Some 85km from Ukhrul,one of Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rios key stops on his tour of Naga-dominated areas in Manipur,lies an almost unapproachable village that saw the emergence of one of the key figures of the Naga movement.
Hidden within mountains,Somdal is the village of NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah. The growing village has now nearly 4,000 inhabitants. While the Congress efforts in the three other Naga-dominated districts has set the stage for the vote to be split,the mood in this one appears titled in favour of the Naga Peoples Front,the ruling party in Nagaland. And no one expresses the mood better than Muivahs closest relatives.
Thuingaleng Muivahs elder brother James Muivah may be getting on in years,but neither age nor his failing hearing has dimmed his involvement in politics. Of course I will vote in this election. I didnt have a choice before,but in this election I will vote for the NPF. This is because their ideology is the same as ours,that of Naga sovereignty and protection of the Naga identity, says the 82-year-old who lives in a cottage with his wife and his son Ranpams family.
Though Rio declared from the Ukhrul mountaintop that complete sovereignty may no longer be possible,James Muivah insists,No sovereignty,no solution.
Formerly the headmaster of the S&K HS School,James Muivah says he and his three brothers had always been interested in politics. But my brother (Thuingaleng Muivah) was different. When he was nine years old his teacher had asked him what his ambition in life was,and he told his teacher that he wanted to be a politician. My brothers and I used to play in the jungles and sometimes go hunting for wild fowl,but when we werent doing this he used to roam around with a gathering of small village boys as their leader, James says.
The last time James met his brother was in Dimapur last year,where the latter now lives with his family. Before the ceasefire it was more difficult to meet him. I met him once secretly in Bangkok,once in Kathmandu. When he was not allowed by Manipur CM Ibobi Singh to come to his own village and visit us last year,I was very angry. He had told me it was his dream to come back to his village and meet all of us, says the octagenarian.
After his matriculation,Muivah went to Shillong for further studies and became the head of the Naga students body there. Later when he went to Gauhati University he started organising Naga students and our demands. At that point he told me that Assamese and Mizo students used to make fun of his efforts… look at them now,they have all followed our lead, says James.
From 1964 to 1973 Muivah went underground. We were first awakened and influenced by the Naga cause in the 1950s when the Angami Nagas used to cross over to our village. I have also helped in the NSCN-IM movement and so has my wife; she used to act as a carrier. But when my brother decided to go underground,that is something I chose not to do. I could handle politics,but not that, he now says. The youngest brother,Anot Muivah,decided to join the underground movement as well,he adds.