By Oken Jeet Sandham
Almost all the people and even those who have been so closely associated with leaders of the NSCN(IM) for years in working to find solution to the decades old Naga political issue have been caught napping when the Government of India has inked the “Framework Agreement” with the NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015 at Delhi. The low profile event of the high profile Indo-Naga issue has been arranged at the residence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his 7 Race Course Road, Delhi in his presence along with his Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Interlocutor to Naga talks RN Ravi, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, and also many top ranking NSCN (IM) leaders.
According to report, NSCN (IM) General Secretary Th Muivah and Chairman Isak Chishi Swu on behalf of the organization and RN Ravi representing the Government of India signed the agreement. Soon after this agreement, breaking news of this event came in all the TV Channels from Delhi and all the online editions of the National Papers. Hundreds of people in Nagaland and its neighbouring States were taken aback by the sudden announcement of the agreement as none of them expected that such an agreement would be signed so soon particularly the manner in which they did it, though many of them had some clues that some development between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) would take place.
Soon after the news of the “Framework Agreement” broke out, there were mix reactions and confusions among the people including the Naga people themselves. Such confusion is bound to happen, and of course naturally, when the Government of India has suddenly entered into such historic agreement with the NSCN (IM) without having given any pre-information of such significance to the Naga leaders including Nagaland Chief Minister, other stakeholders. Although some said that it is “Preamble,” it would have been more logical had the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) given pre-information to the public before signing the agreement, because the Naga issue has been dragging on for decades. However, the parties have been cautious in handling and explaining of the nature of the agreement.
This sudden development has changed the political course now. Many have been finding hard to give their comments except welcoming the agreement, saying they are yet to see the details of the accord. On one side, the Naga people know that there are other groups not only fighting for the cause of the Nagas but also maintaining even ceasefire with the Government of India. On the other, they are worried and anxious of details of the agreement that are yet to be finalized soon, and of course, the NSCN (K) has already walked away from the ceasefire in March this year.
Now, even though it is “Framework Agreement,” Chief Ministers of the neighbouring States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur have already demanded the Prime Minister to make the details of the agreement public as they had suspicions that there might be some hidden agenda in it to disturb territories of their respective States as the Naga Integration issue was one of the core demands of the NSCN (IM). However, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his Deputy Kiren Rejiju said such issues were not there now, besides saying that they (Chief Ministers of AP, Assam and Manipur) will be consulted before finalizing the details of the accord between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM).
Now the ball is in the court of the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) as to how they will move on from here, and all depends on how they act to the fast developing crucial political situation in Nagaland and its neighbouring States. One side they have to work out as to how they can take on board other Naga groups, on the other they have to see that Nagaland and its neighbouring States’ interests are protected.
Some crucial talks doing the round in the last few days after the signing of the agreement are about Nagas having a separate flag, separate currency and safeguarding their Naga customary system and land and its resources. Some of these points have already been touched by Zeliang also. When talking about safeguarding customary system and land and its resources of the Nagas living in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur, they are similar to the Clause (a) of the Article 371A of the Constitution of India. Some say that Article 371A should cover the Naga areas in other neighbouring States. Because when they talk of providing safeguards to their customary practices and land and its resources, provisions of protecting them are already there in the Article 371A. But the point to be noted here is that this Article 371A has come into effect as a result of the State of Nagaland Act, 1962. And all this development had happened because of the 16-Point Agreement signed between the Government of India and the then Naga People’s Convention (NPC) in 1960.
Now as this writer has already stated in his earlier write-ups that any attempt to amend Article 371A of the Constitution of India will be doing so against the very spirit of the 16-Point Agreement of 1960. It is because of this agreement that the present State of Nagaland was born as the 16th State of the Union of India in 1963.
If the Naga leaders wanted to have provisions to safeguard their land and its resources and customary systems for Nagas living in neighbouring States, they can be discussed, and if agreed upon, then they can be incorporated in the relevant Articles connecting with the respective States of the Northeast. But attempting to extend the Article 371A, which is for the State of Nagaland, to other Naga areas outside it (Nagaland) will unlikely to produce positive result. It is also not very clear whether the Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur will agree to the idea that the Nagas living in their respective States to have provisions of direct sharing of power with the Government of India as pointed out by some including Nagaland Chief Minister. They may feel that such arrangement may violate the Federal structure of the Constitution of India.
One should, however, know that there are various ways to work out for protecting the interests of Nagaland, other neighbouring States and the Naga people if the so-called contentious issues are no more there. The leaders should apply their political wisdom while working out for details of the accord. The leaders must have in-depth positive and mature thinking abilities because all actions come after thinking. David Joseph Schwartz, who was an American motivational writer and coach, best known for authoring The Magic of Thinking Big in 1959 said, “Where success is concerned, people are not measured in inches, or pounds, or college degrees, or family background; they are measured by the size of their thinking.”
Most importantly, the leaders in talks should see that any move they attempt should lead to solving the vex Naga political issue. Otherwise, it will be only a vicious circle.
In Delhi on Sunday, Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang said, “I along with all Members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly are ready to step down, if an acceptable and honorable solution is found to the Naga people, in order to make a new beginning.”
I genuinely believe such a decision should be taken after a thorough deliberation on the present development through a “Special Session of Nagaland Legislative Assembly,” so that it will be politically valid and logical. Otherwise, differences may crop up among the legislators in Nagaland and that will be a major hindrance to the process again.