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Mainstream, VOL LX No 18, New Delhi, April 23, 2022

Will the Nagas get a peace deal ? | Sandeep Pandey and Pankaj Pushkar

Friday 22 April 2022, by Sandeep Pandey

by Sandeep Pandey and Pankaj Pushkar

Dimapur Conclave for ‘Save the Peace,’ organized by Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights on 25-26 March, 2022, adopted the following resolution:

  • Indo-Naga political talks must be supported and protected till it achieves the desirable goal of honourable and lasting peace for both the parties in talks.
  • The Framework Agreement signed on August 3, 2015 at Delhi is a solemn commitment between the Naga people and the Government of India to bring about a dignified peace into the hitherto strife-torn land. Any attempt to dilute or revise it will undo all that has been achieved during the more than two-and-half decade-old Indo-Naga peace process.
  • It is a matter of grave concern that the peace process since 2019 has degenerated into a stalemate despite change of interlocutor. This house, therefore urges the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to take direct control of the negotiation. Negotiation at the highest level is the best recourse to safeguard the talks from the vicissitudes of bureaucracy.

The Indian government agrees that Nagas have a unique history of having been a collective of village republics not ruled by any outsider. First the British and later the Indians have conquered it by force. At the time of Indian independence Mahatma Gandhi had told Nehru that if Indian government would send military to Nagaland then he would be the first person to face a bullet. Not satisfied with the full fledged state status to Nagaland the National Socialist Council of Nagalim launched a struggle for autonomy. At least 3 Indian PMs have met the leadership of NSCN (IM) abroad, according to a condition laid down by NSCN (IM) for talks with Indian government. In 1997 NSCN (Isak-Muivah) entered into a cease fire agreement with the government of India. Isak and Muivah arrived in India in 2013. Finally, the Framework Agreement was signed in the presence of Narendra Modi.

The Framework Agreement says, ‘…the Government of India and the NSCN, respecting people’s wishes for sharing the sovereign power as defined in the competencies, reached an agreement on the 3rd August, 2015 as an honourable solution.’ It further says, ‘It is a matter of great satisfaction that dialogue between the Government of India and NSCN has successfully concluded and we are confident, it will provide for an enduring inclusive new relationship of peaceful co-existence of the two entities.’ The statement has been signed by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, the two top leaders of NSCN (IM) and R.N. Ravi as the Representative of Government of India. Ravi was acting as interlocutor then and later became Nagaland’s Governor.

The Agreement could not fructify as GoI is not prepared to accede to the Naga demand of a separate flag and constitution. Later R.N. Ravi, as Governor tried to put together another group Naga National People’s Group of seven organisations to counterbalance NSCN (IM). NNPG is agreeable to a solution even without a separate flag and constitution. After vehement protests by NSCN (IM), R.N. Ravi was transferred to Tamil Nadu and a new interlocutor has replaced him.

NSCN (IM) says that accepting a solution without separate flag and constitution would be a disrespect to more than a lakh Nagas killed in the political struggle for autonomy. Naga sentiment is associated with this struggle and NSCN (IM) is believed to be echoing the feelings of Nagas in general.

NSCN (IM) makes it very clear that they are not asking for complete independence from India. They want to live in co-existence with India with their own constitution and flag. They want a traditional system of tribal self-rule but do not mind sending representatives to Rajya Sabha.

Nagas are known to fiercely protect their independence. It is unlikely that they will agree to be just another state of India. They have honoured their commitment to cease fire since 1997. If at all, the cease fire has been violated by India security forces, like in the abominable massacre of 13 Nagas in Oting, Mon District on 4 December, 2021. Nagas say that they never attack a civilian. Even if an Indian soldier is in civil uniform no harm will be caused to him. They have never taken their struggle beyond their boundaries. This displays the high integrity of Nagas.

It’ll be better if Government of India honours the self-respecting Naga people who have displayed tremendous resilience and patience for over 70 years and have not compromised a bit. They have a Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim with their own Naga Army headquartered at Camp Hebron, about 40 kms. outside Dimapur which conducts itself with dignity.

The choice before Indian government is very stark. Giving autonomy to Nagas can result in a beautiful self-rule system in Nagaland with a harmonious relationship with India. Not agreeing to their demand will see Nagaland slowly bleeding as we’ve witnessed over more than 70 years with Indian government not just forced to keep their Army here but also continuing with the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act to some extent. The recent lifting of AFSPA from some parts of Nagaland is a welcome decision but it is inconceivable that Indian government can carry on with its rule without the help of Army here or for that matter in most of the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. A self-rule for Nagas will at least free them of the Indian Army presence.

(Authors: Sandeep Pandey is General Secretary, Socialist Party (India) and Pankaj Pushkar is a former MLA from Delhi.
e-mail: ashaashram[at]yahoo.com, pankaj.pushkar[at]gmail.com)

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