Editorial – Peace Possibilities

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The optimism expressed by the Union home secretary, Gopal Krishna Pillai, yesterday in New Delhi that the Centre hopes a conclusion would be reached in the negotiations for a lasting solution to the Naga problem by year end is exciting news. Nonetheless no keen observer of developments on this front would be keen take the news without a pinch of salt. While we hope the news is based on tangible achievements and agreements so far, and a final solution is indeed in sight, it is difficult to imagine what the shape of this solution would be like. The talks so far have been held in camera and so there is no way of gauging accurately what the achievements so far would have been other than relying on what those who are taking part tell us from time to time. The exclusive nature of the talks as well as information about it must have its wisdom, after all this is not a cricket or a football match where people can expect a running commentary on every development and ever move made by each of the teams. However, the secrecy with which the talks are held often led to speculations, sometimes high tension ones, as those of us in the region have known in the decade and more of the parleys.
There are reasons to be sceptical a solution is in sight just as yet largely because there are so many entangled issues which cannot be resolved by the parties in the current parleys alone. It may be recalled, the Naga talks so far means only the talk between the NSCN(IM) and the Government of India. It does not even include the other significantly powerful Naga underground group, the NSCN(K). It is true there is a reconciliatory move amongst the Nagas, and we do hope this succeeds, but as of the moment, the hurdles still remain insurmountable, thereby making it unlikely any agreement between the NSCN(IM) and the GOI can be considered to have the mandate of the entire Naga population. But the most vexed issue is the question of territory. The NSCN(IM)’s model of a settlement, it is everybody’s knowledge now, includes the merger of all the supposedly ancestral territory of the Nagas. For one thing, this includes territories of neighbouring states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, apart from the sovereign country of Myanmar. It has already been seen how any move to sacrifice territories of these other states to appease the Nagas can get explosive, and therefore, it is difficult to imagine how the Centre would ever agree to such a territorial solution to the Naga problem.
If it is not a territorial solution, what possibly can the alternate settlement that the Home secretary talked of yesterday be? It is absurd to even imagine the Centre would concede to granting sovereignty to the Nagas but falling short of this, what can the other model be? This, until the parties in the talks make an official announcement, would have to remain a matter of speculation. And at this moment, there is nothing very much to speculate. What does seem inevitable however is, in the interest of peace in the region, these talks must broaden its base. Others with shared stakes must be taken aboard. However, the onus for this is not just on those in the parleys, but also on those who are still refusing to come to the negotiating table. It is hence a time for a collective rethinking. Everybody must find a way to sink their differences. It does not have to be a monolithic and linear unity that is sought in the process, but can be layered. As for instance, what could be invoked is a system of federations within federations, in concentric circles. The Nagas, Kukis, Meiteis etc could seek their reconciliation within themselves at one level, and then in a broader circle, the groups could seek to evolve a larger federation. In between there could be other circles, sometimes overlapping, just as among the Nagas the Tenemei group consider themselves somewhat closer to each other etc. The Kuki-Chin group likewise would have similar clan and tribe groupings within themselves. This is a suggestion that there are avenues to be explored towards a greater common good of all who share the stake of peace and conflict in this land, and not the presentation of any definite peace and reconciliation model. In the interest of all, it is high time all parties agreed to explore these possibilities.

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