History Important in Quest for Naga Solution

By- Charles Chasie

The Home Ministry’s announcement that Government of India would give its response on the Naga Issue by November and suggesting all Naga stakeholder groups to come together seems to have sent all Naga political groups, Overground and Underground, into individual sub-rosa confabulations even if their actual coming together is still far off. Various responses, muted and loud, individual or group, are beginning to emerge although still unclear. What is evident is a sense of imminence in the air! Government of India’s recent announcement as a response to “Indo-Naga Talks”, after so many years, has been long overdue. The thought that GoI was either indecisive or unwilling to solve the Naga Issue was beginning to creep into people’s minds both within and outside the country. What perhaps, many people did not expect was the sudden spurt in seeming decisiveness on the part of the Government of India (GoI). The Home Ministry’s announcement gave a time line of its own commitment and did away with the office of “Interlocutor”, thereby giving the message that GoI wants to have direct talks. Its suggestion that all Nagas come together and speak with one voice may sound patronizing but also a necessary condition for permanent settlement in present context of various opposing groups. All these indicated a new sense of purpose and determination, something Nagas had not seen in GoI’s attitude in decades. This sudden promise by GoI to throw the ball onto the Naga side of the Court, without actually doing so, has come as a bit of a surprise to many. It seems to show the kind of confidence GoI has now acquired in dealing with the Naga Issue! Naga division had become a major hurdle to finding an adequate solution notwithstanding the allegations that GoI agents/agencies have manipulated and exploited such divisions. At the same time, the exploitative methods of GoI could only Contain and Control the Naga Situation without finding an adequate solution to the Naga Issue. If the present initiative is sincere enough and goes far enough, the Nagas may find that it may no longer be enough to blame GoI for non-solution of the Naga Issue! Much will depend on Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh. Both are respected for wh o they are. The Prime Minister also enjoys emotional attachment as an MP from the region. Both sides know that the search for an adequate settlement of the Naga Issue has gone on for too long. One-upmanship and attempts to place oneself in a more advantageous position by force, at the cost of others, may not only lead to a lose-lose situation but also risk the possibility of leaders being cursed by future generations! The need is for win-win initiatives, if only for the sake of those they represent. WIN-WIN SITUATION It would seem that two main things and a lot of home-works are required for both sides before a win-win agreement could emerge. i) Government of India needs to carry further the recognition of Naga History and remove it from the shadow of “secession” or even “insurgency” simply because these are not true. GoI, for example, after many decades of denial, and military action, is coming back to recognizing, if silently, the existence of the 9-Points Agreement, or Hydari Agreement, of June 1947. Moreover, it is not possible to tal k about the 9-Points Agreement without also remembering August 14, 1947, and keeping at the back of one’s mind the Naga Memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929. Equating and comparing the Naga Issue with other militant groups in NE, in the name of “insurgency”, make `India’ look small! (Personally, I have never been comfortable with the term “insurgency” in NE context because I don’t think any of these groups, certainly not the Nagas, give much store to whether the Congress or BJP or any other party is ruling in Delhi) . The history of any people, however seemingly insignificant, cannot be belittled. We are all aware of the few examples where history was attempted to be re-written. No one can really do harm to another without suffering some destruction oneself! ii) On the Naga side, the Nagas should gratefully accept the History God gave them as a people, conscious of other ethnic groups of similar size, including in their own neighbourhood! This should help them, in Christian humility, to admit to faults that have been committed along the way. This is where the need for reconciliation, and moving on, comes in especially in matters intra-Naga. With healing, the Naga people would then have the needed space, even enlightenment, to envision the future of their people and how they could contribute. Without reconciliation and healing, there is real chance of the worst sides of Naga history repeating itself and also encouraging the emergence of the bad traits in others! No one wants these. Further, Nagas will need the goodwill and active cooperation of all their neighbours. From above, it is quite clear that both GoI and the Naga side will have to do a lot of “homework” before an adequate final political settlement of the Naga Issue may happen. FUTURE ROUTE Both sides must recognize the following facts:- a) Regardless of whether a Naga is a Member of Indian Parliament, Minister in a State Government, senior GoI or State bureaucrat or employee, contractor, supplier, educationist, media person, ordinary villager etc. all Nagas recognize and accept the happenings of recent Naga political history such as Naga Memorandum to Simon Commission in 1929, Hydari Agreement of June 1947, Naga declaration of independence on August 14, 1947, Naga Plebiscite of 1951, etc. There is no dispute among Nagas where these above events are concerned. b) Despite its military and economic strengths/powers, and exercising these through various channels, GoI has only been able to exploit and manipulate Naga divisions through Control and Containment policies. The central issue (because of such policies?) could still not be addressed and, instead, created more room for divisions/exploitation while removing possible solutions further afield. What the costs to Naga Society are of such policies have yet to be assessed. c) Nagas must know and accept that it is now in their best interest to work out something tangible and honourable with the GoI. Nagas must accept, however painful, that they have missed several opportunities and there is a limit to how far they can blame others for these. Take two examples. (i) The Crown Colony concept, proposed by some British Colonial administrators, which was not far from sentiments expressed by Naga leaders. (ii) The historic visit to Kohima of Nehru with U Nu, his Burmese counterpart, was a great opportunity. Nagas may claim it was not their fault. The fact remains that Nagas were willing to jeopardize the future of their people because of the attitude of the then Deputy Commissioner, one individual! d) The biggest hurdle to an adequate political settlement has always been the “political”. Economic issues, where most Nagas are concerned, will only be the icing on the proverbial cake! Without some face-saving concession on the political side the Nagas may not see any forthcoming settlement as “honourable”. This is the Catch-22 of the Naga Issue. The positive element, today, is that both sides agree that solution must come through “talks” and not military action. e) Overwhelming majority of Nagas want solution. Three things are material here. (i) All Nagas want an “honourable settlement”. Much will depend on how far GoI is prepared to go to accommodate Naga aspirations and history. (ii) Any Naga leader/s or group/party playing spoilsport and standing in the way of an adequate settlement may, one day, regretfully discover that History is no servant to anyone and that it is best to pay healthy respect to it! Whether Overground or Underground, individual and groups interests must sub-serve the interests of the Naga people as a whole. (iii) The goodwill and active cooperation of all, especially those concerned and affected, third parties. Nagas must reach out and interact with neighbours. Nagas cannot expect satisfaction of their aspirations without also respecting the aspirations and sentiments of neighbours to the extent possible. FORUM FOR NAGA RECONCILIATION I had, on earlier occasions, written in support of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, headed by Dr Wati Aier because I believe he knows about healing and reconciliation. In December 2001, the orphan choir he brought to Kohima to sing “Healing in Our Nation” is still imprinted in the minds of Naga people. The FNR has also made much headway. Any positives must be appreciated and supported. Healing and Reconciliation will lay the foundations for the rebirth of the Naga people. They will also ensure that any future political agreement will have a chance to work/succeed. But has the time come for the FNR to expand its base at home and grow to the stature it will need for next stage/s? A natural extension would be to sufficiently include, even make core partners, the Nagaland Christian Forum or at least the Nagaland Baptist Church Council. Such inclusion will not only provide the FNR with the needed pillars but will also be fitting in the light of peace movement history in Nagaland. A unified Naga Church will also inspire and give confidence to all Nagas. CONCLUSION It is said that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. Equally true is that when the time has not come, it is of no use banging one’s head to force it to happen! Take an example. Just a few years ago, the idea of healing and reconciliation failed to make headway despite all the emotional as well as rational and objective explanations given out. Today, most Nagas, thank God, are going out full-throated for these same objectives! This gives hope for Naga healing and restoration, the only adequate basis from which something new and better may emerge for the Naga people! For the above to fully happen, magnanimity and largeness of heart on the part of the Government and people of India will be required as well. Such magnanimity, one thinks, will also help Spiritual India to re-find her Soul which, in turn, could lead to India finding her true destiny?

