Walk the Talk

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By all accounts, the all political party with the exception of NPF led by the State Chief Minister are in a confident and mellow mood with reports coming in that the delegation was being heard by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. The Chief Minister’s statement as quoting the PM reiterating that the Centre would not compromise on Manipur’s territorial integrity while working out a peace package with the NSCN(IM) is significant in more ways than one. To begin with, the PM is not known to be a person in haste. Rather, political observers and media analysts in the country despair over his lack of oratory skills and his quotes being not much worth a copy when he does say them. With Congress led governments in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh; the three states that would be most affected if the NSCN (IM) demands for a unified Naga territory came to fruit, there was no way that the PM would upset the electorate. In fact, the BJP which was in power in the Center when the controversial ‘extension without territorial limits’ phrase entered into the Government of India-NSCN (IM) talks vocabulary is yet to recover its lost ground in the NE region. Even with the Congress party on a back foot in Nagaland, which is heading into its general elections any carving of the three states would have meant major trouble. But what ace connected to the ongoing Government and NCSN (IM) talks is in hiding given that the clock indicating the Nagaland state elections is ticking away? That remains the one question begging to be answered.
One other area of such talks is regardless of whether it is the one between the Central Government representatives and the NSCN (IM) or the one that has happened in Delhi between the All political party representatives, is the fact that there are no written statements in black and white that can be called back upon or scrutinized. Compare and contrast this with other agreements related to the region: the Mizo peace accord and the Assam Peace accord, which were all signed between the relevant parties involved. Even with signs and seals, there are still questions raised over whether these agreements have been honored or not and they must stay as reminders of delayed response designed to placate warring groups without really resolving matters on hand. At the most, an agreement in the Naga talks is most likely to be dressed up with fancy words with the main thrust being placed on autonomy.
It does remain to be seen whether the Central Government is really serious about settling the Naga demand for a unified political and implied territorial domain without compromising these same domains in its three states. A precedent of demarking a state on culture or ethnicity would trigger many more calls in the country and most notably in another troubled frontier: Jammu and Kashmir. But while the heads who wield power and take on the mantle of responsibility and decision taking dither and drag on over the issue, it will be pertinent to have an objective reading of the minds and hearts of the people. Do the Nagas as a whole accept Nagas settling in other parts of the region as equal to them? More pertinent would be to have an answer to whether all Nagas want to be part of a unified, territorial entity. On the part of the Meities who are so vociferously represented by various ‘civil society groups’, there needs to be a realization that the silence of a majority should not be compromised by the rants of a visible and loud minority. If the common Meitei man and woman at the grass roots finds merit in recognizing the Naga aspiration for its own identity and territory, that thought needs to be flagged off. The third party claim, the Kukis who are also in another talks forum adds more complexity to an already muddled sphere.  But the only end-point is that talks cannot remain in the mere domain of ideas or claims for if they do remain confined to this ambit, it runs the risk of fermenting insecurities and distrust. It is time the Government of India came clean and walk the talk.

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