By Oken Jeet Sandham
Two days of discussion on the Naga political issue with almost all the legislators taking part on the Floor of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has shown very clearly that not a single legislators of the present 12th NLA is aware of the “Charter of Demands” on which the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) leaders have been negotiating for more than a decade. It can now safely be concluded that the House is kept in the dark of the political negotiations. They, however, agreed that the talks between the two parties have been quite long and for which they should urge them to expedite the process for an early settlement to the Naga political issue.
We all know that the talks have been going on only between the “Government of India and the NSCN (IM),” to be very precise, and most of the legislators or for that matter many political pundits as well as media persons have been referring to that. The Government of India’s mind is very clear that once the final stage to ink for settlement to the Naga issue is arrived at, they will perhaps start letting Naga legislators know that the solution will be “Inclusive” and other components therein. We have heard what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Interlocutor RN Ravi have recently told the 19-Member Parliamentary Working Committee (PWC) of Nagaland with regard to the settlement of the Naga political issue. And most of the Members who were part of the 19-Member PWC Team at Delhi enlightened the House of what they heard from the mouths of the Prime Minister and Interlocutor during the two-day discussion on the Naga political issue.
Today, the Central leaders and many Naga leaders have questioned the NSCN (K) on their “unilateral abrogation” of the “Ceasefire” with the Government of India. But none of them has carefully studied as to why the outfit had taken this highly dangerous step knowing fully that such a move would only lead to unwanted development.
If we think 18 years of Center-NSCN (IM) ceasefire is very long, then NSCN (K)’s 14 years of a ceasefire with the Government of India cannot be a short one. If one dissects the nature of these two ceasefires, it will be only exposing the confusing or rather insensitive nature on the part of the Government of India. We don’t know whether Delhi knows the ground realities prevailing here in Nagaland or the issues critically involving neighboring States particularly Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and even Myanmar. General Secretary of the NSCN (IM), Thuingaleng Muivah, is from the present State of Manipur, while the Chairman of the NSCN (K) SS Khaplang is from Myanmar.
Everyone knows that the NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) have been deadly rivals since they split into two from their undivided NSCN in 1988 and hundreds of cadres belonging to both of them lost their precious lives only because of the clashes between them. Such factional deadly clashes even continued even after NSCN (K) entered into a ceasefire with the Government of India in 2001. But due to the interventions of various civil societies particularly the FNR, the specter of factionalism has come down drastically and the chasm among the factions reduced.
The fact is the NSCN (K) during their long 14-year ceasefire with the Government of India had only suffered beyond repair. They had even suffered split while maintaining a ceasefire with the Government of India. Interestingly, and for whatever reason, we don’t know, the Government of India wasn’t prepared to hold political talks, not even once, with the leadership of the NSCN (K) in their long 14-year ceasefire, but continues to hold political talks in full swing with NSCN (IM) leaderships since their ceasefire in 1997. This development had made the leaders of NSCN (K) a mockery, besides humiliating them. Had Delhi taken some minimum initiative to even start informal “Political talks” with the leadership of the NSCN (K), things would not have happened as we have seen today. Then, suddenly, everyone including some leaders from Nagaland started questioning why the NSCN (K) should enter into a ceasefire with Myanmar government while maintaining with India.
From all the angles and after carefully listening to the two-day discussions on the Naga political issue on the Floor of the Nagaland Assembly on July 23 and 24, it is very clear that the Prime Minister or the Interlocutor to Center-Naga political talks had actually disclosed their minds towards the settlement of the Naga political issue.
When the Prime Minister told the 19-Member PWC from Nagaland that “If I give you 80% of your demand, it doesn’t mean I am not giving you remaining 20%,” everyone was perhaps caught napping.
The fact is the State Government of Nagaland still decides to remain as “facilitator” – meaning not a real player in the process. This also indicates that the 60 legislators are not a party to the “Talks” between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM). Why 60 legislators because the present Government in Nagaland is all-party Government or Opposition-less Government. Then the question comes that if they are not a party to the “Talks,” then will they have rights to interfere into the process or even asking parties in “Talks” to make their “Charter of Demands” public. The danger is what will they say when the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) take a final decision to resolve the issue. In this case, the State of Nagaland will be only a mere audience to the show.
