Principles of mediation
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he New Year in our land has started with good as well as bad news in fits and starts since the fortnight leading up to Christmas and the New Year’s Day aftermath till date.
Every once in a while, there have been communal flare-ups in our very own Nagaland between Naga brethren as also with other communities in contiguous Naga-inhabited neighbouring States. Apart from the general public disappointment with the various Naga national worker groups, what is of immediate concern is the conflagration between the Karbis and Rengma Nagas of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council of Assam. Now, there are several hundred displaced Rengma Nagas mostly camped in Dimapur area.Every community can claim ancestral rights to the land they inhabit for some reason or the other. However, what is imperative right now is that efforts must be galvanized to ensure that the communal clashes do not escalate into ethnic violence but that peaceful neighbourliness must be infused through a common ground between the contending parties.
The Chief Ministers of both Assam and Nagaland met at Jorhat on January 2 along with their entourage and both sides have expressed their views. Unlike Tarun Gogoi who is an Ahom, Neiphiu Rio can be justifiably more concerned for fellow Nagas in Assam. However, as the Legislative heads of their States concerned, they would definitely be concerned that peace returns to the afflicted areas.
For this, if necessary, both the Governments could look for a negotiator/mediator/interlocutor to facilitate the peace process between the two conflicting parties. Assam may not be averse to this suggestion since the People’s Consultative Group has acted as facilitator and witness in talks with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)—with some positive outcomes despite opposition from certain quarters.
As of now, the Assam Government has briefed the Rio-led delegation about the measures it had taken to bring the situation in Karbi Anglong under control and to instill confidence among the displaced Rengmas to return home. These include setting up police pickets in the violence-hit areas with 10 companies of CRPF deputed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs plus seven Companies of Assam Police. However, such measures are but temporary.
On his part, Rio had suggested that vast areas of Karbi Anglong are inhabited by Rengma Nagas in Assam, so raising Village Guards (VGs) similar to that extant in Nagaland may be explored so that they can protect themselves. Salaries and allowances for the same are sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Nagaland Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker, Er. Levi Rengma also suggested police outposts in Rengma Naga-inhabited areas.
The Assam Chief Minister took positive note of the suggestions. The concern now is how soon he gets into action. The sooner the better for all concerned. Meanwhile, perhaps the Nagaland Government should also put into motion plans for moving Nagaland Armed Police in the border areas between the two States as a supplement to the CRPF and Assam Police should the need arise. For, in any such sensitive situation(s) anything can go wrong if pre-emptive measures are not taken.
It is to be hoped, despite it all, that eventually peace will prevail in the violence-hit areas. It all depends on the mediators who negotiate for a lasting peaceful settlement between the two communities. The two differing Karbis and Rengma Nagas must bear in mind that it is quite possible that the conflagration was ignited by vested interests who wish to create communal riots by inciting the usually peaceful Karbi people. They must do their utmost to not fall into such traps since it gains no one except outside forces—be they political parties or intelligence agencies or even another country.
On another level, it is also time for the Nagaland Government to take a more active part in the ongoing peace process between the Government of India (GoI) and NSCN(IM) and a parallel one with the NSCN(Khaplang). Seventeen years have passed by and yet so far nothing positive is known to the general Naga public which is gradually awakening to the need for enduring peace.
Negotiation has been defined as the process by which two or more opposing parties (either countries or actors within a particular country) decide to discuss their differences within an agreed framework to find a satisfactory solution to their demands. As per the principles of mediation and the role of third parties in peace process this can be a direct negotiation or with third party facilitation. Normally, formal talks have a pre-negotiation exploration phase where the framework of a future negotiation is defined (format, location, conditions, guarantees etc).
Initially, the NSCN(IM) had insisted on no pre-conditions and talks at the Indian Prime Ministerial level. That aside, it has had about 60 rounds of talks in Nagaland, New Delhi and even a couple of countries abroad. The moot point is that the general Naga public wish to know the latest situation and in this context the Indian Government’s insistence that a measure of confidentiality must be maintained because of the glare of media publicity might affect the ongoing talks is not satisfactory.
What has been more destructive and is more negative is the release of half truths and half lies that take place around discussion tables. The cloak and dagger dance has been going on for so long that the parties concerned are seemingly beginning to fall out of step, and might well fall over each other.
To the general public in Nagaland and elsewhere the biggest tragedy has been the absence of discernment. “Discernment is about learning to separate truth from lies, illusion from reality, fantasy from facts. It is about learning the difference between: emotional truth and Spiritual Truth; emotional impulse and intuitive guidance; being victimized and feeling like a victim. It is about recognizing the difference between a person that can be trusted and one who will betray us – between a soul connection and an emotional attraction to a person.
The other absence has been that of true statesmanship and a genuine approach from Indian leaders to address the political issue of the Nagas. On the other hand, the movement that began with the need to secure the future of the mass has increasing been reduced to one of individual prosperity.
It is to be here mentioned enough time has been bought by both the sides concerned. So also the same with elected the Government of Nagaland which sticks to its role of “facilitator” only. The obstacle of another country mediating in this context is that India would insist that what is happening in our land is India’s “internal matter.”
Therefore, some ways and means have to be sought forthwith to break the long impasse. The road to this end is only possible with courage, honesty, humility ,selflessness and discernment and perhaps with the Prayer of Serenity on all our lips, in the challenging days ahead.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
(The Serenity Prayer is generally thought to have been written by