Expansion of NPF beyond Nagaland: A Naga unification movement (Part I)

By : Gairiangmei M Naga

The Naga People’s Front (NPF) is one of the oldest regional parties in the whole NE India. The NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) ruled the Nagaland state from 2003 to 2008. Again, the NPF-led DAN alliance came to power after the polls in Nagaland Assembly elections in February, 2013. Earlier, the NPF was called Nagaland People’s Party. But now its nomenclature has been renamed to Naga People’s Front along with amendment of its constitution to broaden the scope of its political activities beyond Nagaland State. On 1st April 2011, the NPF was formally declared the formation of NPF’s units in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with adhoc office bearers appointed. The main intention to expand the NPF’s units beyond Nagaland State was to work for unity and integrity of the Naga people by integrating all contiguous Naga inhabited areas under one administrative roof. Large populations of Naga people are living in different parts of Northeast region: Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. Nagaland Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio called for an integration of Naga inhabited area under a single administrative unit. The NPF President Dr Shurhozelie said the entry of NPF to Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh was in the light of the four resolutions passed by the Nagaland assembly on the issue of integration of Naga inhabited areas. Replying to a query as to why the NPF did not launch its unit in Assam, as large population of Nagas too lived there, Rio said they could not do so as the election in Assam came closer. The 13th Assam Legislative Assembly election was held in two phases on 4 and 11 April, 2011 and the result was announced on 13 May, 2011. During the declaration of the NPF’s units in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, the NPF President Dr Shurhozelie explained the party position for not fielding their candidates in the last election in Arunachal Pradesh. He said when his party had already prepared to take part in the elections; the Election Commission of India did not permit them to go ahead as some procedural incompletion of NPF.

The NPF’s formation of its unit in Arunachal Pradesh created a political storm in the State and it was strongly opposed by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), Save Arunachal Forum (SAF), and All Nyishi Students’ Union (ANSU). AAPSU questioned the motive behind the formation of NPF’s unit in Arunachal Pradesh. “The office bearer of NPF Arunachal Pradesh unit should immediately relinquish their post and apologize to the people of Arunachal Pradesh. If not, people of Arunachal Pradesh will teach them a lesson,” stated AAPSU President. SAF in a communiqué said, “The NPF’s move to form its party unit in Arunachal Pradesh should be treated as most unfortunate and rejected outright by every right thinking Arunachalee and the idea of NPF to safeguard the interest of Nagas is simply not acceptable as this trend would set a dangerous precedent in the peaceful state of Arunachal Pradesh”. Disapproving the NPF’s bid to start their Arunachal Pradesh unit, the ANSU termed it as “direct insult on the people of Arunachal Pradesh”.

On 26 May 2011, all Manipur based political parties convened a meeting to discuss the issue on formally launched NPF’s unit in Manipur. Other than the Chief Minister Ibobi Singh, the Congress was represented by Th Debendra, Phungzathang Tonsing and Gaikhangam, the CPI by P Parijat and L Iboyaima, CPI (M) by Sarat Salam and Yumnam Ratan, Radhabinod Koijam of NCP, Ch Ajang Khongsai of NPP and O Joy of MPP. After seriously studying the objectives of the NPF as enshrined in its Constitution and read as “To work for unity and integrity of the people by integrating all contiguous Naga inhabited areas under one administrative roof and also to provide protection to all the ethnic groups who are indigenous inhabitants of the State,” all the representatives of political parties attended the meeting strongly opposed the opening of NPF’s unit in Manipur at Senapati as it would lead to instability of Manipur and spread disharmony among different communities of the State. Congress-led Secular Progressive Front (SPF) Government Cabinet also discussed the proposed visit of Neiphiu Rio to Senapati and resolved to urge the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister to persuade the Nagaland Chief Minister to defer his proposed visit. Now, the proscribed United National Liberation Front (UNLF) has joined the chorus and it has slammed the entry of NPF in Manipur, terming it a ploy to advance NSCN (IM)’s agenda of disintegrating Manipur. The UNLF also hailed the decision of the people, political parties and the incumbent Government to oppose Neiphiu Rio’s plan as justified.

AMUCO had criticized the SPF Government’s stance on the launching of NPF’s unit in Manipur by saying that if the SPF Government was opposed to the launching of NPF’s unit in Manipur, then why they did not raise any voice when an NPF office was opened at Dewlahland, Imphal on March 31, 2011. It is questionable why the Government first decided to oppose the move before it was reversed after a few hours, AMUCO stated in a press release.

Explaining its justification on the expansion of the NPF’s units in neighbouring states, Dr. Shurhozelie Liezietsu said: “There is no law/rule to stop a recognised political party to extend its activities in any state in the country, adding because the Constitution of India guarantees to all citizens the democratic right to choose the party of their choice which can best represent them in the assembly in as much as an individual has the right to vote for the candidate of its choice.
The United Naga Council (UNC) has been struggling to achieve “integration of Naga inhabited areas”. UNC has been launching Non-cooperation movement against the Manipur Government: Boycott of the Autonomous District Council elections; Severance of ties with the Manipur Government; and Demand for an Alternative Arrangement. But no positive response is forthcoming from the Government of India.
The Nagas from Manipur had extended support to the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) and got elected six MLAs to the Manipur State Assembly with the blessing of the UNC. These MLAs could not deliver the expectations of people that the mandate assigned to them. Besides, the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur had initiated an affiliation of the schools in the Naga areas of Manipur to Nagaland Board. This initiative was also going nowhere.

In 1972, the United Naga Integration Council (UNIC) was merged with the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee, it was agreed upon that the Congress party would not oppose Naga integration movement as anti-party, anti-national, anti-state and unconstitutional activity. Today, contrary to what was agreed earlier, the Congress party led by Chief Minister Ibobi Singh has been scheming to derail the legitimate cause of the Nagas. Even those Naga leaders like former Chief Minister, Rishang Keishing who was a signatory to the above Agreement and Gaikhangam who is the President of MPCC remain mute spectators to the rule of the Congress party. The national political parties have completely failed to fulfill the political aspirations of the Nagas.