Haste and Brinkmanship Inadvisable in Reaching A Naga Accord

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Haste and Brinkmanship Inadvisable in Reaching A Naga Accord

Thuingaleng
Muivah,
the supreme
leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah)
says that Nagaland may be weaker in material sense but it is strong in
politics. No wonder, the organisation which started of as an insurgent group
was able to engage Government of India in a process of dialogue for 22 long
years after a ceasefire agreement in 1997, now as a parallel government of
which Muivah is the Ato Kilonser or Prime Minister. Even after the aspirations
of people of Jammu and Kashmir of maintaining a certain degree of autonomy with
a separate Constitution and a flag have been quashed by the Narendra Modi
government by its decision on 5th August, 2019, Muivah continues to keep alive
his vision for a shared sovereignty and enduring relationship of peaceful
co-existence with India, inked in the framework agreement signed on 3rd August,
2015 in the presence of Narendra Modi. He has good reasons to be hopeful.

Unlike
J&K no instrument of accession was signed by then popular Naga rebel
leader Angami Zapu Phizo
with the Government of India.

Nagaland was
first made part of Assam by British and then by independent India by brute
force. Nagas resisted both times and there was much violence from all sides.
But Nagas never surrendered and believe that the ongoing dialogue will result
in a political solution.

Muivah
asserts that Nagaland has never been under any foreign rule either by consent
or by conquest.
Nagas
had told the British that they should not be left to the mercy of independent
India, a sentiment that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had interestingly expressed related
to the dalits, at the time of India’s independence.

Nehru sent
Army into Nagaland, against the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi, which faced
resistance by Nagas armed initially with only bows, arrows, spears and some
rifles left behind by the receding Japanese forces during World War II.

Nehru
never respected the Nagas as human beings : Muivah

According to
Muivah, Nehru never respected the Nagas as human beings. It was much later when
P.V. Narsimha Rao met with Isak and Muivah in Paris, he agreed that dialogue
will be held without any pre-condition, at the highest level of PM and outside
India. He also acknowledged the unique history of Nagas. Subsequently, Indian
PM Deve Gowda met Isak and Muivah in Bangkok. He wanted Nagas to accept the
Indian Constitution, which was not agreeable to them and Muivah suggested that
the two parties should go their own separate ways. Two years later the
Government of India admitted that Nagas were never formally under Indian rule
and a unique solution to their problem was required. It was only after this
that the concept of shared sovereignty was floated.

After talks
with PM Atal Behari Vajpayee in Amsterdam the NSCN (IM) leadership decided to
move back to India and continue the process of dialogue with Manmohan Singh
government.

Narendra
Modi government declared with much fanfare that an agreement had been reached
with NSCN (IM) leadership only to encounter the roadblock of demand for a
separate Constitution and flag for Nagaland. Having taken away the Constitution
of J&K, which incidentally mentioned that J&K was integral part of
India, and its flag as part of the narrative of One Nation, One Constitution,
the Bhartiya Janata Party led government is in a bind with respect to the Naga
demand. But Muivah is resolute about the demand for a separate constitution and
flag which he describes as core issues.

The response
of interlocutor in dialogue process, now Governor of Nagaland, R.N. Ravi has
been to bring on board another stakeholder since 2017, Naga National Political
Groups, a conglomerate of seven organisations. This is an attempt to
counterbalance NSCN (IM), which incidentally was the only Naga group with which
he signed the framework agreement in 2015. He should learn from the history
that when the government reached an agreement with Naga People’s Convention
leaving out the Naga National Council of Phizo, it didn’t resolve the issue
then.

If NSCN (IM)
is cold shoulderd, the chances are that it’ll slip back into insurgency with a
good possibility that NSCN (Khaplang), presently dormant in Myanmar, may also
get reactivated. From the J&K experience, even though the government is
still not willing to admit its mistake, it should know that imposing any
decision against the wishes of people will not help solve any problem. Contrary
to government’s claim of total integration of J&K with India, the
alienation is now complete.

The J&K
kind of solution is untenable. The violence by the state, imposition of Armed
Forces Special Powers Act and counter-violence by the insurgent groups is an
unequal terrain, which has been a site for major and incessant human rights
violations, as Northeast has a direct experience of it. This is a cost we can
ill-afford.

Instead of
making a separate constitution and a flag a prestige or ideological issue,
it’ll be better if the government concentrated on thrashing out the intricacies
of competencies which NSCN (IM) has worked out in detail. NSCN (IM) envisions a
governance structure in the form of a pan Naga apex tribal body Hoho for a
period of six years with representatives from each village and Regional
Territorial Councils for Naga areas in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,
having realised that it may not be possible to integrate Naga inhabited areas
in these three states with present Nagaland into a greater Nagalim. Already,
Coordination Committee on Manipur Integrity has given a call to people of
Manipur to resist a final Naga Accord if it challenges the territorial
integrity, economy, cultural practices and administrative setup of Manipur.

The
government should not rush into a solution by declaring deadlines to ensnare
itself like in J&K but should patiently involve all stakeholders from within
and outside the state of Nagaland without marginalizing NSCN (IM) and evolve
towards a solution with peaceful dialogue process to the satisfaction of all.
NSCN (IM) must acknowledge that even though it may have been the only force to
reckon with in the beginning, there are now others whose sensitivities will
have to be kept in mind. For example, Kukis, another tribe, enagaged in fierce
tussle with Nagas in Manipur hills are unlikely to accept Naga dominance over
their areas. Lammingthang Kipgen, President of an organisation of Thodous, a
Kuki community, has expressed his apprehension to the interlocutor for
Indo-Kuki talks.

While it is
likely that groups within and outside Nagaland are being projected at this time
by the government to blunt the edge of NSCN (IM) demands, it is also a fact
that societies like Manipur are an ethnically plural society which have
withstood the test of time for many millennia. They are unlikely to acquiesce
to any arrangement to part with their resources and polity at the exclusion of
other stakeholders in their society. The government and NSCN (IM) must be
completely transparent in their approach and must take into confidence all
genuine political formations, civil society and ethnic groups co-habiting the
geographical area in which a collective polity has evolved over time.

There was a
time when Naga leaders were impatient and were willing to go back to Europe
leaving the dialogue process open ended and now the Government seems to be in
some kind of urgency. Narendra Modi government would do well to resist the
temptation of self-congratulatory preposterous grandeur in deciding the fate of
Nagaland without culmination of proper consultations. In the name of an accord
if the fragile ethnic balance of the region, which has a history of violence,
is not handled sensitively it can potentially lead to an ethnic implosion.

By Dr. Sandeep
Pandey, Babloo Loitongbam and Meera Sanghamitra

(The first and third writers, social-political activists, are thankful to collective leadership of NSCN (IM) which met a delegation of 13 members of Indian civil society on 27 September, 2019 at Camp Hebron in Nagaland. Babloo Loitongbam is a human rights activist from Manipur.)

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