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NNPG’s Naga Independence Day speech flags Manipur killings, Forest Act


Representational image

By Nirendra Dev 

New Delhi: It may be called taking pragmatism a step further. It also reflects the hard reality that the 2023 ethnic strife between Kukis and Meiteis in Manipur has left another tribe and other neighbouring state – the Nagas of Nagaland worried.

“It is also deeply disturbing that Naga tribes in Manipur led by United Naga Council (UNC) are simply watching and waiting as Meiteis and Kukis inflict catastrophic destruction against one another,”

NNPG convener, N Kitovi Zhimomi said in his ‘Naga Independence Day’ speech.

Naga rebels claim that when Britishers left India on Aug 14, 1947, they were ‘left as an independent community’.

The Naga insurgency has survived since then and now peace parleys between the Government of India and various Naga militant groups have been on since August 1997.

Expressing concern at the violence, Kitovi pointed out that, “Kukis will remain eternal neighbours of Tangkhuls and other tribes Nagas)…sharing the same Christianity faith”.

In reference to a rally organised by UNC recently wherein it passed a resolution seeking early settlement to the Naga peace talks, Kitovi said, “Why was the rally not for peace, tolerance and communal harmony in Manipur? 

This is insensitive and inhuman conduct on the part of UNC. These apex Naga Civil societies ….became the mouthpieces of a particular faction. They failed to differentiate between illusion and reality”.

He further stated: “Today, with ropes around their necks, these apex bodies are unable to even comment even when the entire neighbourhood (major parts of Manipur) is on fire”. 

However, the resolution at the UNC rally on August 9 has rekindled hope of an early solution.

UNC, the apex body of the Naga communities in Manipur, has demanded an early resolution on the Naga peace process while cautioning the Centre against any attempt to address the demands of any other community that could lead to the disintegration of the land of the Nagas.

The Meiteis, Nagas, and Kukis are the three major communities in Manipur. 

The NSCN-Unification faction led by Neokpao Konyak and N Kitovi Zhimomi is the principal force behind the NNPG which is all for an early signing of a final peace pact with the Govt of India. Kitovi is the convener of the NNPG.

Kitovi in his speech at a function organised at their designated camp referred to the newly enacted Forest Conservation Amendment Act, 2023.

“At the core, this amendment act, to the Naga people, is against the spirit of the Agreed Position signed on November 17, 2017 between Govt of India and NNPGs. The Indo-Naga political negotiations have traversed the subject matter based on historical and political reasons. The Nagaland state government headed by the Chief Minister (Neiphiu Rio) must reflect the sentiment of the Naga people in the media on the subject of land, resources and utilisation in Nagaland.” 

The Agreed Position was signed in 2017 bringing NNPG (the umbrella body of seven militant groups) together for talks with the Govt of  India. 

He said the Naga people are the “masters over their land” and their voices will be final and pointed out that land and its ownership is the one reason why the Indo-Naga political conflict began. 

“It is not wise on the part of the Nagaland Government to make haphazard comments on inalienable and emotive issues beyond their chair and which will affect future generation Nagas,” he said.

In his message on the occasion Q. Tuccu, president of rival group NSCN-IM, paid rich homage to Mahatma Gandhi for appreciating the Naga people’s sentiment those days.

“Today I bow to Mahatma Gandhi for being a sagacious leader of great insight. We are heavily indebted to him for his courage to stand up for the historical and political rights of the Nagas,” Q. Tuccu said. 

Another senior Naga militant leader Thinoselie M Keyho, president of Naga National Council (NNC), tried to reach out to all factional leaders and said, “I want to send out a special appeal to all my former colleagues who are now in different camps to rally together again under the slogan, ‘Nagas are one nation, one people’.”

Since 2016-17, Naga people enthusiastically await  the August 15th Independence Day speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi expecting a major announcement of breakthrough in Naga peace talks. Of course Mr Modi’s speech on Tuesday will be the last and ninth such speech before next year’s due elections in April-May 2024. 

In his two-hour long speech in Lok Sabha on Aug 10, the Prime Minister skipped any specific and detailed reference to the ongoing Naga peace talks or the hurdles faced. 

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