My main job is to ensure that ground work is mainatined for smooth dialogue between the Government of India and the NSCN(IM)
By: Oken Jeet Sandham
The Chairman of the Cease Fire Monitoring Group (CFMG) and Cease Fire Supervisory Board (CFSB), Lt Gen (Retd) RV Kulkarni said his main job is to ensure that the ground work is maintained so that the dialogue between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) proceeds without any ?hiccups.? Without any waste of time, if there is any complaint of violence created by any of the factions either in civilian populated areas or amongst them (factions), Gen Kulkarni would rush to the areas interacting various sections of society besides cautioning leaders of both factions not to repeat such act of violence. Talking to Oken Jeet Sandham at his Official residence at Kohima, the General made it one point very clear is that he would render his service as Chairman of the CFMG and CFSB with absolute ?impartiality.?
Excerpts from the interview:
Oken Jeet Sandham: Gen Kulkarni, can you tell me the major achievements you made towards cease fire functioning in Nagaland especially after you have taken over the crucial Chairmanship of the Cease Fire Monitoring Group (CFMG) dealing with the NSCN (IM) and the other Cease Fire Supervisory Board (CFSB) dealing with the NSCN (K)?
Lt Gen (Retd) RV Kulkarni: I have assumed the Chairmanship of the Cease Fire Monitoring Group (CFMG) about two and half years back and I am the first Chairman to be located at Kohima. I think everybody desires that the Chairman should be able to continuously monitor the progress and ensure implementation of the mutually agreed upon Ground Rules of the Cease Fire pact. It was left to me to evolve a process which was something no precedent as such. So I create a procedure of mechanism. Initially, I had handled only the NSCN (IM) for few months but subsequently when the NSCN (K) also signed the Cease Fire Agreement with the Government of India, I am dealing with them also. Initially, there was lot of doubts as to how I could handle both the groups. But I had to ensure that both the groups feel confident in the process. And I have to ensure that I am absolutely impartial and unbiased while dealing with them. I have been also attending to issues they are raising independently sometimes. And I do see a perceptible change in the environment and my contribution is to ensure that the ground work was maintained, so that the dialogue with the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) which is well on the way could proceed without any hiccups.
Oken Jeet Sandham: But the recent public uprising against the NSCN (K) in Mokokchung town and also the incident in Tuensang district where angry mob lynched NSCN (IM) cadre have taken the general public by surprise.
Lt Gen (Retd) RV Kulkarni: I think Mokokchung incident had perhaps taken place because of the very presence of the NSCN (K) leaders and its cadres within the heart of Mokokchung town. I think it was causing enormous amount of trauma to the local people. It was not something which erupted only in the recent past because the people had reacted so aggressively and violently. I think their presence definitely not something which ought to have taken place initially, because it has been going on for 10 to 12 years. It is not something which happens overnight. The reasons I don?t need to go why and how it came about. I am also aware that there are agencies and organizations that ought to have reacted and perhaps they didn?t do it appropriately, adequately and timely. And I think, ultimately, there has to be something or somewhere the whole reaction would have to come out into open. And it was such a spontaneous reaction from the people. But it was not something that somebody had ignited fuse. The fuse was there already. And it was hastening on that particular day and in that particular area. I think it was good enough by itself where people really felt enough is enough. But the Tuensang incident was different than that of Mokokchung one. I don?t think it has any correlation to the Mokokchung incident. Yes there was certain amount of misbehavior by some of the cadres, not in the matter of dictate or direction, but they are adamant. But the people?s reaction to that was not violent to that nature. I think what happened to NSCN (IM) cadres, something happened on the spot. But it is not something to be equated to what happened in Mokokchung.
Oken Jeet Sandham: As Chairman of the CFSB, have you ever discussed with the NSCN (K) leaderships that such type of incidents might take place if their presence continued to be there in civilian areas?
