Views & Reviews
To Sustain the Naga Saga
The Naga people as a whole have now reached a stage of anxiety, apprehension as well as hope for a lasting and respectable solution to the decades-old Indo-Naga issue thus paving the way for enduring peace and development.
Whatever views may have been regarding it as a law and order problem, insurgency, secession, even threat to overall Indian national integration and the like, even the Government of India (GoI) has officially accepted this as a political issue between two entities based on the unique Naga Rights and therefore, History.
To cut to the chase, negotiations with Naga Political Groups were set in motion in 1997 with the signing of the Cease-Fire Agreement between GoI and NSCN in Bangkok in 1997. This was followed by meetings, negotiations and eventually a Framework Agreement. Since then, a new generation of Nagas have been born and a good number have even graduated but so far what is their future?
Ceasefire Agreement of 1997 was the basis of the talks and it summarily rules out “integration of Naga-inhabited areas and the demand for sovereignty and flag” as the talks were within the framework of the Constitution of India. The NSCN(IM) had more or less accepted the Constitution of India and the political position of the North-Eastern States.
The Framework Agreement between GoI and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was signed on 3rd August, 2015 by R.N. Ravi as Representative of GoI and Isak Chishi Swu as Chairman of NSCN and Th. Muivah as General Secretary, NSCN. It is to be here noted that this NSCN led by Isak and Muivah was later designated as NSCN(IM) when S.S. Khaplang broke away to form the NSCN(K).
GOI widens scope
Meanwhile, on invitation of GoI the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) responded and the ground was laid to have a holistic approach to resolve the Indo-Naga Political Conflict through an inclusive dialogue and negotiations.
When GoI had entered into dialogue with the NSCN(IM), leaders both within NSCN (IM) and NSCN(K) realised that matters were not being taken up in the right direction. This lead to the formation of other NSCN groups and now there are six known groups of NSCN with suffixes to distinguish them and three Naga National Council groups. These constitute the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs).
Thus, on resolution of Naga political issue, GoI and NNPGs have had an Agreed Position as of November 17, 2017 through negotiation and understanding of each other’s factual position.
The Agreed Position between the GoI and Working Committee (WC) of NNPGs was signed by R.N. Ravi, Interlocutor, GoI and six members of WC, namely, Kitovi Zhimomi, Convener & Ato Kilonser, GPRN/NSCN, plus five Co-Conveners V. Nagi, General Secretary, NNC(Parent Body), Hozheto Z. Chophy, Ato Kilonser, NNC/NPGN, Zhopra Vero, Kedallo, FGN, Kiumukam Yimchunger, President, NNC/GDRN and Y. Wangtin Naga, President, NSCN/GPRN-Reformation.
Genesis of Article 371(A)
Whatever anyone’s personal view may be regarding provisions incorporated into Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India, the fact remains that Nagaland was instituted as the 16th State and the only one for political reasons.
We are all aware that each and every Naga is all out for Independence (Sovereignty) and Integration of all Naga-inhabited areas and still stand by the 1951 Plebiscite. There are certain sections who criticise the then Naga People’s Convention (NPC) which initiated negotiations with GoI that resulted in 16-Point Agreement of 1960 which paved the way for Article 371(A) and Statehood.
The 1950s were a time of hardships for the general Naga people. The boundaries of India and then Burma (now Myanmar) were arbitrarily demarcated between then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Burma’s Prime Minister U Nu after a disastrous visit to Kohima in 1952. This unfortunately left some contiguous Naga-inhabited areas under Myanmar and the boundary line still cuts through the residence of the Angh of Longwa in Mon District.
Also, due to another oversight, other contiguous Naga-inhabited areas were left under neighbouring States of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. As regards Naga areas in North Myanmar, this has international ramifications and so has to be approached on another level.
When Naga Army regularly ambushed Indian Army and Para Military forces, they inflicted enough casualties and disappeared into the jungles proving their prowess in guerrilla warfare. As a consequence, the innocent villagers residing near the ambush sites had to face the brunt of it. So much so, that concerned and educated leaders of the NPC through continuous negotiations finally brought about Statehood short of Independence.
This gave the Nagas a political entity and practically everybody has partaken of the fruits of Nagaland’s Statehood. The reasons why we have not progressed as we should have are for us to retrospect and must introspect to remedy the negative aspects. So, criticising the growth of the tree is a no go. Article 371A also heralded subsequent Clauses which provided statehoods to Manipur and Meghalaya.
As of the moment
It is to be understood that the Agreed Position practically covers all aspects of the Naga dimension and so are on the negotiating table. What is important and highly encouraging is that the Working Committee of the NNPGs has the support and backing of concerned Naga civil society organisations.
It is also a matter of concern and rightly pointed out by Naga Indigenous People Alliance (NIPA) that Clause 2 of the 16-Point Agreement which respectively provided for the present State of Nagaland to be under the aegis of the Ministry of External Affairs had been transferred to Ministry of Home Affairs. Clause 13 regarding Integration of contiguous Naga areas into one administrative unit has been literally put out of question.
