By Oken Jeet Sandham
I have been closely observing the fast political development taking place after Prime Minister Narendra Modi tersely conveyed his mind and plan towards settlement of the Naga issue to the 19-Member Parliamentary Working Committee (PWC) of Nagaland. He actually opened up his mind what he was intending to do with regard to the solution to the complex Naga political issue when he met them at his residence at 7 Race Course Road, Delhi in mid-July.
Modi’s words can be examined in two ways. One, he wants to prove that he is a Prime Minister with a difference for the simple fact that his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh kept assuring that the Naga issue would be resolved during his tenure (Dr Singh 2nd tenure as Prime Minister) but he failed to fulfill what he had assured. Two, he was still cautious and doubtful when he precisely told the 19-Member PWC of Nagaland and this could be dissected from his words – “If I give you a solution and if it is not accepted to you, I am afraid (that) my solution will be more problem to you. Will Naga people accept what I decide? When it happens, it should not go unresolved.”
That is why he has specifically asked to the 19-Member PWC as to whether the Naga people will accept what he decides. But he cautions that when such decision is taken, “it should not go unresolved.” This means that when they reach such a phase, the people have to take it whether they like it or not.
Prime Minister Modi, however, stated that “If peace comes, it must come in toto.” He also explained that “Every single Naga is important in bringing the solution.”
Everyone agrees that the 18 years long peace process between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) is quite long but many have hardly examined why negotiations have been taking long without showing tangible result. The NSCN (K), which had been maintaining ceasefire with the Government of India for 14 long years, unilaterally abrogated it in March this year. The Central leaderships and various intelligence agencies knew very well that these two groups have been deadly rivals after splitting their NSCN into two in 1988, though factional killings and other clashes have drastically reduced after Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) started playing their crucial role.
Yet, Dr Singh, during his Prime Ministership, had made the Naga issue a simpler journey by elevating the bureaucratic style of negotiations to the Ministerial level, a political level, and which was also the demand of the NSCN (IM). He also learnt from some mistakes committed by his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee but the attempts made by past Prime Ministers should not be underestimated as the issues they dealt have been complex.
However, the signing of the “Framework Agreement” between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015 at Delhi in presence of the Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Adviser to Prime Minister, Ajit Kumar Doval and high profile leaders of the organization has surprised many leaders including the leaders of various political parties in the country. However, some political pundits and media specialists in the Region particularly Nagaland and Manipur got wind of Center’s planning to enter into some type of “Agreement” with the NSCN (IM) any moment. It now happens.
The only question that remains to be answered is why the Government of India should have kept the date, timing and place of their signing ceremony unknown. The signing ceremony such as the GOI-NSCN (IM) one held on August 3 at Delhi could have been organized in grand manner by inviting all the living past Prime Ministers, previous Interlocutors to Naga talks, leaders of various National Political Parties and leaders of prominent Civil Societies and NGOs. Modi announced that with this accord, the Government hopes to open the Northeast to development. The India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway has been held hostage to a number of violent incidents. Actually, he could have even invited Chief Ministers of Northeast States if he honestly feels that solution to Naga issue is fundamental to building peace in the Region, because all the major contentious issues are no longer there.
Since the Clauses and Contents of the “Framework Agreement” of the GOI-NSCN (IM) are yet to be worked out as stated by the parties concerned, it is difficult to draw clear picture or analyze on the would-be bearing at this juncture. Yet, the leadership of the two should use their political wisdom while working out for the Clauses which should be suitable and workable as per the political and historical environment of the Region. If the leaderships of the country wisely apply their mind at this most crucial juncture, then some chain of positive development may emerge. It all depends how they apply their wisdom.
Unfortunately, many mainland media started their news bombardment soon after the signing of the “Framework Agreement” was over. Several unfounded issues totally unconnected with the Naga issue by wrongly mentioning many historical chapters and names have been incorporated in their stories. Before the two parties spelling out of the nature of “Framework Agreement,” they have started giving all sort of speculative stories even at times look like they know everything of the contents of the “Framework Agreement.” The mindset of many mainland media should change. It is only because of the strong media forces in the Region, many things have been saved from being destroyed.
I had seen the way how the mainland media tried their best to twist the unfortunate ambush on Indian Army on June 4 at Manipur’s Chandel district and afterwards even to the extent of saying that India Army’s surgical strikes could kill 100 Naga militants, sometimes 80, sometimes 60, sometimes 40 by crossing International boundary in Myanmar. They could even use the photograph of the Indian Army helicopter taken during Nepal relief service in 2013 as if it was taken in surgical strikes in Myanmar territory in 2015.
I always said this is information age – unlike 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even latest by 90s. The people cannot be easily fooled in 2015 and afterwards.