By Anil Bhat
On August 26 2012 the Naga Students Federation (NSF) reiterated its stand to play a supportive role towards bringing an “honourable, acceptable and workable settlement for the entire Nagas not compromising with its motto `For Unified Lim and Glory of Nagas`”. This was resolved in a joint consultative meeting of senior leaders, federal and subordinate units held at Japhu Hotel, Kohima on August 24, according to a press release. A lot of negotiation and convincing must have been done by National Socialist Council of Nagaland/Nagalim-Issac/Muivah faction (NSCN-IM) for this stage to be reached.
Because, on 2 April 2012, a rally organised by the Angami (name of a Naga tribe) Youth Organisation (AYO) and supported by several other Naga organisations saw thousands of Naga youths taking to the streets in Kohima district to protest against unabated extortions, abductions, ransom calls and fratricidal killings between the Naga militant groups that have claimed thousands of innocent lives in the past decades. And all these criminal activities have continued despite fifteen years of ceasefire and peace talks between the main group NSCN-IM and Government of India (GOI).
AYO also submitted a memorandum to Nagaland home minister Imkong L. Imchen, asking the Government to clamp down on these groups which have been causing anguish to people. It also demanded that all factions/militants strictly adhere to the ceasefire ground rules, that militants be evicted from civilian areas where they have been openly moving about with sophisticated weapons and wearing their ‘uniforms’ and be kept confined to their designated camps.
On April 11, In an open show of non-cooperation against the NSCN (IM) ‘Azha’ (diktat) which amounted to an economic blockade on the Changki citizens of Mokokchung, restricting their movement and transportation of essential commodities to the village, more than a hundred Changki village youths travelled up to Mariani in Assam to validate whether the routes were open for the Changki citizens to travel. The move of the Changki youths came in the wake of the reported restriction on the movement of the Changki citizens to other districts like Dimapur and Kohima and also the transport of essential commodities to the village from outside. Just yesterday on April 9, 2012 it was reported that the Changki to Dimapur bus was halted near Longpha Yimsen junction and asked to move back by the NSCN (IM) cadres; while a Maruti Van carrying passengers from Changki to Kohima were also forced to return back to the village near Chungtia village in Mokokchung. This was yet another typical act of NSCN-IM’s suppression of common Naga people.
NSCN-IM’s close links with United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA, whose so called pro-talks faction has been having peace talks with GOI) have further developed into a network of contacts with some other groups in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh for procuring and trafficking sophisticated arms, which are also being supplied to Left Wing Extremists/Naxal-Maoists, who have made inroads into the Northeastern region, particularly in Assam.
According to the sources cited in Northeastern media, these arms from Myanmar and some Chinese agents are being bought for Rs. 800,000/- for an assault rifle and Rs. 400,000/- to 500,000/- each for sophisticated pistols.
Another development reported in May 2012 is that Myanmar has granted ‘autonomy’ to the NSCN-Khaplang (K) group in three districts of Sagaing, an administrative region in northwest Myanmar, bordering Nagaland and Manipur and also known as the hub of heroin trafficking. Y. Wangtin Naga, an NSCN-K leader from India who was one of the six signatories of the April 9, 2012 bilateral ceasefire with the Myanmar Government said, “Nagas have autonomy in Lahe, Layse and Nanyang in Sagaing region and we are looking for self-administration in more Naga populated districts in Kachin.” The Khaplang cadres, who are now free to move unarmed anywhere in Myanmar, also want self-administration in the Naga areas of Mawlaik, Phongpyn and Homlin in Sagaing and Tanai (Teniang) and Shingbwiyang areas in Kachin State. Having struck a peace deal with Naypyidaw, the new capital of Myanmar, the rebels are hoping it will give them greater bargaining power with New Delhi. “This is the first time in 70 years of Naga fighting that any organisation has signed agreements with two countries,” Wanting said.
On August 1, 2012, it had been reported that just before his handing over of the portfolio of Union Home Ministry, Mr. P Chidambaram had briefed media in New Delhi that the ongoing peace talks between the NSCN (IM) leadership and GOI had reached a “sensitive stage” and efforts were on to iron out a long standing solution to the over six decades old Naga political problem. Replying to a question, Mr. Chidambaram had said that all the 60 legislators of the Nagaland Assembly belonging to all political parties in the state including the Congress were slated to reach Delhi in the first week of August to meet him and the Prime Minister in support of the ongoing peace talks.He had added that even the Naga Ho Ho, a respected body of the Naga people, had expressed its satisfaction at the “progress report of the ongoing peace talks which are being handled with utmost care and sincerity by the Principal negotiators and the Government of India”.
Mr. Chidambaram had said that all the MLAs are coming to New Delhi on 6 and 7 August to meet the Home Minister and the Prime Minister to express their support for the peace talks. It is pertinent to mention here that on 19 July the Nagaland Legislative Forum decided to resign if required, for finding a solution to the ongoing peace talks. Significantly, Mr Chidambaram made it clear that “first we will try to reach an agreement with the NSCN (IM). Only then we will talk with the other two groups provided they are willing to talk to. As everybody knows, one group live outside India.” He obviously meant the NSCN-K faction, which has been fighting from the Myanmar Naga inhabited area bordering India. Regarding the possibility of an interim government taking representatives from NSCN factions Mr. Chidambaram had cautioned, “Let’s not go too fast. Let’s complete the first step. Then we will think about the next step.”
Mr. Chidambaram who had then just returned from his two-day Assam visit, following the riots in Kokrajhar district, soon after the crowded press conference resigned and took over the Finance portfolio and Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde became the new Home Minister in the UPA-II cabinet.
Eventually on August 6, 2012, 60 legislators of Nagaland arrived in New Delhi and urged the Prime Minister to finalise an acceptable solution on the Naga issue before the State Assembly election due in February, 2013. Sources in Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) Government in Kohima reportedly informed that the 60 MLAs of Nagaland cutting across party lines met Dr Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and urged them to finalise a solution which is acceptable and honourable by February 2013. The MLAs were also slated to meet NSCN-IM leaders over the next two days, said the sources. Over 40 NSCN-IM leaders were camping in New Delhi for the purpose of informal talks with the Central leaders, prior to the next round of formal talks.
It was also reported that under the aegis of the Naga Hoho and the Eastern Nagaland Peoples Organisation (ENPO), rallies would be held in later part of August in all the “Naga areas” to urge for the early settlement of the Indo-Naga political conflict. Churches in “Naga areas” were also planning to conduct special prayers for the early settlement of the vexed Indo-Naga political conflict. Around the same time the NSCN-K led by SS Khaplang had stated that “only sovereignty for the Nagas” will be accepted.
In the light of the events mentioned and what has transpired in Assam as a result of prevarication, vote-bank politics, ad-hocism, pandering to certain groups and what have you, all of which have gone into the making of a powerful powder-keg, what emerges is that New Delhi’s dealing with the Naga problem, particularly the ‘Naglim’ concept of unification of all Naga-inhabited areas so far, is fraught with the possibilities of sparking off inter-community/inter-state violence . If on one hand New Delhi is Looking East for some great potential for development and progress of the Northeastern region, peace is an essential ingredient. To achieve peace for creating an environment suitable for trade and progress, some meaningful course-correction is not just highly recommended, but needs to be done urgently.