Lt Gen (Retd) RV Kulkarni: Please look the way it was in Mokokchung. So close to the police point, General Secretary of the NSCN ((K), Kitovi (Zhimomi), has been staying there. I have been visiting him and cautioning him of the type of their presence. It is something which is going to cause problems for everybody including them (NSCN-K). In fact, in my last meeting in the formal meeting of the CFSB with them on August 6, I had categorically conveyed that presence of armed cadres in Mokokchung, Chuchuyimpang and in that area which were reported to me must be removed forthwith. It is not acceptable either as per the agreement or the rules or otherwise. I can say that it is not acceptable to me but I can say you must get out. But physically to ensure that they get out is not within my power. I don?t have any separate tools or agencies to ensure that. And this I have made it very clear in that formal CFSB meeting also. But it was not only after the incident, earlier every time also, I had interacted with them. I said that this type of presence in Mokokchung is something going to create disaster sometimes. Therefore, it is not that I have not taken note of it but since it (presence of armed cadres of the NSCN-K) was there for years and years, problems have to be looked very differently.
Oken Jeet Sandham: Do you think there are loopholes on the part of the civil administration towards such issues?
Lt Gen (Retd) RV Kulkarni: I don?t know whether we could point finger to any agency because there are various agencies. But I think, the very presence of the armed cadres not being attended to. Therefore such an enormous impact of the people of Mokokchung was there and I know the people of Mokokchung very well as I was there 20 years back. I know many of them personally and individually. And they had been telling me what exactly how they are going through that. When I was telling to NSCN (K) leaders, there was no postitive response. I think there were not one or two agencies or a group or organization to which we could finger at.
Oken Jeet Sandham: Even NSCN (IM) functionaries sometimes accused of Security Forces of providing security to NSCN ((K) General Secretary, Kitovi Zhimomi?s residential areas in Mokokchung.
Lt Gen (Retd) RV Kulkarni: I think, apart from the fact, it is very difficult to prove to or leave to. I will tell you that this kind of accusations is the perceptions. And why the perceptions came about. If an armed presence is accepted to be there in Mokokchung at the hearts of the town, I think, it becomes the type of perception in the minds of the people not only the NSCN (IM). Because it has been accepted and tolerated. In what form and how they are continuing to be there for such a long time without any interference. That is what I said to finger at someone is not appropriate.
Oken Jeet Sandham: We have heard incidents in Zamai village created by NSCN (IM) cadres and very recently the presence of cadres of the outfit (NSCN-IM) numbering about 40 in Chizami village; both are Chekhesang villages under Phek district.
Lt Gen (Retd) RV Kulkarni: I have been to Zamai village in December last year. I had interacted with the Village Council Chairman and other people. I had interacted with all the neighboring villagers also in that area, besides I had been there when the incident was reported. I had indicated to the NSCN (IM) that their presence in this area had to be removed forthwith and they did respond positively. So I had been interacting with the Chakhesang peoples in that area including Chakhesang Public Organization (CPO) leaders. I also met recently leaders of the Chakhesang Mothers Association (CMA). To all of them, I said one thing that if you accept the presence of a group—B or C group is ought to make an effort to step in. And it will lead to problem for the people. I have been cautioning this and it is very unfortunate that it is not being understood and appreciated in that area. They said that this is Federal area (Federal Government of Nagaland-FGN), how can NSCN come. I said there is no area which belongs to anybody. I think the problems in Zamai and Chizami are the fallout of this particular thing. I have been insisting that no area could be set for NSCN (K) or NSCN (IM) or Federal.
Oken Jeet Sandham: Is there any sign of reduction of insurgency related violence in Nagaland after you have taken over the mettle of Chairmanship of both CFMG and CFSB.
Lt Gen (Retd) RV Kulkarni: The violence between the factions remains fluctuating but confrontations between the various groups and the security forces or the government agencies reduced. Ever since I came as Chairman, every faction leader was trying to say that, look; we have signed cease fire agreement with the Government of India but not with the other group. I think, on number of occasions, various NGOs approached me. I said that it is the NGOs that should also prevail on the cadres of various groups to look at each other as friends, brothers and sisters and not as enemy. Although, there are tremendous amount of efforts of the Government and non-Government agencies trying to reconcile among themselves (factions), the fact graphs of the incidents among the factions still keep fluctuating. But the violence with the Government agencies showed considerable declining.