New Delhi, June 5: Even as fresh violence erupted in Manipur, ten Naga MLAs from the state arrived in New Delhi today ahead of a meeting scheduled with Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday. The MLAs will be accompanied by Outer Manipur Lok Sabha MP Dr. Lorho Pfoze of the Naga People’s
Front, an ally of the BJP in the state.
The ten Naga MLAs include five from the Naga People’s Front including transport minister in the Biren Singh’s government Khashim Vashum, Leishiyo Keishing, Awangbow Newmai, Ram Muivah and Losii Dikho.
Two MLAs belong to the state’s ruling BJP party – SS Olish and Dinganglung Ganmei, while two others N. Kayisii and Janhemlung Panmei belong to another ally, Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party, and J Kumo Sha Independent MLA. The MLAs interacted with representatives, intellectuals and social activists from the Naga community this morning as a consultation in preparation for the meeting with Shah tomorrow.
In light of the ongoing violence in Manipur, in which the Naga community has neither been involved nor targeted, the elected representatives had requested a meeting with the Union Home Minister during his visit to the state.
“When Amit Shah was in Manipur he had no time to meet us. However he told us to meet him in New Delhi on June 6 and that is why we are here. We had a consultative meeting with the Naga civil societies in the capital today. In the course of the meeting the civil societies and us, the elected representatives are all on the same page. Our one major concern is this, if a solution is being brought by the Indian government, it should not be for one community alone, but for the entire region. A solution for just one community is meaningless as it will not solve anything. The Centre should strike a balance,’’ said a delegation member.
“We will raise concerns about the ongoing crisis in Manipur. The violence has not affected the Naga community however it is important to understand how to cope with such a situation. But more importantly, we are concerned about a possible settlement agreement with the Kuki community as hinted by Shah. If this is the case, and an agreement is near – then this affects the Naga tribes directly. Any settlement in the current juncture must take the historical aspects into account. Otherwise it will be difficult for us to accept any settlement of any nature. This is because much of the land that the Kukis dominate and claim as their own, historically belongs to the Nagas,” said another delegation member.
The Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups, primarily based out of Churachandpur district in Manipur, but who can also be found in Kangpokpi and Chandel districts, particularly in the Indo-Myanmar border town of Moreh, entered a Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with the Indian Government in 2008, a decade after the NSCN-IM entered a ceasefire agreement. But peace talks with the Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups only began much later under the Modi administration.
“Settlement, if given, affects us, not just the Kuki-Zomi tribes, the centre needs to know this. Hence, the consultation process for such settlement needs to have wider ambit of the Naga factor. The Central government cannot decide the councils for the tribes by consulting one community. Consulting the elected representatives is not enough, the government must consult the Naga CSOs as well,’’ a Naga activist in Delhi said.
According to sources, the peace settlement that is being discussed between the SoO groups and the Indian government is based on the concept of territorial councils. These councils are likely to give far
greater autonomy, particularly in the case of control of finances, to the tribes.
Sources have pointed out that the talks had settled upon the module of providing ‘territorial
councils’ to the tribes of Manipur. The Kuki groups had asked that the 10 hill districts, dominated by Kuki-Zomi and Naga tribes – be divided into two territorial councils – one for the Nagas and the other for the Kuki-Zomi groups. The Biren Singh led government had proposed that there be ten territorial councils – one for every district. The Centre had proposed a division of 2-2-1 – a proposition that was backed by the Zomi insurgent groups.
While the concept of territorial councils has not been amenable to the dominant Meitei population in the state, the Naga community is now likely to contest this concept – in particular the delineation of
administrative territories for the Kuki and Zomi tribes in the state.