Ambiguous Jargon

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Although it is unclear what the supposed Supra State proposal as a settlement for the Naga issue is, at least it is clear there is some intent on the part of all parties involved in the Government of India and NSCN(IM) peace talks to bring the issue to a closure. What however is important is, mere intent is seldom enough to answer certain complex questions, and insurgency anywhere is complex. As Bertrand Russell so eloquently pointed out in his essay with a self explanatory title, “The harm good men do”, intentions however good, if not moderated by sound rationale, can even do harm to the issue at stake and beyond. So what exactly is a Supra State, if at all this proposal is a fact? Our scepticism comes on account of the recent denial by the Union home minister, P. Chidambaram, that he is not aware of such a proposal. Even if this statement amounts to his playing the cards close to his chest, it does still indicate he too thinks the proposal is problematic and would not have a smooth sail.

The press reports says this is the written recommendation of the Government of India appointed interlocutor of the negotiation, retired bureaucrat, R.S. Pandey, but even if this is a fact, the moot question remains as to what is meant by “Supra State”. One has heard of this term used in reference to such bodies as the European Union and ASEAN, which are essentially conglomerates of several States yoked together under a broad bureaucracy and constitution. We are hence curious how this term was sought to be interpreted in this reported proposal for a resolution to the Naga problem.

In all probability, what was thought of was a non territorial solution of the nature so many intellectuals, including B.K. Roy Burman, have been writing about for all these years in reference to many of the ethnic problems in the Northeast, in particular those of the Nagas. The model conjured up is often the Sami Parliament in the Scandinavian countries. Samis are the indigenous formerly nomadic reindeer herders living in these Scandinavian countries and the Russian Federation before the region came to be dissected by political boundaries. They now find themselves living in different countries, though their traditional world never had any conception of such national boundaries, precisely because nation consciousness had still not dawned on them. So then, is this what was meant by the “Supra State” proposal with a little extra sugar coating so as to make the package more attractive?

Although the press report created some flutters in Manipur and to a lesser degree in the other Northeastern states over which the shadow of a Greater Nagaland looms, it would not be too wrong to read meaning in the deafening silence of the NSCN(IM) leadership and their supporters everywhere. Perhaps the proposal, if at all, was a unilateral one put up by the negotiation interlocutor and not one on which there was a consensus amongst the negotiating parties. For indeed, if the proposal is modelled on the Sami Parliament, it is everybody’s knowledge that the NSCN(IM) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah had in the past rejected it and it is unlikely he would have had a change of heart on the matter. Even if he wanted to, two considerations would have been the deterrent. One, a non territorial solution would leave a sizeable section of the NSCN(IM) leadership and cadres out of the core of the solution. Two, any solution that does not address the question of sovereignty, even if notionally, would be after intense negotiations with the Naga public first, especially in the core Naga territory of the former Naga hills of Assam, who have had to undergo tremendous hardships and losses for over half a century precisely because of their dream for sovereignty. Any decision that left this out cannot be a non-consensual decision of any Naga leader or leaders, regardless of how important or powerful they may be. Especially when such a decision comes from a non core Naga area, the decision’s legitimacy in the eyes of the Nagas would be even more dilute. While we hope a solution to the Naga problem comes about, as of now, we cannot see such blueprints of it such as the supposed “Supra State” as the answer.

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