However, for the purpose of this write-up it is hereby suggested that certain administrative and financial provisions including other relevant details like Inner Line Permit (ILP) be made for the contiguous Naga-inhabited areas in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh without of course, affecting the territorial integrity of neighbouring States since integration is out of question—at least for the time being.
An impartial High Powered Committee is suggested to once and for all demarcate the respective boundaries especially with Assam at the earliest since this has been pending with occasional skirmishes since Nagaland’s Statehood.
By 2001 during informal and official rounds of negotiations with the Working Committee (WC) of NNPGs, the GoI had never mentioned the Framework Agreement with NSCN(IM). So, the WC worked out an anchor point to put across the table with GoI.
Another factor is the NSCN(IM)’s Framework Agreement (FA) with GoI details of which are yet to be made public so far. Convener of the group’s Steering Committee Major (Retd.) Hutovi Chishi, has stated that the FA and competencies being worked out with “outside the box solution” needs caution till its completion. The competencies include the Naga Flag and Constitution. The details would be made in “due course of time.”
Also, its version of Pan Naga Hoho which envisages having overall influence in practically all aspects of the Naga dimension would not be acceptable to the general public.
As regards Nagaland, the Joint Legislators Forum (JLF) and the Legislative Assembly had earlier resolved to facilitate for an early solution. As it is, the Opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF) has very recently withdrawn from the JLF. Nevertheless, it insists that it is committed as a facilitator and through its Political Affairs Mission has met with concerned civil society organisations.
The NSCN(IM)’s demand for exclusive rights over Intangki reserved forest compounded by the Nagaland Government’s inaction in dealing with this is subject to debate and unacceptable to majority of the Nagas particularly the Zeliangrongs. It can establish its HQ elsewhere as suggested by Khekiye Sema (Retd IAS).
Moreover, NSCN(IM) needs to sort out its differences with the Meiteis, Kukis and Zeliangrongs in Manipur and Assam. These need to be ironed out by the powers that be for positive outcome. Both the States are ruled in alliance as in the Centre and are therefore, in a strong position to convince the NSCN(IM) to extend and also receive the olive branch from the three communities. For that matter, Nagaland’s ruling PDA Government is also an allied one.
It is high time that all Nagas of whichever political ideology MUST avoid being rigid and come together as one united body and one voice for whatever political settlement GoI is willing to dispense and which is acceptable to the majority of Naga people. While not compromising on our ultimate objectives, we need also to realise the ground realities and the ever changing political situation the world over.
In this connection, both NSCN(IM) and NNPGs which have unceasingly struggled for the Naga cause should also come to terms with each other in the overall interest of the Naga people. The Appeal of Kilo Kilonser of GPRN David Mero: “Today, I pray for all Nagas to collectively work to heal the badly wounded nation. We need to shed our personal differences and come together.”
We need not follow any other model in other parts of the world except our very own. Better to give and take as well as accept something without loss of face. Other relevant issues may be kept in abeyance for the time being till it is harvest time, hopefully, in the not too distant future.
Both the ruling PDA Government and Opposition should also come together and jointly put forth their stand because they are the elected Legislators and so have to contribute a vital role in the Naga dimension. To facilitate in the ongoing negotiations is one thing but the Legislators must also ensure a smooth transition to the new but expected dispensation.
Thus, NSCN(IM), NNPGs, ruling PDA Government and Opposition NPF together in unity would be the formidable voice of the Naga people. This is most imperative since there should be only one solution and GoI “will not wait for anyone anymore.” We can hope that the good times are coming provided we ensure they don’t take their own good time in coming.
Last But Not The Least
All things considered, since the final solution will have to be within the ambit of the Constitution of India, the concept of a status higher than the special one which culminated in Nagaland’s Statehood should be on the cards and included in the final solution.
Right now, India is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and economic slowdown along with the expansionist designs of Communist China vis-à-vis the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and Dokhlam on the tri-junction of Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet, as well as terrorist activities perpetrated from Pakistan. Even Nepal has claimed parts of Uttarakhand. GoI is resolute in dealing with them.
The North-East Region is the scenic gateway to trade, commerce and cultural ties in South-East Asia and beyond through Nagaland and Manipur. It is also rich in tea, oil, forest, minerals and other natural resources and hence vital for India’s geo-political strategy and commercial development including tourism. Hence there is emphasis on “Look East” policy.
It is to be fervently hoped that GoI headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose 70th birthday on September 17 coincided with Vishwakarma Puja, is poised on the threshold of international history, will be blessed with Solomon-like wisdom complemented by relevant maxims in the treatise on statecraft Arthasastra by Kautilya (aka Chanakya). Thus GoI can at last resolve the decades-old Naga issue.
Then only, we can fully devote our energies and talents for peace, development and progress. And thus sustain the Naga Saga.
Jack T. Chakhesang