Academic approach to “Nampi Kipumkhatna Maicham”
By Thongkholal Haokip
Originally written on July 24, 2011, in a group email.
We have been discussing and sharing our views on the recently concluded “Nampi Kipumkhatna Maicham”. Different approaches have been taken ranging from accusation, biblical, pessimism to optimism based on one’s personal background and also on the propensity with the parties involved in the erection of the monumental altar.
I will not argue with any of the views shared before on this topic. However, I will decipher or convey the academic view to the varied processes involved and the possible consequences as to what others will take in this regard, citing some lessons from other exemplary bigots.
Whether Parchi has really been really guided by the sovereign God is something which has to do with personal relation with Him, and the judgment is not of ours. Or whether the altar was erected according to biblical interpretations is something associated with human perceptions based on religion. And other views may be considered as one’s epistemology. However, there are certain things which need to be taken care in this dilly dallied society of ours so that our insurgent movement can academically tread on the right path.
Unlike the insurgent groups in the Muslim world and Northern Ireland which are primarily based and fought on religious lines, most insurgency in the world are based and mobilised on ethnic lines. The Kuki insurgent movement and other groups in Northeast India is no exception to this. Religious insurgencies often misuse/misinterpret the religious texts to legitimise the obnoxious crimes committed, even to the extent of ethnic cleansing as seen mostly in the Muslim world. There are instances where ethnicity matters more than religion as seen in Darfur in Sudan where Sudanese government oppress non-Arab Sudanese in favour of Sudanese Arabs. This also applies to the Kuki-Naga conflict of the 1990s. However, such crime committed does not go unnoticed and scarred the movement of such groups with international condemnation. In the light of this it is pertinent to examine the relation between our insurgent movement and religious principles we imbibe or uphold.
The oldest and most popular insurgent groups in Northeast India belong to that of the Nagas. With the split of NSCN, the Isak-Muivah faction dominates the Manipur-Nagaland border region. Since then the NSCN-IM use religious fervor “Nagaland for Christ” to invigorate its people. However, all round criticism came during the 1990s at the height o their ethnic cleansing campaign, which was started way back in 1961. Even today mainland Indian scholars and Medias often question and rebuke their motto. In June 2010, a mainland Indian from Mumbai criticises NSCN-IM in this way:
“Nagalim for Christ” is basically institutionalised bigotry and has been used as an excuse for ethnic cleansing and forced conversions. Muivah and his cabal, need to be kicked around like street dogs.
To augment his argument he also put a quote from the Indian Express report on May 28, 2010:
“An armed group, said to belong to the NSCN-IM, has allegedly threatened them to convert to Christianity or face dire consequences. Changlang and Tirap have been on the NSCN-IM map since long. As their slogan is ‘Nagalim for Christ’, they are forcibly trying to convert the people,” the Buddhist monk said. It was in May 2004 that some armed groups first started threatening Buddhist villagers of the two districts to convert. “Since then this has been happening almost every alternate year,” he said.
Although Raising defends “Nagalim/Nagaland for Christ meant Christianity as guiding principle and not administrating Nagas with Christianity”, the scapegrace nature is much more evident than his explanation.
Having put the argument clearly it is important to examine our groups to adopt precautionary measures. Every ethnic group, no doubt, believe in a certain religion/s. Religion has a special place in everyone’s life and it would be intrinsically wrong to ask anyone to separate from such religious beliefs. However, it is equally important, as pointed above, the need to separate our insurgent movement with religion and religious beliefs to a certain extent. What is generally quoted in various unregulated Medias of mainland India about the insurgents of the Northeast is “Christian Terrorists”. Therefore, religious elements need to be separated from our ethnic aspirations and movement, especially, the pomp and show events involving the media.
The emerging intrinsic nature of the split personality of our groups is a serious concern. Their whims have become the ‘law of the land.’ This erodes their credibility, even among their own people. Nothing needs to be done to win emotions and to aggrandise and claim legitimacy by any group. But show restrain in certain aspects, which can also be described as their new alter ego, such as the Indian electioneering and religious institutions. If such things can be pursued, the feeling of abhorrence to them can be reduced to a great extent.
Interpreting in biblical terms, we need to be reminded of the words of Samuel when he rebuked Saul: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). This clearly speaks about how God should be worshiped by obeying his words. Erecting an altar for pleasing God may be a good intention, but it is also equally important to remember whether the altar is used in God’s will accordingly.