Reconciliation & Political Outcomes


Many months back I had interviewed General (Retd) Thenoselie, a former comrade-in -arms of senior leaders like Isak Chishi Swu, SS Khaplang, Th Muivah and General Khole. At that time, the work being done by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) was only beginning to unfold. I remember there was an air of expectancy as well as skepticism in the minds of many ordinary Nagas. The public mood at that time was a mixed one—optimistic with a yearning for a new day and yet cautious, knowing the familiar stories of failure. It was indeed therefore uplifting to listen to the old General and his story of hope, a belief in a better future for the Naga people. But he also knew that time was running out for the likes of Khaplang, Swu, Muivah, Khole and himself. During our conversation I recall uncle Thenoselie appealing perhaps for the last time to his fellow comrades “to reason together” and unite. “We can go to Delhi in one voice. We can achieve our goal once we are united in our purpose”, an upbeat Thenoselie remarked evoking the same spirit of ‘Yes we can’, which helped propel Barack Obama as the first ever African-American to the White House.
At that time, who would have thought that the voice of reason could ever triumph or sanity return and that peace would become a reality. Today, that story of hope is being written in gold letters and every day has become a renewal of the spirit—to heal the wounds of the past and to look to the future with greater confidence. And what is encouraging at this point of time is that the signatories to the covenant of reconciliation (the two NSCNs and FGN) have demonstrated up till now the much needed courage of conviction to work towards this objective—to reason together—keeping in mind the need for unity of purpose to achieve the common goal and a shared future. It should be noted that the current reconciliation process has produced several remarkable outcomes. Some of the positive political outcomes coming out of the reconciliation process are as follows:

