard earned way of bringing the two conflicting parties to the negotiating table has been taken for granted by the Government of India, without any urgency to bring forth lasting and a meaningful political solution to the Indo-Naga problem. Inspite of repeated appeals from different sections of Naga society, the political talks between the two parties remains a stalemate for the obvious reason that the GOI has never been serious about the Indo-Naga political problem. Therefore, time has come for the Nagas to be categorical with the demand and assert their rights while articulating the factors leading to the deadlock of the bilateral political dialogue.

►Insincerity of GOI on Indo-Naga Peace Process Exposed:
The insincere approach of the GOI could not have been clearer than the rolling back of the terms “Without Territorial Limits” from the June 14, 2001 Bangkok Agreement with regards to the Ceasefire coverage areas after the Meiteis’ virulent protest in Imphal. The GOI’s recognition of the “Unique History and Situation of the Nagas” on July 11, 2002 does not make much sense because the GOI has considerably failed to seek a solution based on such recognition. It is observed that the GOI has not come out from its old and traditional methods of conflict management which is not only futile but also archaic and redundant. We have been witnessing time after time how the GOI talks peace while at the same time colonial ‘Divide and Rule’ policy is being exhibited against the Nagas. Our memory is still fresh of Mr. Loshou and Mr. Chakho who were brutally murdered by the Indian state military forces during the standoff at Mao Gate on 6th May, 2010 when the Ato Kilonser Th. Muivah was denied entry into his birthplace. While the GOI, on the one hand, gave nod to the journey of Ato Kilonser to his native village, on the other hand, they used Ibobi’s Government and Meitei populace to sabotage the itinerary, which had flared up communal tension between the Nagas and the Meiteis.

GOI blamed Ibobi’s Government for barring Th. Muivah from entering the state of Manipur and creating the unprecedented situation thereafter. However, this pitiable politics of GOI did not go uncaught. When the Government of Nagaland gave security permission to Chairman Isak Chisi Swu and Ato Kilonser to address the public gathering at Zunheboto on 14th Jan., 2012 on the invitation of Sumi Hoho, Ministry of Home Affairs (GoI) denied the permission to the entourage of Collective Leadership at the eleventh hour. Since they could not find any Ibobi or Meitei trump card in Nagaland to incarcerate the Naga leaders from meeting their people, MHA issued silliest conditions to the Collective Leadership and their cavalcades, i.e. (a) Not more than 20 vehicles including the local escorts to be used for the journey (b) Collective Leadership cannot carry arms, (c) Their Security personal cannot carry arms even in a concealed manner, and, (d) Collective Leadership must not hold any public meeting and press conference along the journey and at Zunheboto.

Such irrational restrictions that directly contradict the principles of political talks have not only left the peace process hanging with uncertainty but also exposed the double standard of the Indian Government.

►Criminalising the Nagas’ struggle for Self-Determination:
To make the matter worst, Government of India is working day and night to paint the rightful struggle of the Nagas as a terrorist activity. On 27th September 2010, Ningkhan Shimray, member of NSCN (IM), was whisked away from Kathmandu airport by Indian Intelligent Agencies in connivance with the Nepal Intelligence and on October 2, 2010, National Investigation Agency (NIA) stage-managed the arrest of Shimray in Bihar and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). He is allegedly framed for procuring arms and conspiracy to wage war against India.

However, Government of India has intentionally failed to understand that Mr. Shimray was on his way to participate the peace talks to be held on September 29, 2010. The question is, why the NIA should term the NSCN as terrorist organization under UAPA when the GOI has lifted the ban on the NSCN in 2002? NSCN and other Naga groups did not even appear in the GOI’s list of terrorist organisations in India. The conduct of NIA not only contradicts and undermines the GOI’s efforts for peace but also signal its desperateness in trying to implicate the rest of Naga nationalists and sympathisers under the same terrorist ordinance Act. Thus, NIA’s action is nothing but to criminalize the Nagas’ struggle for Self-Determination and exterminate the Nagas from the face of the earth, and push the Nagas’ history, culture and identity into oblivion. NIA is reminded of the fact that there was virtual army rule in the North East where reign of terror was unleashed against the people. GOI has also mishandled the Kashmir and the Maoist problems on the pretext of one or the other reason.

