Manipur unrest refreshes cold war between Naga extremist groups

The NSCN (I-M) has trashed the allegations of the NNPG’s working committee that Tangkhuls have blood relations with the Meitei people

June 29, 2023 11:46 am | Updated 02:22 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Tyres and construction materials set on fire by miscreants amid ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur on June 16, 2023. File

Tyres and construction materials set on fire by miscreants amid ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur on June 16, 2023. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The ongoing ethnic conflict between two communities in Manipur has refreshed the cold war between two Naga extremist groups based mainly in adjoining Nagaland. 

The working committee of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) has practically told the rival Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland or NSCN (I-M) that its members do not belong to Nagaland by raking up the “blood relations” of the Tangkhul and the Meitei communities. 

The Meitei people have been caught in an ethnic battle with the Kuki group of tribes since May 3. The Meiteis, Nagas, the Kuki-Zomis are the three major ethnic communities of Manipur. 

The NNPG is a conglomerate of seven groups, mostly splinters of the NSCN (Khaplang), whose members are Nagas based in Nagaland. Most of the NSCN (I-M) members are Tangkhuls, who are Nagas dominating the Ukhrul and Kamjong districts of Manipur. 

In a statement on June 25, the NNPG alluded to a reported congregation of Tangkhul village chiefs (Federation of Haomee) and Meiteis on June 10 to restore the “lost ties” and to defend the territorial integrity of Manipur together. 

Targeting Thuingaleng Muivah, the general secretary of NSCN (I-M), the NNPG said that “a person/persons from Manipur cannot and has no right to lecture on the political future of Nagaland”. 

Mr. Muivah is a Tangkhul and his ancestral village is Somdal in Ukhrul district. 

“Simply put, their home addresses will always remain in Manipur,” the NNPG said, underlining a perception among some Nagas of Nagaland that their fellow tribespeople in Manipur are not Nagas enough. 

Critical of Kuki demand

The NNPG also referred to a write-up by senior NSCN (I-M) leader, Rh. Raising in which he panned the demand for a separate administration raised by the Kuki-Zomi people in Manipur. He wrote that “a political movement by a group of refugees or immigrants for a separate homeland or a separate State in other people’s country is an act of aggression on the inherent right of the native people and their land”. 

Mr. Raising also wrote: “Claiming citizenship of a country with forgery documents from fraudsters is a crime against the state. Planting foreign populations in an occupied territory of a native people for marginalising the native people is equally an act of colonialism and expansionism to be condemned.” 

The view has been likened to the narrative of the BJP-led Manipur government, which is dominated by the Meitei people. 

The NSCN (I-M) slammed the NNPG for making “baseless allegations” and accused it of working on behalf of Indian agencies. The NSCN (I-M), a spokesperson said, stands for the inherent rights of the Nagas and treats neither the Meiteis nor the Kukis as an enemy. 

The Meiteis, Imphal Valley-based anthropologists say, have a cultural affinity with the Tangkhuls. According to the official site of the Ukhrul district, the Tangkhuls were so named by the Meiteis. 

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