By Oken Jeet Sandham
Many have already started losing their hopes on the long drawn out Center-NSCN (IM) talks with no early solution in sight. The Center and NSCN (IM) formally declared their ceasefire on July 25, 1997 and subsequently, they held over 80 rounds of talks. Both sides could iron out many contentious areas in their “Charters of Demand.” Such progresses are, without doubt, some of the great achievements on their parts.
The Indo-Naga political problem is as old as India’s Independence and the Naga leaders under the banner of NNC tried their best to solve the problem. They even attempted for solution prior to the historic declaration of India’s Independence in 1947. It will be unfair to say that past Naga leaders did not put up their strong efforts because the history has shown crucial stages of engagements by the Naga leaders with top Indian political stalwarts to solve the Indo-Naga political problem in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, etc. It is only natural that when talks collapsed, then existing ceasefires would become infructuous, and the subsequent fallouts of such development could be easily imagined. Such failed talks were also prone to spawn dissidents within the rank and file of the organization and later, what we have been witnessing unwanted sequential development in the Naga society is the result of the past failed talks and other controversial pact such as “The Shillong Accord of 1975.”
When the armed organization got split into two, the immediate fallouts would be bloody conflicts between them. Thousands of Naga national workers including top leaders had lost their precious lives due to factional clashes, which are more painful in real sense of term than the Nagas losing their lives fighting Indian security forces. Fighting amongst Nagas cannot be called for the “Naga cause.” The Government of India declared “ceasefires” with the NNC/FGN in 1964; with NSCN (IM) in 1997 and still active; with NSCN (K) in 2001 and still active; and finally with the GPRN/NSCN (KK) which is also still active. These ceasefires with the Naga underground groups are fundamentally to create conducive environment for “political talks” to find solution to the Indo-Naga political problem. In spite of the existing ceasefires with the different Naga underground groups, the Government of India has been holding formal political negotiations only with the NSCN (IM) till date. And there is no indication that talks with the leaderships of the NSCN (K) and the GPRN/NSCN (KK) will be held in the near future.
Since the inception of talks between the representatives of the Government of India and the collective leadership of the NSCN(IM), we have come across that successive Indian Prime Ministers, late IK Gujral, Deve Gowda, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh, all of them, had given their best towards strengthening the process of political negotiations. For example, the historic “GOI-NSCN (IM)” ceasefire was formally declared when IK Gujral was the Prime Minster and in fact, he made this historic announcement of ceasefire with the outfit (NSCN-IM) on the floor of the Parliament on July 25, 1997; later HD Deve Gowda as Prime Minister strengthened the process. And then when Vajpayee became PM, while visiting Nagaland in 2003, declared the Naga history as “unique.” Finally, it was when Dr Manmohan Singh became the PM, he elevated the talks to “Ministerial level” which was also the demand of the collective leadership of the NSCN (IM) then.
In the second tenure of Dr Singh as PM, he made concerted efforts to find settlement of the complex Naga political issue. His then Home Ministers Susil Kumar Shinde and P Chidambaram had hectic parleys with the Chief Ministers of Northeastern States particularly Manipur and Assam seeking their parts in finding solution to the Naga problem. Following these developments, then Home Minister Chidambaram and also high profile officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs made series of visits to Manipur and it’s Ukhrul District HQs which is also the birth place of NSCN (IM) General Secretary Thiungaleng Muivah.
Seeing at all these development, things have been going in the right direction and, of course, process nearly collapsed on certain stages due to dirty politicization by few narrow-minded and selfish politicians. It was unprecedentedly bent but luckily, not broken. The general publics have today realized that such dirty politicization into the peace process has itself poisoned into the minds of the general publics.
Although it was right step on the part of the Government of India engaging parleys with the CMs of Manipur and Assam for finding solution to the Naga issue, the most important thing is they should invite the leaders of important and leading civil societies of Manipur and Assam and start discussing with them. Because, the CMs of Manipur and Assam alone cannot give their verdicts to the Government of India if the civil societies of these states are not fully convinced. At the same time, the CMs of these two states should also immediately hold consultations with leaders of various important civil societies of their respective states and see that what they can contribute towards finding solution to the protracted Naga political issue.
If the Government of India’s repeated remarks are of any indication, then the issues like “sovereignty” as well as the contentious “Naga integration” have already been dropped from their agenda. Then it is generally expected that most of the serious bottlenecks have already been removed. In fact, the GOI should have initiated the confidence building measures among the northeast CMs and more importantly among the civil societies of the region as soon as the so-called serious bottlenecks have been removed. Regrettably, such initiatives from the Government of India are not forthcoming and their failure to initiate confidence building measures is not only prolonging the issue but giving rooms for doubting their “integrity and honesty.”
The Naga issue, which the Naga leaders started discussing with leaders like most revered Mahatma Gandhi, India’s first Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru, PM Indira Gandhi and today with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a span of 68 years, still defies solution. It appears that the leaderships of this great country lack wisdom to solve this “Naga issue.”
Somebody in Nagaland keeps saying PM Modi has guts to solve the Naga issue and wanting to see “positive result” of the talks within six months. I personally feel that “guts” will not solve Naga issue. What is lacking in the leadership of the country is their “love, care, and concern for the people in the region and also wisdom and diplomacy.”
Dear Prime Minister Modi, please learn lessons from your British counterpart David Cameron and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown whose genuine love, care and concern shown to Scots while speaking to them (Scots) on the eve of the historic “Scottish Independence Referendum, 2014” saved the “United Kingdom” from fragmentation.