Retrospection of Nungbrang Incident

Published on January 20, 2010

By Thongkholal Haokip
Time and again, the Kuki people have been subjected to various forms of abuses and revilements by our so-called neighbouring communities, not taking into account the galore intimidations and killings perpetrated by the security forces and militant groups.

Such irreverent incidents were vented in curses with minimum justice that can be meted out from the government without seeking the most needed heartfelt apologies with declared social irresponsibility on the part of the parties that had committed the gruesome crimes. The non-reciprocated recurrents were the causes of such iterated incidents.
Contemplating the past incidents involving the killings of innocent Kukis, there had never been reciprocal eruptive agitations for such vices except the limited demand for justice by our civil society organisations. The call for calm and demand for ex-gratia from the government had been their mainstay.

These repeated mild reactions often bewilder us and raise the question whether we equate the lives of our people with a mere bargain for money. The ramification of such trivial responses led to vicissitudes accompanying contempt to our nation. As Karl Marx had stated, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce;” tragedy becomes a farce to everyone if it is repeated. And it is repeated because no one was listening the first time.

The Nungbrang incident is the rarest of the rare cases in the history of Manipur (India), where an irate mob took the law into their hands and lynched the two Kuki Students’ Organisation, Shillong executive members who were on their way to celebrate Christmas with their beloved kins. There had never been an imagination that such unthinkable crime would be committed in a civilised society.

In such rare incident, the cause taken by the student leaders, members of Manipur Legislative Assembly (MLA) and social workers is appreciated. However, the rush in solving such cases without coordinated effort is a cause of concern.

In this regard, it is pertinent to juxtapose the Kuki and Naga MLAs in order to compare and contrast them. Notwithstanding the political consequences they might face, the Naga MLAs stand for the people they represent. For example, Samuel Jendai along with twelve other Naga MLAs signed a memorandum, seeking the integration of Naga inhabited areas of Manipur with Nagaland, with a clear conscience, as a Naga and a representative of the Naga people. Jendai asserted that, “after all, I am their elected representative and it is my duty to act according to their desires.”

Even a cursory glance of our MLAs reveals that advancing political career seems to be their utmost concern and they often compromised national interests by bowing down to the requests of party’s supremo in times of crisis. They never lived up to the electorates’ expectations. And it is a wonder how they got re-elected. A post-mortem of such intricacies reveals the role of money power in politics and elections, and the close linkage between militancy and electoral politics.

With regard to social movements and agitations, civil society organisations in the valley of Manipur are glaring example. The killing of Sanjit, a former militant and a pregnant woman, Rabina Devi, by police commandos on July 23, 2009 at BT Road, Imphal, triggered a six-month agitation. The agitation even disrupted educational institutions in the valley for four months, and was called-off only after an agreement with the government on January 8, 2010.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over the case following an order by the Imphal Bench of Gauhati High Court. The CBI registered the case even though the Agrawal Commission is holding an inquiry into the killing and the commission has fixed the next hearing on January 20, 2010.

The killing of a mere former militant and a woman trigger such a protest compelling the government to dig the truth behind the scene more than one could expect. At the height of the proverbial BT Road incident, came our Nungbrang incident, where two of our boys, who are at the prime of their careers with bright future, were lynched to death. Every heart of the Kukis was prepared for an agitation to seek justice. However, the haste in negotiation with the government unleashed the unavoidable supposal that the common people would smell fishy.

Lastly, as per the agreement between Kuki Students’ Organisation (general headquarters), et al. and the government of Manipur, a Kuki customary practice ‘toltheh’ was held at Keithelmanbi bazaar on January 5, 2009. In this regard, it must be pointed out that the Kuki customary practice of ‘toltheh’ ought to be performed in the deceased village. But in this case, we have succumbed to others and the so-called politicians just because of transportation inconvenience.

It is only when we hold our customary practices in high esteem, others will respect us. And it would be wise for intellectuals to compare the events in the BT Road incident and the Nungbrang incident.

The writer is a research scholar at the political science department in North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), India.