Negotiated or ‘packaged solution: NPMHR discourse explores
Dimapur, Sep. 16 (EMN): The Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) organised a talk on the Indo-Naga peace process, on September 14 in New Delhi with three speakers namely Tapan Bose from the South Asian Forum for Human Rights; freelance journalist Bharat Bhushan, and Col (Dr) D.P.K Pillay of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses.
The programme was conducted ‘in the context of growing apprehensions amongst the public, with contradictory press statements being made by the negotiating parties,’ a press release from the NPMHR on Monday stated.
Tapan Bose began by pointing out that the basis of negotiations has been the recognition of the unique history of the Nagas. Delivering a short historical account of the contestations on this regard, he reminded the audience that the source of these problems was the arbitrary carving out of borders by the British.
‘Therefore, the issue of integrating contiguous Naga areas had always been a part of the agreement of the talk and there is no historical, cultural or ethnicity-based reason not to integrate,’ the press release quoted him as having stated.
Further, the abrogation of Article 370 by the government of India and the consequent removal of the flag and constitution of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir raises serious doubts regarding the Indian government’s commitment to bringing about a solution that is honourable and lasting for the Nagas. Furthermore, he said, questions regarding whether the government intends to treat the Indo-Naga peace process as a political issue or as a law and order question are brought up due to the appointment of former interlocutor on behalf of the government of India, RN Ravi, as the governor of Nagaland.
‘The declaration of a limited three-month time frame, he said, is strange for a process that has been going on for the past 22 years and expressed concern on whether it is going to be imposed.’
‘The Naga national movement had begun as a non-violent movement, to which the GoI had responded with military force, not dialogue, resulting in years of bloodshed,’ he said, according to the press release.
Bharat Bhushan followed as the next speaker by asking whether it would be fair to categorize the last 22 years of negotiations as ‘wasted’ years. He opined that in fact much progress has been made.
‘This, as evidenced by the details of the Framework Agreement that have been surfacing in starts, be they regarding sharing of competencies under Union, state and Concurrent lists in the spirit of asymmetric federalism given the unique history of the Nagas; or the integration of contiguous Naga areas via institutions that function as cultural bodies and also have financial powers devolved unto them.’
Bhushan said that the Framework Agreement should be viewed as ‘a halfway house’ by the Nagas.
‘However, this progress could be derailed by recent statements made by the current governor namely: the ultimatum that the peace process must be reconciled within 3 months; that Nagas must remain within the Indian Union; and that the talks must be ‘inclusive’ taking on board any and all bodies.’ He argued that the first statement can cause problems if the negotiators are rushed or coerced; the second statement would not be an honourable settlement without the mention of asymmetric federalism and recognition of the unique history of the Nagas; and the third may lead to continued fragmentation of the Naga representatives and civil society, and co-option if mediated by the government of India instead of the NSCN (IM), given they have been the primary negotiator thus far.’
Col (Dr) D.P.K Pillay, as the third speaker, gave a perspective of the government of India and the army, stating that imposing the AFSPA on the Naga areas meant the total abdication of responsibility by both the Union and the state governments for the Naga people, and not the way a country should treat its citizens, the press release stated.
However, he added that it was also imposed due to the breakdown of law and order in the Naga Hills. ‘While not denying the violence inflicted upon the Naga people, he argued that unlike other armies found in conflict zones across the globe, the Indian army still had personnel with moral fibre.’
Pillay was stated to have added that any party trained to kill the other becomes a legitimate target for the other party. But, he said, the public should not bear this burden.
A discussion followed where questions were raised by the audience pertaining to the role of the negotiating parties in achieving meaningful peace, democracy and development; the history of AFSPA in the region and why it had been imposed; the question of who represents the Naga people and with what purpose, among others, the press release stated.