Knowing this hindrance, Interlocutor Ravi was reported to have told the 19-Member PWC from Nagaland that they should “take up their role higher than the facilitator.” He also said, “What is possible; tell us, we will work together.”
Yet, once the final decision on the settlement on the Naga issue is taken, the Parliament will start discussing on it before approving it and what will the State of Nagaland do at this point of time? The Parliament will revisit the Article 371A for sure for discussion and probably, this process in the Parliament will open up even the 16-Point Agreement as to how it was entered into.
Will the Members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly accept if the Parliament attempts to undo the Article 371A, which was inserted to the Constitution of India after the Parliament enacted the State of Nagaland Act, 1962, in their endeavor to settle the Naga issue? The Parliament will definitely examine Article 371A and may move for Amendment of Article 371A or some Clauses may be added in the Article 371A or dilute some of them. They may try to give certain economic packages to various Naga areas but not before diluting the existing Article 371A. The fear is some of the Clauses in the Article 371A which give unique power to the people of Nagaland may be diluted and that will be a great handicap to the Naga people particularly the Nagas of Nagaland.
Interestingly, the Nagaland State has survived 52 years, while Delhi continues to engage in talks with leaders of Naga political groups to find a settlement to the Naga issue. The Naga sovereignty has been fundamental to the Naga political movement and the Article 371A was for making Nagaland as a full-fledged Statehood.
So, if one clearly examines the two things, the Article 371A has, precisely, got nothing to do with the Naga political issue, as the Center has been persistently engaged in ceasefires with various Naga political groups and holding talks with them to find a solution to the Naga issue. Surprisingly, the Naga underground groups generally observe the “Naga Independence Day Celebrations” every year on August 14 and strangely, all these activities happened without much obstruction from the Government side.
These complexities and dangers are noticed by Delhi as they had seen why the Naga issue still remains unresolved even after 16-Point Agreement of 1960 or why the Shillong Accord of 1975 invited more bloodshed among the Nagas. That is why Ravi has wisely informed the 19-Members PWC of Nagaland at Delhi that the State government should play more than a “facilitator,” indicating that they should be part of the process because any settlement which is to be arrived at will be for all of them. Otherwise, his fear is that another piecemeal solution will again come and that he does not favor as it will only be a vicious circle. So he has told the Members of the PWC at Delhi that any solution “should be comprehensive and not a piecemeal solution” and the process should be with “inclusive approach keeping in mind the basic Naga ethos, Naga cultures, and Naga traditional systems.”
Some Members, while taking part in the discussion on the Naga issue, have also pointed out on why they should not have another 16-Point Agreement. They have pointed out that though it was good enough for them, the Nagas have not agreed to because 16-Point Agreement was signed without consulting with the Naga national group. That is why the Naga issue still defies solution and the Agreement fails to solve the problem till date.
Another Member said the Agreements, Truces, done in the past were the best ones happened at that point in time, though the solution to Naga issue still remained elusive. He was saying that the present Naga leaders should have a more refined approach with the experiences they had from the past political events towards finding a solution to the issue.
But I honestly feel why the solution to the 68-year old Naga political issue (some says 86 years old counting from the day Naga leaders submitted a Memorandum to the Simon Commission) still remains elusive is because their approach to the solution was not with 100% attempts. Can we explain to the Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi that attempting with 80% for finding a solution to issue which is as old as Indian’s Independence will only be a piecemeal solution as Interlocutor Ravi has already explained as proven from the past experiences?
Somebody in Nagaland keeps saying PM Modi has guts to solve the Naga issue. I personally feel that “guts” will not solve Naga issue. What is lacking in the leadership of the country is their “love, care, and concern for the people in the region and also wisdom and diplomacy.”
Dear Prime Minister Modi, please learn lessons from your British counterpart David Cameron and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown whose genuine love, care and concern shown to Scots while speaking to them (Scots) on the eve of the historic “Scottish Independence Referendum, 2014” saved the “United Kingdom” from fragmentation.