The SAPO and its youth wing SAYO had been constantly harassing Mao people/leaders on the National Highway, serving quit notice, damaging vehicles, intimidating innocent civilians, vandalizing shops and physically assaulting Mao people and their leaders for a long time. The bone of contention is the disputed Dzuko valley, the whole of which the Southern Angamis had been claiming as their own.
The Southern Angamis have tried everything from harassing Manipuri trekkers, even blaming them for the wildfires in the valley and SAPO is imposing an indefinite blockade of Manipur bound vehicles on the demand that Manipur government should withdraw its armed personnel and remove structures
from the Kezoltsa area.
The Manipur government had set up an IRB post at Kezoltsa area within the jurisdiction of state for precautionary measures to avoid unwanted incidents for the local tourists of Manipur.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh had asserted that 3/4 of the entire area of Dzuko valley belongs to Manipur and the remaining to Nagaland and the state government will not succumb to the pressures of a civil organisation based in Nagaland state.
Well, that is another matter. While some vested interests would talk constantly of a separate polity for Nagas including the Maos in pursuit of political aspirations, the economic linkages between the valley and hills of Manipur had been tried and tested throughout history.
Whatever be the aspirations of a common future, the Nagas in Nagaland state had never considered the Nagas of Manipur as their kindred spirit. There has been a history against Manipuri Nagas in Kohima and Dimapur. There was a time when the Tangkhuls of Manipur were driven out of Kohima.
The animosity of Southern Angamis against Mao-Maram people had always been there.
The question now is why should Mao seek to sell its produce in Nagaland while there is a high demand in Imphal for vegetable produce including potato. Time and again, Imphal has proven to be a safe market for the vegetable produce in Imphal.
Ever since the 2015 violence against Mao farmers in Nagaland, valley based civil society had been facilitating sale of their produce in Imphal and even weekly markets in various places of Imphal.
Five years down the line Mao Market has been set up at different locations in Imphal and elsewhere on a weekly basis since then. Same was the case with the small market that has opened at Khoyathong where womenfolk from Mao come and sell their produce atop the concrete put up on Naga river. Now, a regular Mao Market has been opened opposite Tangkhul Baptist Church in front of the DM College campus where the women of Mao sell their farm produce.
A number of roadside stalls and eateries had also come up as an extension of the Mao Market in front of the Manipur Baptist Church complex. This is how market logic works. On the other hand, the Dzuko controversy still remains an unfinished business.
It is not only about finding markets for our produce in Nagaland. Till the issue is resolved through either negotiation by a third party or constitutional mechanism like a neutral Inter-state Boundary Commission, violence and blockades will flare up every now and then.
It appears the Mao people do not have faith in the verdict passed by a Board of Arbitrators set up TPO based on Naga customary laws. So, the time has come for a fresh look and the Manipur government needs to be more proactive while also batting for a mechanism under the law of the land.
The whole of Manipur needs to stand behind the Mao brothers in protecting and asserting their jurisdictional rights over the Dzuko valley. The Southern Angamis must be taught a lesson once for all.