Peace and Development in NE India


by Dr. R.B. Thohe Pou

Many people talk about peace and development, but how many of us sincerely want peace and development in North East India? Arms Force Special Power Act (AFSPA) was introduced in NE regions in 1957 and re-imposed in Manipur and Nagaland in 1985. Nagaland State has again been declared as a disturbed area in July 2011. The draconic law of AFSPA has mentally and physically affected the people in the region, and it will have a great impact even in the future. Some people may allege that there is peace in the region, but controlling the people by a gun barrel cannot be called as PEACE. If you are really talking about peace, let there be peace and development in the region in letter and in spirit.

The government wants to bring peace and development in the region, but it cannot do so while denying the rights of the people. If rights and justice of the people are denied, there cannot be peace and development in NE India; this is true not only in NE India but anywhere in the world. With mutual understanding and knowing the facts of the history, no problem is so abstruse as to be unsolvable.

The BJP government took the initiative in the Indo-Naga peace talks with the senior leaders like Atal Vajpee Bihari. However, the younger generation have different views on the Naga political problem; some are even ignorant about the essential Naga historical facts. There is medicine to kill pain, and we can prescript medicine to reduce it, but a doctor needs to diagnose the root cause and problem, and give the complete dose to heal a patient. Repressing the rising voice of the people through military might is only like a doctor prescribing only the pain killer to be relieved ephemerally.

Mizoram state is becoming one of the fastest developing states in NE and has achieved the second highest literacy rate in India after the insurgent problem was solved. The State has recently celebrated the 25Years of Peace in the State on 30th June 2011. It has become one of the model states in terms of developments and peace in NE. Only those who have genuinely studied the issues and problems can only understand the real cause of the problem and issue of NE India. Recently, Rahul Gandhi – one of the promising future Indian Prime Ministers, says, “Army is not the solution to Kashmir and NE.” Many other Indian Army officers having previously served in NE region also gave a similar report.

When the NE burns, it affects all of India; when the Naxalites affected regions burn, it affects the entirety of India. Unfortunately, only some logical and visionary leaders see this aspect. According to the govt. of India – Home Ministry Affairs (HMA) 1967, NNC was listed as a banned terror group in NE India. On 17th May 2010 the govt. of India released another list of terror groups in India in which more than 100 terror groups are banned like – Maoists, ULFA, NBDF, SIMI, etc., but the NSCNs factions are not included. However, some people alleged the NSCN – the Naga National Workers as terrorist, criminal, extortionist, etc. If the NSCN are terrorist and criminal then the whole Naga civil leaders and Naga people also can be booked under TADA and criminal cases for supporting them to bring peace in the region as an accomplice also can be punished under IPC.

India will become a peaceful Nation and develop more progressively once some of the threats and problems are solved. Today the three biggest problems being encountered by the GOI are –

i). The Jammu and Kashmir issue and problems
ii). NE insurgent Issue and problems (especially the NSCN and ULFA)
iii). Maoist problems (Naxalites) issue and problems

India has been investing a huge sum of money for counter-insurgency. Such expenditures would be reduced significantly if the above three problems were solved, yielding not only peace, but also greater economic prosperity. Those three problems have different issues and problems, and it needs to consider patiently in each case separately. It is high time that the GOI gives serious thought to these burning issues in India. Corruption is another mania in India, but the above three issues are more important than other issues in India. If the GOI wants the Naga political to be solved and to restore peace in the region, it needs to acknowledge and accept the genuine cause of the Naga political problem and prescribe the complete dose to heal the region completely.

The people of NE India yearn for peace and development, but more than 60% of the Indian population does not understand the root causes for the lack of peace and development in NE. One should not think that the problem in NE region is just a law and order problem. While considering the size of the region and demographic aspects, some people may want the Seven Sisters to become one nation, but there is no historical basis for such a union. Why has the giant India had a ceasefire with the small Naga army since 1997? The size does not matter but the historical fact counts.

It is well-known that NSCN is considered as the mother of insurgents in Northeast India, and everyone who loves peace and development in the region needs to extend support to resolve the Naga political and ULFA problems. Then someday the beautiful greenery of the NE States of India can become one the best tourists’ destinations, and also become one of the commercial hubs of India. The people around the world want peace and development in the region and in a recent Annual Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the World Baptist Alliance (WBA) which consists of 120 Nations support Naga Reconciliation. NE people have suffered enough for more than 50 years under AFSPA and the insurgency problem, and it is time now for everyone to think more positively and to have the desire to the most pressing issues and problems in the region.

The Naga Political problem is not problematic only to the Naga indigenous people; it affects the whole NE region and India. Directly or indirectly, development in the northeastern region is depending upon solving the Naga Political and ULFA problems. Once the Naga Political and ULFA problems are solved, we can see the dawning of development and peace in northeastern region of India. It is alleged (reported) that the Naxalites have a link with the ULFA, and the network may continue to enlarge as times passes. It is also alleged that the NSCN is giving shelter to the ULFA cadres some where in the border of India and Myanmar. So in one way or another, all three groups are closely linked, which shows the insurgent epidemic in the future in India.

Solving the NSCN and ULFA problems in NE will bring solace to India and in particular to northeastern region. The GOI and the people of northeast need to understand not only the factual issues, but also to acknowledge and accept the genuine cause of the Naga Political problems. In previous Central-NSCN-IM Peace-talks, the Chairman of NSCN-IM said that the Peace-talks are coming to most crucial stage, and in more recent talks (18 July 2011), NSCN Special Emissary V.S. Atem told the Telegraph, India, “The talks were positive and we now enter the most crucial phase of the negotiation.” Moreover, it is also reported that the Naga political problem will be solved in “shortest possible time” and the solution will be based on “the uniqueness of Naga history and situation which was recognized by the government in 2002”. After more than 60 rounds of Peace-talks held in different countries and in Delhi, now it is showing a positive result in their Peace-talks. Consequently, the people of Naga-land and NE India should be in euphoria and extend their support to the ongoing Peace-talks to bring a long-lasting peaceful solution in the region.

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