•    June 14-15, 2009—Isak Chishi Swu, SS Khaplang, Brig S Singnya sign historic covenant of reconciliation
•    August 25, 2009—Joint Working Group (JWG) comprising of members from the three groups NSCN (IM), NSCN (K) and FGN constituted with main task of facilitating a meeting at the highest level
•    September 10, 2009—Ato Kilonser (Prime Minister) of the Khaplang led NSCN Kitovi Zhimomi speaking at a public function in Suruhoto (Zunheboto Dist) clearly mentioning that they have no immediate intentions to start dialogue with the Indian Government till the Nagas unite and speak with one voice
•    September 22-25, 2009—Declaration of Commitment by the NSCNs & FGN groups pledging to cease all forms of offensive activities in Toto.
•    September 27, 2009—Commander-in-Chief of the Naga Army (NSCN-IM) publicly states that Nagas cannot afford another internecine war.
•    September 28, 2009—JWG comprising NSCNs & FGN rejects any form of ‘conditional package offered by the Government of India to the Nagas.

The point wise outcome mentioned above is self explanatory. However the significance of each outcome should not be missed out in understanding the progression of the reconciliation process. First, the historic “Covenant of Reconciliation” jointly signed by Swu, Khaplang and Brig Singnya has really been the pace setter—the buckle or the center piece that holds the reconciliation process together. And the inclusive nature of this covenant is stated in the appeal made to other Naga groups to “join them in reconciling with each other”. Secondly, the formation of the Joint Working Group is I believe the precursor to a future ‘national government’ and a vital piece of ornament in the reconciliation process. The groups must be encouraged to work together on common agendas. Thirdly, the September 10 statement of Kitovi Zhimomi is an important outcome because he was making a significant policy decision that the Khaplang group will not start a dialogue with Delhi till Nagas unite and speak with one voice. This set to rest some amount of confusion and speculation. Next, the image of leaders from various groups—Gen. V S Atem, Azheto Chophy, Zhopra Vero, Somba Chang, Wangtin Naga etc.—holding the common flag would have warmed many a Naga heart. And that this was not mere symbolism alone was demonstrated through the ‘Declaration of Commitment’ by the three groups pledging to cease all forms of offensive activities in Toto. This is definitely a breakthrough.
But what really set things apart though was the September 27 speech of the Commander-n-Chief (Longvibu) of the Naga Army (NSCN-IM) Lt Gen NG Markson VC (on the occasion of National Agony Day). Firstly unlike the recent declarations coming out of the reconciliation process, this one was hardly visible and almost subtle to the point that not many people would have read or understood its significance. The Army General stated point blank that “Nagas cannot afford another internecine war” and send out to fellow comrades the message ‘to reason together’. Should we be reading too much into this? Well for one, it is rare for the military establishment to make such kind of statements. We should in fact look at it as another welcome outcome of the reconciliation process where an Army Chief offers a conciliatory gesture. This is a paradigm shift. It should be welcomed and reciprocated by other groups. And finally the latest most visible political outcome coming out of the reconciliation process is the Naga groups taking a united stand by rejecting any form of ‘conditional package’ offered by the Government of India.  This is indeed a clear indication of the forward movement taking place in the peace and reconciliation process among the Naga national political groups.
In all the political outcomes what is most encouraging is that the JWG comprising of the three erstwhile warring groups have actually started to take their own decision on some very important and substantive issues. This shows the improved trust levels and the fact that the groups are slowly taking ownership of the reconciliation process. All these are healthy signs which need to be further strengthened on the ground, at various levels and across the board by way of taking confidence building measures. As much of goodwill as possible has to be generated to keep the engine of reconciliation running.
And it is for this reason that for the Nagas groups, the next step in the reconciliation process—the proposed meeting at the highest level becomes all the more important because unless the Naga national workers regroup themselves, there is less likelihood of Nagas getting an honorable deal from the Indian State. Not only this, any delay in coming together will allow vested interest elements to try and fill in the power vacuum which will lead to further division and mutual suspicion among the Nagas. Further if Nagas want to avoid falling into the familiar bait of the so called ‘packages’ and financial largesse, which can easily distract and blind us, then wisdom demands that the Naga national groups come together quickly and take control of the political process. This will ensure that the peace process is not hijacked by circumstances like it happened in the case of the 16-Point Agreement. It will be worthwhile to mention here of my earlier conversation with General Thenoselie who was struck by the fact that it was the State politicians and leaders who manipulated their way into bargaining peace deals with Delhi although it was the national workers who had all along kept afloat the “national struggle” or “freedom movement”.
As for the Common Naga Platform (CNP), it is unfortunate that the good intention of initiating such a platform has run into opposition especially from the Naga groups. This is not surprising because in the first place the basic objective of the CNP was itself a flawed one. There is nothing wrong in bringing together ‘Naga over-ground groups’ as envisioned by the CNP. But there is something unacceptable about the objective, “negotiating with one Naga voice with India”. It is obvious that negotiation is best left to the Naga political groups. There is no need for the CNP to be so ambitious to claim a role for itself which as a matter of fact it should not get into. For several decades now successive State governments and the Naga civil society groups have acted as facilitators to the peace process. And this has continued to be acknowledged as a matter of policy even by the present Chief Minister who has in fact assured time and again (as did the former Chief Ministers) that the State government will pave way for a new political dispensation. This being the stated position of the past and current state leadership, cutting across party lines, it was therefore misplaced on the part of the CNP to actually assign to itself the role of negotiation which is best left to the national workers. But it also means that the Naga factions must regroup themselves without further delay in order to take up its assigned role in the Indo-Naga peace process.
There is a need for synergy among all the different players that make up Naga civil society and polity. It also lends to reason that we have to take a step by step approach. Goals have to be prioritized accordingly. In that sense one should not discount the CNP. Its time and role will come at a later stage. But for now our priority should be reconciliation of the Naga factions. And the crucial role of bringing together the warring groups is being undertaken by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR). Its job is not complete. Bringing in the CNP at this juncture is akin to putting the cart before the horse. Let the factions reconcile and come to some form of meeting point first. Once this is done, the FNR will have to naturally move into the background and allow the Naga national groups to come to the fore and negotiate with one voice before the Government of India. The important role of the CNP will come in at this juncture when all out support of the Naga public will be required to push the case for an honorable political settlement acceptable to all Nagas. The point is, let us follow a systematic approach. For the moment let us nurture the ongoing Naga reconciliation process and encourage more political outcomes to emerge out of this process. The rest will follow in its own time. We need to remain patient.

(The above article is purely a personal analysis of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinion of this newspaper) Morung express

Rahul Gandhi’s ways of Understanding the Problems

Rahul Gandhi – a dynamic and promising Indian leader is on the right move to understand the root cause of the problem in India, which is snubbed by many politicians, civil service officers, army officers and many other leaders. One needs to appreciate and adopt his ideology of understanding the problem to solve the problem from the root. Rahul Gandhi’s ways of understanding the problems can solved any kinds of problem in this world; no problem in this world is too difficult to solve with understanding – whether Dalits, Naxalites, Insurgent or any other problems. We know that even a small problem become a critical problem when we try to solve the problem superficially without understanding the root cause of the problem. Trying to remove the problem superficially is only like trimming the branches without removing from the root of the tree.

Recently the UP Congress leaders are following Rahul Gandhi’s ways of understanding the problem; the districts units of the congress have organized community lunches and held conventions on 2nd October – Mahatma Gandhi’s birth Anniversary; to understand the problems of the Dalits and make them aware of the central welfare schemes launched for them. Rahul Gandhi stayed in Bundelkhand and Amethi to study and familiar himself about the problems. He also stayed in the home of a Dalit in Shravasti district and interacted with the people in the district to assess the problem and to have better understanding the problem at the grass root level. (DC)

P.B. Salim, an IAS officer is another exceptional officer in India who is trying to understand the problem of the tribal people in India. He stayed in ten tribal settlements in Lalgarh (WB), eating and dancing with them and even sleeping in their thatched huts. He said that the best way to defeat Maoist is by bringing development to tribal region. (ENS)

We have the long pending problem of J&K but only a few politicians try to understand the root cause and problem. We also have the northeastern insurgent problems but for the last few decades, the central government is trying to solve the problem only superficially; sitting in Delhi without understanding the root cause of the problem cannot remove the problem from the root. Today we have another great problem coming up from the Naxalites but the central government is not considering seriously in untangling the problem last one decade and now the problem is gradually blooming with beautiful flowers. Is it necessary to strike the problem with the might of the Indian army or with the state police personnel forces? Can’t we go Rahul Gandhi’s ways of understanding the problem to solve amicably? The more we come to interact and deliberate with the people, the more we understand better the problem and we can solve the problem from the root.

Rahul Gandhi’s way of understanding the problem will have a great impact in every problem and every concern authority – may be in the central government, state or block level may need to adopt his ways of understanding and try to solve the problem from the root. Solving the problem superficially will never end the problem and it will continue to exist and develop further unless the problem is removed from the root.

– Dr. R.B. Thohe Pou