►GOI’s attempt to sabotage the peace process at its last stage:
Government of India has always been saying that Nagas must be united and reconciled due to the fact that GOI cannot afford to negotiate a solution to all factions. Therefore, with the painstaking endeavors of Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) under the aegis of Dr. Wati Aier prayerfully brought all the infighting Naga nationalist’s organizations to reconciliation process, that showed the way to form One National Government of the Nagas.

In view of this efficacious effort of FNR and the Naga public, the Government of India began to prick the neighboring communities like the Meiteis and the Assamese to protest against the rightful demands of the Nagas. For which, particularly the Meiteis under Ibobi’s leadership have diabolically locked horns with the Nagas on several occasions. Taking advantage of the vulnerable ethnic problems in the region, Government of India uses communal equation to suppress the rightful aspiration of the Nagas. The GOI has taken undue advantage in this peace process to disunite the Nagas. GOI’s utterances of unity, peace and reconciliation among the Naga groups are highly dubious.

►The Support Base of the Naga Movement is rooted in the Naga Public:
GOI thinks that general Naga public has grown tired of Naga nationalism, and Naga Movement has lost the Support base of the Naga public. GOI leveled that the general Naga public has willingly embraced Indian constitutional system, while it is only the underground organizations fighting against the Government of India without any public support.

However, GOI has miserably failed to realize that the general Naga public has been the base of the Nationalists’ organisations all these 60 years of the Nagas’ struggle. The Nagas have been supporting the ongoing peace process for the last 14 years in the hope of achieving their genuine aspiration for a meaningful political solution. However, the action and policy of the Ministry of Home Affairs (GOI) and its agencies goes against the spirit of the principles of peace talks.

Despite the evidential proof of the Nagas being serious to solve and transform the conflict, the MHA is trying all out to derail and abrogate the political talks by delegitimizing the Naga nationalists’ organisations as a terrorist organization. We must never forget that Government of India is taking undue advantage of the peace talks to muzzle the rights of the Nagas by de-motivating and demoralizing the Nagas and their leadership.

►The Collective Leadership Wield the Mandate of the Naga People:
In the run up to the Ceasefire, the Collective Leadership of NSCN (IM) and its functionaries have been mandated to represent the Nagas in the political negotiation, through series of public consultative meetings led by various Naga frontal organizations such as, Naga Hoho, Naga Mothers’ Association, Naga Students’ Federation, Eastern Naga Students’ Federation, Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights, United Naga Council, All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur, etc. Yet, the Government of India continues to overlook the powers of representation rested with the Collective Leadership by the Naga people.

Thus, GOI has dared to impose restrictions on the Collective Leadership in its latest development entirely to sabotage the peace process. Despite such callous policy on the part of GOI, the Naga Leaders of the three political groups – NSCN/GPRN, GPRN/NSCN and NNC/FGN is organising the Naga people consultation meeting in Dimapur on February 29, 2012 convened by Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) with the objectives of fostering peace, unity and reconciliation, and also attempt to realise one National Government of the Nagas. All the Naga villages’ chiefs, GBs, Naga Civil Societies, leaders of the Religious Institutions, NGOs etc. have been invited for the meeting.

►Nagas in Delhi Demand a Timeframed Political Solution:
As a follow up action of the Naga people consultation meeting, Nagas in Delhi under the aegis of NAGA PEACE FECILITATION COMMITTEE, DELHI in solidarity with the Naga society back home and the Collective Leadership has decided to have REMONSTRATION RALLY on February 24, 2012 at 1 PM from Jantar Mantar to Parliament Street against the GOI for trying to scuttle the political talks with deceptive policies, so as to find an early and a meaningful political solution within a timeframed manner to the protracted Indo-Naga problem.

We want the Indian Government to speed up the peace process with sincere approach having a political will and commitment to solve and transform the drawn out conflict. GOI must stop sleeping over the issue, rather it should start recognizing and accepting the Unique History, Identity, Socio-Cultural and Political Reality of the Nagas. In order to show that Nagas have every right to be independent the Nagas in Delhi once again must bring forth thousands of volunteers all dressed in traditional attires to march down to the Delhi street.

We will take forth the message to the world community that “indigenous Nagas marches in cultural attires in the political capital of India to reclaim the rights of the Nagas”. We must send out the message loud and clear to the global citizens that Nagas genuinely aspires to be free. The committee appeal all the Nagas in Delhi, be it government or private employees, students and entrepreneurs to take leave on that stipulated day for a mass rally.

Issued in the interest of the public by NAGA PEACE FACILITATION COMMITTEE, DELHI