By: M Tolkham Maring
I, born as a great Naga citizen, from the soil of free Nagalim, would like to write some of my personal views on the Indo-Naga conflict.
First of all, I would like to state that the news expressed in my presentation makes no claim to represent the larger sections of the Naga public but it is simply more of a sincere exercise in inquiring into what is the Naga problem and what may be the likely solution for the problem.
Many of the generalised views expressed here may suffer from gross bias. Having said that, let us put quite directly and simply as to what is the Naga problem.
From the Indian Govt perspective, the Naga problem is the political struggle going on the Naga area against the Constitutional authority mainly through armed insurgency.
Why is there this Naga problem?
The Indian Govt version has been that because of mainly economic neglect, misguided unemployed youths took up arms and therefore economic deprivation is the main culprit.
Those more liberal concede that more devolution of power to States i.e; emphasising on the federal system for the Indian union will ease much of the tensions and conflicts between the state or region vis-a-vis the Centre.
There are varying section, some favouring an assimilation policy of bringing into the mainstream while others advocate a non-interference policy in the general development.
The Govt’s various approaches basically boils down to a carrot-and-stick policy where it seeks to reward those who toe the Govt’s line by accepting to come into the Constitutional fold while ruthlessly pursuing to punish those who take up arms by overwhelmingly deploying the army.
This is one version of the story to the problem.
The other version, is of course, the Naga perspective to the Naga problem.
What is the Naga problem? For them, they feel they are a people and nation by themselves and that so to assert this is part of their fundamental human rights.
Why is the Naga problem for now more that half a century now? The answer to it is because they are an independent loving people.
When dealing with the Naga problem, one tends to easily fall into the idea that Nagas are hostile to Indians. This is a fallacy.
One should focus on the point that Nagas are fighting for their independence because they feel they are colonised in which present case it happened to be the Indian Govt whom they had to struggle against.
It has nothing much to do with whether the Naga people who are geographically isolated at the periphery loves or hates the Indian people.
In fact, the Indian civilians do not face any harassment and the marketplace in all major Naga areas are almost totally owned and operated by them. Another fallacy is that economic development will act as an important factor in containing insurgency.
To my opinion, the Naga problem while it may be partly fuelled by economic miseries is basically not an economic one but a political issue.
To bring any hope of a settlement, the Indian Govt must sincerely appreciate that it is a political issue calling for a very substantive political dialogue with the representatives of the Naga people. An unconditional talk is a good basic ground to start off with.
However, the Govt must encourage the Nagas enough by way of broadly hinting what all its moods, intentions and scope are. The Nagas are today apparently wary of even the present Govt offer of unconditional talk because it is not sure of the real intentions of the Govt.
They are afraid that it might be an empty unconditional talk set up as a ploy for varied reasons besides confusing the Naga people.
Any settlement for the Naga problem has to keep in mind a long term perspective to peace in the Naga region. A hasty and inadequate settlement such as the Shillong Accord created only more frustrations and political turmoil in the Naga areas.
Suggestions as to how to pragmatically solve the Naga problems need to come up in the forms of debates much more frequently to create a congenial atmosphere for finally implementing some of the feasible ones.
To my mind, the Indian Govt will do probably well by working on a peace proposal package similar to that of the Middle East Peace Accord.
Some of the things in the Accord was granting autonomy straightaway along with permission to the Palestinians to have control over planning its own economic growth and keeping their own flag. And even have control point is Israel holding forth the likelihood of giving independence in the near future if political stability and good relations are maintained.
This kind of offer may be seriously mulled over even by the underground political leaders. But there must be a clear concrete time framework for this. I am suggesting this so that the Naga course in self-determination may follow a less violent path as much as possible.
Even in case it is not accepted readily, such a proposal if backed by enough political will, can be in the meantime effected by overground political leaders. If such a process is sincerely and effectively implemented the day when the insurgents and the Indian Govt comes to the tables to find the final agreeable permanent peace solutions may be much sooner.
Another issue which the Indian Government should look into is to give up divide and rule policy over the Nagas by aiding in the integration of all contiguous Naga areas into one single political and administrative unit.
Presently, Naga areas which are contiguous to the State of Nagaland is included partly in Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and a very large part in Myanmar. Keeping the Nagas divided has added greatly to the discontent among the Nagas.
The present Nagaland legislative Assembly had passed a bill unanimously calling for the reunification of all contiguous Naga inhabited area with the State of Nagaland. The Union Govt should pursue this matter seriously.
Lastly, I am inclined to sincerely believe that if the Indian Govt shows seriousness in bringing an end to the Naga problem, the Naga people may not be disinclined from having defence ties and wide economic cooperation besides others as the Naga area lies as a major gateway to the economically booming East Asia and Southeast Asia.
A military solution which the Indian Govt has been striving for about 50 years now has yield no tangible results but just a mounting record of atrocities and brutalities alienating the Nagas ever further away from India.
The military approach is perhaps not the best way to represent India to the Nagas who were once very fascinated by Gandhi. The Indian Govt need to rework out a Gandhian approach to the Naga problem.
Cheap quick fix suggestions for solution to the Naga problem is what we have had enough and can do without at this time.
It is high time to work on goodwill by thinking som-ething substantial that may be acceptable to the Nagas.
M Tolkham Maring wrote this article for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on December 06th, 2006.