The new Naga Peace Accord, it is now clear, was only an important agreement on a commonly agreed route map to a future settlement, or `framework agreement` as officials now describe it as, and therefore there is nothing final about it. It is also unlikely this final settlement is already within grasp. For the reasons that we pointed out in our editorial yesterday, the way ahead is still uphill, and the probably what prompted the hurry was the critical illness of Chairman Isak Chishi Swu. As we see it, this was a symbolic gesture to show that if a closure to the issue is not possible as yet, at least an assurance had to be given that such an end can be reached, even as evening begins to wane and night begins to advance on the lives of the aging top NSCN(IM) leadership duo of Isak Swu and Th. Muivah. In a rather poignant way, the hurried signing of an agreement that only said the negotiations would continue on, is also an indicator that the negotiators believe there are still difficult miles ahead before a final accord can be reached. Hopefully, this is not absolutely so, and a lasting solution acceptable to all, not just the Nagas, but also all with a stake in a happy conclusion to the Naga issue, is the final outcome while the NSCN(IM) patriarchs are still around.
This last point is important. Why must a solution to the Naga problem have elements that must worry Manipur or Assam or Arunachal Pradesh, as it must be admitted has been the case? The answer is quite obvious. No conflict, or solution to it, can happen in a vacuum. Everything and everybody living in any particular geographical region are so interrelated that what one does will have a bearing on the other. Unfortunately, this is a lesson not many are willing to learn, and here we are not referring to any community in particular. This has been the character trait of practically everybody in this region. The conceit of self-importance has made each community think their individual problems can be resolved in isolation, and this is despite the fact that time and again it has been proven how wrong this approach is. In Manipur for instance, as much as the problems of the hill communities cannot be solved in isolation, the valley communities must begin seeing how wrong it is for them to presume their concerns are the state`™s concern as a whole. The ILPS agitation is proving this right before everybody`™s eyes. It is not that the hills do not share the concerns of migrant influx, but quite legitimately, they do not feel this as much of a big threat for them as the valley communities perceive it to be, precisely because the hill lands are protected by law from being taken over, therefore few or no outsider will ever think of permanent residence there. This is why consensus is important. If at all some issues are to be treated as localised, it too should be by mutual understanding. As for instance, it would be difficult to convince the hills of flood threats just as the valley would not see landslides as life threatening as much as the hills do. But even these seemingly different issues are interrelated. The soil erosion in the hills because of deforestation which is making life more and more difficult in the hills, also results in siltation in the rivers and lakes in the valley, making them progressively shallow, and therefore prone to overflow their banks during the monsoons.
The `framework agreement` reached yesterday, therefore must broaden its scope to not just think of a solution of the Naga problem in isolation, if not for anything else, then because such an approach will not work. It must take care that the concerns of all others who would be affected by it are also taken on board. Again to take the example of Manipur, it must not leave the Meiteis in the valley, or the Kukis who share the hills as homeland with the Nagas, feeling they have been wronged. As we have always insisted, a zero sum game can never bring lasting solution. What we all must await and look forward to is a consensual agreement forged by all stakeholders, in which every party stands to gain without unfair costs inflicted on any other. By definition, true peace is precisely this for intuitively everybody knows there is nobody who would not benefit from a comprehensive peace. The trouble is, very often, the kind of peace sought in the Northeast`™s sordid theatres of conflict are just the opposite, and therefore the conclusion one conflict often ends up triggering off other chains of conflicts.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam