|Tuesday, 19 January 2010|
|Exploration of policy alternatives/ recommendations and strategies for their implementation.
Below is an article published by Naga International Support Centre :
III. Problems with the current approach
IV. Why GOI is interested in Cease-fire
V. What Nagas need to know
Indo-Naga Cease fire (1997-2009)
I. Introduction: The historic Indo-Naga peace talks held on 31 July 2007 at Circuit House, Dimapur extended the cease-fire between the Government of India and the NSCN (I-M) for an indefinite period of time, albeit with the focal condition that it is “subject to the progress of the talks”. The implication of this agreement is that any slackness on the center’s part would result in the talks being called off at “any time”. The change in the condition of cease-fire has been acclaimed as a tactical move to put pressure on the Government of India to be on their toes. The two sides till now have held 59 rounds of talks both in India and abroad. However, no headway seems to have been made on the core issues. The objective of this paper is to explore a set of policy alternatives/ recommendations and outline a strategy for implementing them. It is also the objective of this paper to expose the mind of the Government of India.
Though the Cease-fire has not brought any substantive progress on the core issues, it has created a conducive ground situation for conntinued engagement between India and the Nagas represented by the collective leadership. A relatively peaceful law and order and security situation has been prevailing not only within the territory of Nagaland state where cease-fire is formally effective but in the adjoining states as well since the declaration of cease-fire in 1997. The Naga collective leadership has proved to the Government of India and the outside world that Nagas are peace-loving people and want to resolve this long-standing issue peacefully. During this period the collective leadership has explicitly made it clear to the Government of India that resolving this issue will be to their mutual benefit. The Government of India seems to have understood what exactly the Nagas want while on its part; it is yet to come up with its position. It will never.
III. Problems with the Current approach:
A press statement issued by the MIP of NSCN (I-M) during the last extension of the cease-fire reportedly had said that its leaders had flayed the Government of India for what was described as “hurting the sentiment of the Nagas”. Rightly so. The Government of India has not responded to any of the core proposals made by the Naga leaders despite holding 59 rounds of talks.
For the GoI, it appears imperative to solve the Naga issue while maintaining the country’s territorial integrity. Government of India is aware that it is indispensable to look beyond the Mizoram or Punjab models to find a permanent solution to the Naga problem, but there is no model yet in its mind. Consequently, the Government of India rather than providing a point-to-point answer to the demands of the NSCN (IM) simply states its willingness to solve the crisis. Nevertheless, the perpetual extension of the terms of the cease-fire on the pretext of proper implementation of the agreements through periodic reviews is clearly seen as a ploy of the GOI to buy time in order to bury the peace process under the wrap of time.
On the integration issue, the Government seems to be reluctant to make a commitment because of the serious problems associated with it. None of these states which has naga population are likely to accept the NSCN (IM)’s demand. Even as the talk is between the GOI and the Nagas, the Government is unlikely to cede the territories of other states claimed by the Nagas. The Government of India has been time and again giving assurances to these states that their territorial integrity will be respected (at all cost?). Then the only motive of the GoI, it is speculated, is to extend the term of the cease-fire for as long as possible and sit on it.
In the face of this inbuilt stasis in the peace talks it is suggested that the period of ceasefire must be used to strengthen the Naga issues. A formidable task before the Nagas is emotional integration even before territorial integration is realized. Lamentably, there are no social-political institutions in Naga society adequately equipped that can be tasked to achieving this emotional integration. This is made even more difficult with the emergence of vested interest since the creation of Nagaland State in 1963. The last 50 years have also taught Naga political leaders the comfort of power and money and the art of double speak (Money has been flowing in to Nagaland in the name of curbing insurgency. Nagaland with a population of 19.88 lakhs (2001) has a budget of 3599 crs (2006-7) compared to Manipuri with a population of 23.88 lakhs with a budget of only 3362 crs). They have not allowed the public to come together by building their own constituents.
It is for a matter of record that Nagas are being administered by four state governments taught by four different educational boards and there is a wide difference in economic and social status of the Nagaland Nagas and the Nagas outside Nagaland. It seems that these fissures have become so deep seated that despite the various integration meetings subsequent to the ongoing peace process, not much headway has been made at the ground level. Quit notices are being issued to members of certain non- Nagaland Naga tribes working in Nagaland even now with disconcerting regularity. Evidently, a lot needs to be done in strengthening the existing institutions to achieve a real integration.
IV. Why GOI is interested in cease-fire
It is important here to delve a little deeper as to why GOI would like to continue the current cease fire as long as possible. The obvious reason of course is GOI has nothing to lose while it has been reaping enormous tactical gains. There are two main reasons: 1. To facilitate GOI’s Look east policy. 2. And through this development process, weaken and disintegrate the cadre and other outfits in the region.
GOI has a huge agenda in the North East states as a land bridge to the ASEAN countries to aggressively push its ‘Look East policy’. The relatively peaceful atmosphere during the peace process has been successfully used to facilitate this policy. In early 1990s India initiated economic liberalization process and simultaneously launched the ‘Look east policy’. ASEAN was then thriving with economic boom-known as ‘Asian Tigers’. This policy was reinforced and intensified by the BJP government and the present UPA government.
1. Look east policy has several components which include political, economic, security and strategic.
i. Political: 1990s saw the need for India to engage with the ASEAN. India moved very fast. India is a member of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) since 1996 and has acceded to ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), became a summit partner to ASEAN in 2002 and signed the ASEAN-India Partnership for peace, Progress and shard Prosperity in 2004. She is also a founding member of East Asia Summit (EAS) in 2006. India is now closely entwined in ASEAN process. While actively engaging with other ASEAN countries, India is sponsoring many development projects in CLMV (Cambodia, Loas, Myanmar & Vietnam) countries for meaningful integration of these countries with the rest of ASEAN.
ii. Economic: Ever since the launching of India’s Look east policy and the onset of regional integration of Southeast Asia, both India and ASEAN have developed a mutual comprehensive understanding in terms of shared vulnerabilities, shared economic progress and common stake in creating a peaceful and prosperous Asian Economic Community. The signing of the Framework Agreement on comprehensive Economic Cooperation and the signing of an ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) with the combine GDP of 1.5 trillion and a market of 1.5 billion people is the most obvious example of growing synergy between India and ASEAN.
India has been intensifying its trade relation with Myanmar in the recent past because it has some strategic implications for India. Myanmar is the only member of ASEAN that shares a border with India and a greater connectivity with Myanmar would provide India the gateway to ASEAN. Trade relations with Myanmar can also accelerate the development process in Northeast India and thus India is interested to invest in various infrastructure projects in Myanmar
iii. Security & Strategic: The proposed land linkage to the ASEAN countries through India’s North east and Myanmar will give a distinct security and strategic gain to India. The improving infrastructure and up gradation of military facilities will facilitate easy and quick movement of military hardware to the border areas as and when contingencies arise which in turn will largely constraint the free movement of insurgent groups and the conduct of guerilla warfare.
iv. China factor: India has learnt a hard lesson from the loss it had suffered in the early 1990s. While it was giving ideological lecture to the military junta, the Chinese never slept to aggressively push down its influence (political, economic & military) in Myanmar. Now India is struggling hard to somehow compete if not contain that influence. With the Coco Islands on lease from Myanmar, China can access the Indian Ocean and has facilities to not only watch the naval activities on the eastern cost of India but also to spy on India’s missile launching program. China’s influence in Myanmar can disturb India’s maritime strategic calculations as China can access the Arabian Sea via Pakistan’s Gwadar port and the Indian Ocean via Myanmar. In addition, China has also signed an agreement to develop the harbour of Hambantota in Sri Lanka. Chinese access to these strategic locations can provide the potential for a maritime encirclement of India by China. China is also assisting Myanmar to develop its naval bases in Sittwe, Hianggyi, Khaukphyu, Mergui and Zadetkyikyan by building radar and refuelling facilities that could help Chinese submarine operations in the Bay of Bengal.
2. Implication to Northeast and Naga movement:
Physical infrastructure in the region will definitely improve because this region has to serve as a land bridge to the east. However, sadly, the inflow of large investment of big capital will also be used for exploiting rich mineral, hydro and bio diversity resources of the region particularly of the Nagas. In this process certain group of people will immensely benefit although the gap between the rich and poor will further widen. The interested group including local politicians will not want to share the benefit with the public in general and with tribes outside Nagaland in particular. The enthusiasm for territorial integration will rock the bottom. Secondly, as many members of the cadre will be benefitted from this development process as already been seen during the last 10 years of peace process, their love for comfortable civil life will continue to be a huge stumbling block for the movement’s sustenance.
V. What Nagas need to know:
The Nagas need to know that it will be almost impossible for any underground faction to eliminate another faction, partly because every faction has a support base both within and outside Naga territory. All the factions must know by now that there are people within Nagaland/Nagalim who would like to see factional fightings continue so they can continue amassing wealth for themselves. In this the vested interests are in unison with outside forces who wish to divide and rule the nagas.
All the factions should also be aware that unless they come together and deal with the Government of India (GOI) unitedly, separate and piecemeal negotiation will simply give GOI ample time to prepare sophisticated strategies to ensure that Naga political struggle does not progress any further. By now all the factions ought to realize that Assam (Asom), Manipur, and Arunachal, emboldened by the tacit support of GOI, will continue to oppose integration of all contiguous Naga. But what is most appalling is that the Nagas are at war with each other. Let us be very clear about this: the GOI will get serious only when the Nagas are united; until such time they will continue to play politics indefinitely. Time is the essence.
The Nagas need to learn from the very struggle of India for independence against the Britishers. In the struggle for India’s independence, the freedom fighters resorted to different paths- some moderate and the others extreme in the early 20th Century. This differences in approaches (on one side led by Mahatma Gandhi and on the other by Subash Chandra Boss raising his own army outside India and collaborating with the axis power during the World War II.) continued till the dawn of India’s independence. However, their goal was just one namely, the independence of India. The freedom fighters drained their energies in expelling the external forces and not on eliminating each other. Is there a lesson for us in this?
The Nagas must know that even though armed aggression has stopped during cease-fire a new threat is emerging in the shape of economic offensive, where in the name of development nagas will be integrated and subordinated to mainland India. It is interesting to note that while the peace process is being on, the GoI has intensified its efforts in focusing on the development of the Northeast region. 10 % of the Union budget is allocated for the region while the population and area of the region are mere 3.88% (2001 census) and around 8% respectively. Particularly, the state of Nagaland will be benefiting in the coming years with many developmental and educational projects. The current budget has allocated Rs 700 crores for rail link from Dimapur to Kohima, Nagaland will get its own High Court very soon and its university is being upgraded by opening new engineering college and Medical College while the Nagas living in other states remain marginalized and dejected. Recently two SEZs have been announced. It has been reported that Nagaland has opened up for oil exploration (Champang Oil) that will accrue to the State Government to the tune of US$ 115 million in the coming 3-4 years. While one can understand the reason why NSCN (IM) has become a stakeholder of this project, it casts a doubt as to how it will serve the interest of the Naga movement. Prosperity breeds revolutionary lethargy. Moreover, large investment of big capital inevitably leads to increasing power of money bags, who in the current reality of the sub-continent are from the mainland; it also leads to inflow of skilled and unskilled workforce that too will flow in from the mainland. For instance, Wokha that is the site of hydal project also witnessed the highest growth of population in the decadal census of 1991-2001. What will be the impact of all this on Naga society?
1) Staying on course
The current approach does not seem to be very useful for the furtherance of the cause of the Nagas. Some of the reasons are:
- There has not been any forward movement in the core issues proposed by the collective leadership. The reasons may be: a) the proposals put forward by the collective leadership entail a major constitutional changes that no political leaders of any party in India would like to imagine. b) Nagas remain as disunited as ever and Government of India still has enough maneuvering space. c) Any concession to the Nagas will open a Pandora box.
- While the talk seems to be facing a wall, the Naga cadre specially, the arm cadre has apparently become complacent after experiencing the comfort of civil life. There have been reports that the instructions for dispersal of government funds in Ukhrul District are flowing from Hebron camp. Will this blur the vision of the middle rung cadre, is a question which needs objective answer. The cadre has also become even more venerable due to their complete exposure to Indian intelligence department over the last more than one decade in terms of the details of their sympathizers, movements, personal contacts. How easy for the GOI to crack down once the peace process ceases.
- The peace period has led to disproportionate prosperity of Nagaland without much progress on the core issues. While prosperity of our Naga brethren in Nagaland should not be a cause of envy for others, but when it is used as tool by GOI to blunt the sharpness of Naga nationalism and create friction and discord in Naga polity, this needs to be viewed and judged critically. It is not in the interest of a nation to have half of its populations feasting in the banquette of its enemies.
- The current peace process has not brought much internal unity. In fact it has increased competition among the factions to get the attention of the Government of India. NSCN (K) has separately declared cease-fire with the GOI and NNC has been trying to reassert its importance. Much effort to bring together all factions have not achieved anything much. While the NSCN (I-M) is trying to negotiate with the GOI, NSCN (K) has condemned the NSCN (IM) for having dropped sovereignty in the list of its demands. Whereas NSCN (K) has not come up with any proposals for settlement and been dumped by NSCN (I-M) as a stooge in the hands of some politicians who are at loggerhead with the collective leadership. How long will this war of words go on? And who, ultimately benefits?
- It may be mentioned here that India has not fought war for the last 35 years now; it is an emerging regional and economic power, a de facto nuclear power and signatory to almost all United Nations Conventions. It has almost all the institutions and mechanism to counter any anti-Indian propaganda. In view of this, it may not be very easy to convince its good will to understand and grant what the Nagas want. India is doing a sleeping act-it is difficult to wake up a person who is not actually sleeping. Granting any concession whatsoever outside the parameter of Indian constitution is more of face loss than gaining international applause for doing democratic charity. J& K, which had special status with separate constitution, separate flag etc. when it began its statehood is today as ordinary as any other state in India. This is the kind of game India is playing with Nagas too.
2) Withdrawal from cease-fire:
Withdrawing from the cease-fire at this juncture is not a viable option either. I do not know the exact strength and preparedness of the cadre. However, it may not be difficult to assume that a) our cadres who are in the camp and in other various mission are not mentally prepared to go underground now. b) Withdrawal from the cease-fire without any tactical preparation will leave the movement in shamble. There is possibility of resistance from some quarter that will be detrimental to the interest of the movement. There is a need to show to the world that the movement can withstand the shift from peace process to any other eventuality. And it appears that it is not ready yet for that.
While the ten-year long cease-fire appears to have not produced the desired result, immediate withdrawal is likely to lead to a more difficult situation. The new approach recommends a planned withdrawal with a series of spade-work. The planning will have three components.
1) Internal: While outcome of the ongoing negotiation will depend on various variables, the two most important of them are the internal strengths of the negotiating parties and the external pressure the internal factor can generate. In our case, it is the strength of NSCN (I-M) and its capacity to hold the Naga society together including integrating (NSCN (K) and NNC) into its fold. We have witnessed during the last 60 years of our struggle how difficult it is to have solidarity/unity in Naga society. One cannot undermine the importance of unity among Nagas at this juncture. There are three options to deal with other factions:
i) Elimination of other factions: Since the signing of the Accord in 1975 and the cruel annihilation attempt by (K) in 1989, the three groups appear to be trying to eliminate each other, physically if possible. However, time has told us that this has not happened and will not happen as each group has its own support base in the society. There are also other vested interest and external forces operating taking advantage of this disunity. We have seen the worst happening now- the deepening hatred between the factions.
ii) Appeal for reconciliation with condition: In the recent times, NSCN (I-M) has tried to put the past behind and appealed to the conscience of the other two factions (NSCN (K) and NNC) of their heinous crimes of the past. It had called the other two to severe ties with the common enemy as a condition for reconciliation. While the softening of its stand of NSCN (IM) is to be appreciated, this does not appear to appeal the other two factions. Main reasons among others can be: a) the leadership of the other two factions seem to have lost vision for the Nagas. In this vision vacuum, there is no incentive for them to renounce the leadership position they are commanding in their respective factions and become subservient to the collective leadership of NSCN (I-M). On the other hand, they are enjoying the patronages of some Naga politician and the Government of India. b) This strong disincentives will not allow their already elated egos to say sorry for their past wrong doing. c) With the kind of bitterness and venoms that have been spewing at each other over the past several years, it may be very difficult for them to be convinced that the forgiveness can be genuine and there is no hook attached to it.
iii) Appeal for reconciliation without condition: While one can understand the difficulty for the collective leadership to extend unconditional reconciliation, there seems to be no other way but to recourse to this. Even this offer is unlikely to move the minds of the leaders of other factions for the reason stated above. However, it will manifest the immense strength of the collective leadership to the Naga society and will mount pressure on other factions. It is the general perception of the Naga society that in doing so no compromise of principle will be made but instead enhance the credibility of the collective leadership. The arguments for this approach are:
The ultimate goal of Naga movement is peace and rights of the Nagas to live as a nation.
Naga society is weak and this is more the reason why Nagas need to stand together.
It is the way of showing sincerity of the collective leadership and its inner strength to forgive without condition for the greater cause of the Naga people.
If the other factions still reject this offer (which is likely), their motives will be exposed and their support base will shrink.
If the collective leadership is positive that the other factions will respond to such appeal and at the same time can not help nurturing bitterness against them- still this approach is apt because ‘revenge tastes best when it is cold’.
iv) Models of reconciliation: In recent times of the world history, eleven countries have set up reconciliation commissions under various nomenclatures such as ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, ‘Reconciliation Commission’ etc. Most of these Commissions are set up within a sovereign country to reconcile the crimes perpetrated by two parties (Government on one hand and liberation forces on the other, if there is) within the country. A few including Timor Leste set up the TRC for reconciling between two countries (Indonesia and Timor Leste). Some of these Commissions are set up to investigate the crime committed by one party while in most cases (including South Africa) to investigate the crimes committed by both the parties. The Commissions are set up, of course, after the event of the crime. Irrespective of the situations they have been set up, the main intention of these commissions is political and nation building (in case of internal) and smoothening bilateral relations (in case of two independent countries). After going through all these models, it is difficult for Naga case to draw a parallel with any one of them. Two main difficulties in drawing parallel are:
There is no legal recognized state authority to set up such Commission. Thus there is no sovereign pressure on the erring parties to honour the findings of the investigation.
These reconciliations are purely political in nature, while the need to have reconciliation among all factions in Naga movement is functional and operational because we are still a struggling nation.
Reconciliation in case of the above examples is an effort to make the past become a history. Whereas, reconciliation effort in Naga struggle process will be to create history of liberation.
Unless Naga people unite and stand up as one people, Government of India will not take us seriously. We, Nagas need to find our own model for reconciliation in the interest of Naga nation.
Reconciliation process should also include our Kuki brothers living in the so called ‘Naga territory’. As one looks back, the early 1990s upheaval was a retarding factor for the movement. Whether we like it or not, Nagas and Kukis share the same future and the sooner we make the Kuki brothers realize this the better it is for both. It is necessary that being a larger and more responsible community, Nagas need to relentlessly extend good will to them and win their confidence. I am made to understand that Kukis in Nagaland are at peace with our counterpart Naga brothers there.
v) Strategy for implementation of reconciliation:
Setting up reconciliation Commission with appropriate nomenclature: The aim and purpose of the commission should be for peace in Nagaland in general and reconciliation among the various factions of the Naga movement.
Members: Members of the Commission should be drawn from various section of society to give fair representation and view. It should include; Hohos, Church leaders, scholars, sociologists, lawyers and of course, representatives of all factions.
While collective leadership is non-negotiable, the Commission should be given maximum leeway and space for their function including changing the very name of the organization (NSCN-IM). The change in the name of the organization may give three benefits:
Internally, it will provide space for accommodating other faction within the limits of national interest. They should not feel that their original names have been discarded in favour of the name of other faction that stuck on to its name. Factional names have become very sentimental. It is strongly felt that the name is no more so important than the cause they stand for.
Externally, the outside world will know that the Nagas have the capacity to reconcile including discarding all the older names, which are associated with factionism.
The socialists countries have nothing much to offer to us now. If the western worlds to which we look to are somewhat jittery about the name tag ‘socialists’, this is an opportunity to do so. One does not know to whom and how many time we need to explain and convince our sympathizers in the western world about this name tag.
vi) Time frame: During the last extension of cease-fire, we have claimed to have put pressure on the Government of India by making it indefinite. It should not appear to the GOI now that though no further progress is made on the core areas, the NSCN (I-M) can not afford to withdraw the cease fire because of its weakness. Therefore, the process should be immediately initiated and the mechanism put in place within six months time to have an intermittent cease fire rather than long drawn one. Another six months should be utilized to implement it. Cease-fire in future should not last more than one year (depending on the progress on the core issues). While the space for negotiation should be always kept open, unless there is tactical gain, if not substantial, no room for cease-fire is required.
vii) Preparedness of the cadre: The cadre in general and military wing in particular should be mentally and logistically prepared to go underground at any given point of time. While on one hand renewed training programme should be started immediately without arousing any suspicion of GOI, their exposure to public as well as to the government should be curtailed to pre- cease fire’ level.
Viii) Media: The cadre’s MIP need to have foreign correspondent from its own cadre or by collaboration with other foreign media. It should be prepared to flash any untoward development in the aftermath of the withdrawal of cease-fire.
ix) Nagaland Assembly Election: With Assembly election in Nagaland only few months away now, political parties have started calibrating their positions on Naga movement issue. It will be imperative for the leadership to take maximum advantage of this situation. While taking no sides with any political parties, they should be encouraged to come up with manifestos and minimum programme of the respective parties. They should be encouraged to demand in stronger term integration of all Naga areas. The submission of Memorandum to the GOI by six Naga MLAs and a MP from Manipur and the Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) demand for integration of Naga areas have caused political flutter in Manipur. Sitting MLAs and MPs of Nagaland Assembly should be persuaded to send a representation to the GOI jointly or party-wise expressing unequivocally their desire for all Nagas to live under one administrative roof.
As the future of the Naga students in Manipur now hinges on the implementation of the single education board policy, political parties in Nagaland should be convinced to make commitment for extending proper facilities including conduct of examinations to the schools located in Naga areas in Manipur. The developments in the last examination and the poor pass percentage of students from Manipur have already caused resentment among the public. It is crucial time to extract all possible commitments from every single political party.
The Assembly should also demand for reverting to the1960s position and place Nagaland under Ministry of External Affairs. This will provide the tactical perspective of where the movement is moving.
2) External (with GOI):
i) Third party negotiator: In the ongoing peace talk, the negotiator is merely a machinery of the GOI. How the demands of the Nagas are conveyed to the GOI and how much of pressure he can exert to bring an honourable solution is questionable. Therefore, the Nagas need to mount pressure on the GOI and make it clear that Nagas need a third party negotiator in order to have a meaningful peace negotiation. The Acheh Peace Deal in Indonesia was negotiated by no less than former Finish President. After several rounds of talks that began in January 2005, it ended in a Peace Deal in August in the same year. Involvement of a negotiator from a third country did not neither necessarily act against the interest of the government nor met GAM’s demands disproportionately, but is more acceptable to GAM and the settlement itself is supposedly more objective. Liberation Tamil Tiger Elam (LTTE) had a Norwegian negotiating for them.
ii) Core issues: The Nagas should make it clear to GOI that, as a sign for forward movement of the talk government should begin with the territorial integration. As the government will be reluctant to move forward, collective leadership should request the GOI for an opportunity to address its parliament to present the case of the Nagas. Though
Parliament is open to only sovereign country; India has once opened it for Yaser Arafat. The collective leadership should clearly indicate that if GOI continues to dilly dally on the core issues any longer, it will ensure that all the GOI’s efforts on Look East policy through norteast end up in smoke.
iii). Second referendum: Political situation has become very volatile in the after math of the India-US nuclear deal. Mid-term poll is expected very soon. The Nagas should organize one more referendum confirming the support of Naga society to the Naga movement for self-determination. To avoid unwanted attraction of the government, it should be called ‘opinion poll’ and held simultaneously side by side with the general election. Foreign media if possible or at least favourable Indian media should facilitate the opinion poll.
3. External Diplomacy (the World)
i) There is a dire need to have a negotiator from a sympathetic country to the cause of the Nagas.
ii) Prior to withdrawal of cease-fire, all international human right groups/organizations should be alerted so that they can follow closely the excesses of the Indian army on Naga population following any possible showdown between Nagas Army and Government army. The MIP and its media tie ups should constantly feed the news to the foreign media when ever there is such show of strength.
iii) Nagas should be actively involved and should work closely with other organizations in India in the indigenous peoples movement.
4. While insurgency problem in the entire North east is something to worry about, Naga issue alone as it stands now is not a heavyweight political issue for GOI. Forming a common united front of all the North East groups will send shiver down the spine of GOI. In the early 1980s, we have lost several friends because of our purist stand.
The able Naga leadership has provided vision for its people. And because of this vision, though precious bloods have been shed and lives lost, the Naga movement still moves on. In this process of nation building, unfortunately, treacheries have been committed which do not deserve pardon. However, the need of forgiving each other and the need to forgive the murderer of ones own brother is not so much relevant as at this juncture of the Naga history. More so because we are Christian. It is hard for an ordinary man as I am to practice forgiveness without condition. But surely, one man has to redeem the nation through forgiveness.
Nagas as a people are confused today. While some are sinking in the wealth of its enemies, others have been living in the periphery of other people for the last 60 years with worsening condition. On the other hand, the strengths of the enemy have increased manifolds. Time seems to be running out. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to have a settlement on equal terms. But surely there has to be a honourable settlement because we are God’s people.
Nagas of Manipur – Problems and way forward
The Naga movement has been sustained because of the vision of few leaders who envision a future for the Naga people. During the course of this struggle over the decades, however, it has been observed that majority of the Naga people do not seem to share the one vision. Going by the rhetoric- the voices raised everywhere for Naga cause, Naga unity, Naga future, Naga identity etc., there can be no doubt that Naga patriotism is exemplary. However, in reality, it has become more and more obvious that the spirit of unity, the shared vision is only a farce and if there is any, has frizzled out much faster than one realizes. While some part of Nagalim is dipping deep into the wealth, others have been in the periphery for the last 60 years, deprived, dejected and with little hope for betterment in the future. It is in this context this paper has been proposed.
The greatest enemy of the naga nation as time and the unfolding events have been telling is not any outside force but is within us. Some interested politicians have very subtlety cultivated their own constituencies. In creation of Nagaland State as a political entity in the midst of political struggle of the nagas, the vision of nagas as a nation nose-dived and the flow of events after that have been proving this point.
It is time to ask ourselves how closer we have come to the goal then we were 60 years ago. Although, the movement has made progress in various fronts, it seems to be stepping back in several other aspects. The most worrying factor being the internal problem. Naga unity, which is supposed to be the foundation from which strength should emanate, seems to have gone from bad to worse. In view of all these developments, collective leadership would need to do a serious re-thinking so that the situation does not slip further. The goalpost being given and non-negotiable, it is felt imperative to change the rule or strategy of the game. Insertion of short term and medium term in the hierarchy of ultimate goal, it is felt, will provide the much needed maneuvering space and a chewable piece for every single bite.
Hurtles in territorial integration
The recommendations and suggestions in this paper flow from the assumption that the current approach to forge Naga unity has been confronted with many administrative, systemic and strategic difficulties namely, i) Creation of Nagaland State- a legal entity-with artificial boundary was the first beating that Naga national movement got ii) over the years some local interested politicians have cultivated their constituencies which has become all pervasive now, iii) Nagaland State as a legal entity has become a convenient political handle for the GOI to thwart any effort for Naga integration or unity, iv) The people of Nagaland has immensely benefited from Naga political movement, and v) local politicians want a status co, vi) that politicians in Nagaland State, perhaps, consider merger with the territories from Manipur, Assam and Arunachal more a liability than gain, vii) Dominant tribes and politicians in Nagaland State would wish to continue their domination. Merger with territories from other three States has the high possibility of diluting this domination in future.
Let me be honest to admit my ignorance of Nagaland internal politics. My interaction with naga brothers of Nagaland is also minimal. But the above observation flow from the flow of event since the signing of 16 points agreement in the early 1960s. And I don’t blame them. Because this is the natural course of the intention of the Indian policy makers and it must flow its full course of the design the agreement.
A simple example in this context is the recent development with regard to School Board affiliation issue. The dilly-dally in the Nagaland Assembly is only a political gambit. Amending the byelaw of the Nagaland School Education Board rather than placing it before the Assembly to enact a law is seen by many as political calculation of DAN government which would like to be seen as a strong advocate for merger/unity. The only one thing high in the agenda of DAN government is, of course the Assembly election which they won. Sincerity of the Government of Nagaland will be proved only when it is enacted as a law and start conducting examinations in the recognized schools in the districts of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal. It can be almost vouched that this will not happen in future.
On the other hand, Nagas living in Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh have gone through the bitter experience of historical neglect and marginalisation. While the other communities are taking advantage of the modernization process and making tremendous progress, Nagas in these states are decades behind them and with no glimpse of hope in near future.
In view of this, a well thought out political measures need to be taken to curve out a space for ourselves without impinging on the ultimate goal of Naga National Movement. If Nagas in their respective states make progress, in long term, difficulties faced in the process of our effort for unity as mentioned above may be addressed. Since largest number of Naga population outside Nagaland is in Manipur and because Manipur State is the biggest hurdle to the merger issue, it will not be illogical to start some effort from Manipur State.
Background of Meiteis-Tribals relationship
The relationship of meiteis with other groups particularly the hill people is worth analyzing. The history of Meitei, though rich in records of assimilating hill people at the individual level, has no substantial evidence of en masse absorption of other groups into the mainstream of Meitei society. As evidenced from historical records it is beyond doubt that the Meitei kings carried out frequent raids on different hill peoples and collected tribute from their chiefs who also made counter attacks to the Meitei kings. The history of the relationship of the Meitei with the neighboring hill tribes centered around the frequent wars fought between the Meitei Kings and the Chief of hill tribes. However, the Meitei kings were always at the upper hand. Such an historical reality has paved the way for establishment of the conveners-convenored relationship between the Meiteis and the hill people. In the long process of history the value of this relationship has been inculcated in the mind of the people and the majority group has possessed the historically derived superiority that has been expressed in the form of cultural arrogance.
When the Meiteis became the followers of Vaishnavism, this historically given cultural arrogance sharpened and further alienated the non-Hindu tribals. The tribes, who have embraced Christianity, on the other hand also have alienated themselves from the Meiteis. This social gap resulted from the mutual alienation become wider and wider with the metamorphosis of the colonial subjects into free citizens of independent India became political democratization has stimulated primordial sentiments.
Cultural arrogance and domination is being perpetuated even more today not in terms of carrying out frequent raids and collection of tributes but by systematically depriving the hill people of the developments due to them. In the given power equation scenario in the state, this exploitation will be allowed to continue.
It may be, therefore, noted here that though Meiteis and nagas have long relationship it has never been a common and shared history. It has been rather more of dominant and dominated relation and one of conflict than cordial relationship benefiting only the dominant community. History has its natural course and in the majority-minority dynamics, this course has not change and is unlikely to change in future. Simply put, nagas do not have a common future with meiteis.
Concerns/Issues in Manipur
General/political: The Meiteis of Manipur have never been comfortable with the aspiration of Naga people to live under one political roof. In the past, they have reacted sharply when such efforts were made, one in 1964- the first cease-fire between GOI and Nagas- when it was extended to some districts in Manipur. In the most recent incident, when the ongoing cease-fire was extended to hill districts of Manipur in 2001, there was furor in Manipur resulting in ultimate withdrawal of this extension. That it was the machination of the GOI is entirely different issue. The contention of the Meiteis is that Manipur’s political boundary has been intact since 1834 when Kabaw valley was transferred to Burma. Simply put, this conflict can be understood in the context of territorial claims postulated by both the nagas and the Meiteis in their construct of separate ‘Nation states’. It is a direct result of the ongoing pan- naga political struggle for unified nagalim and on the other hand the assertion of ethnic supremacy and glorification of a golden past by the section of dominant meiteis.
Insecurity of the meiteis springs from the fact that the four valley districts make up only a little more than 20% of the entire territory of the State. Any decision of the GOI to merge hill territories of Manipur with Nagaland will, therefore, i) leave Meitei with political uncertainty, ii) legal entity of Manipur will be uncertain, iii) Meiteis will lose out huge amount of funds which they have been enjoying in the name of the tribal populations, iv) there will be political turmoil in the entire region. The Meiteis are likely to fight out till the last. One wonders if GOI will risk this situation when the going of the present policy is so far so good.
Manipur Land Revenue Act (1960)
It is also to be noted with serious concern that the Manipur Land Revenue Act (1960) has been on the threshold of expansion into the hill areas. It is a fact that around 70 villages of Churachanpur District, some parts in Tamenglong District and a large junk of Kangpokpi areas have already been affected by this Act. Neeedless to say that there is a constitutional safeguard against the expansion of this Act to hill areas. However, this constitutional safeguard is in nowhere to prevent the expansion of this Act beyond its jurisdiction. It will not be a surprise that after a few decades most of the hill areas would have come under this Act. By then it will be too late to undo all that has crept in illusively spread over decades.
Status Co: The first option to approach the above situation is to continue the current approach i.e demanding upfront for territorial integration of all Naga areas. However, it has been observed that this approach has not borne much fruit and no softening in the stance of the GOI in term of giving serious thought to it is foreseeable in future. In fact, this somewhat undoable thing in the mind frame of India policy maker is evident from the dilly-tallying tactics of the GOI in the last more than a decade. Where the GOI wishes Naga movement to go has been briefly dealt with in my previous paper.
The most recent assurance reportedly given to Manipur outer constituency MP, Hon’ble Mr. Mani that the UPA Government will re-examine the UPA common minimum programme to remove one of its programmes that it would respect the territorial integrity of the existing state is but only a political exercise to swim though the Confidence Motion.
Option two: Demand a separate status for the hill districts of Manipur. This may be in the form of separate Union territory or separate State but in any case not less than Union Territory.
A. i. For State and GoI : Such move will bring directly into loggerhead with the Meiteis. Meiteis know that this kind of demand is inevitable in future. Precisely because of this reason, they are surreptitiously expanding the Manipur Land Revenue Act to hill districts. On the other hand as a part of tribals appeasement policy, they have announced a toothless District Council. Unfortunately, we have bitten the bait at the first instance by jumping into the election fray from all corners.
ii. GOI of India will sit up to see this with immense interest. It is worthwhile to recall the newspapers report that NSCN (I-M) is ready to negotiate for Union territory status. It was not just a thoughtless speak by the negotiator but a well-calculated articulation. It may be read in two ways a) GoI would like to know the reaction of the NSCN. Now that NSCN is so weakened (so they think) with the splinter groups within the cadre, it would like to somewhat expect NSCN softening its stance. b) If the NSCN maintains its hard-line and sticks to its guns then, it would like to pre-empt any such move from the civilian side. GoI would not easily cede any kind of political concessions to Naga/Tribals of Manipur short of making it a part of negotiation deal with NSCN (I-M). On the other hand, GoI also understands the agitative nerves of the tribal population against the majority Meities.
B.i. For NSCN: It is a political taboo for NSCN to speak of separate state for the Naga/tribals within the constitution of India. Mizos’ case is a precedent that had just happened yesterday and it is a political suicide to step into the same trap. In another word, this process will dilute the greater cause of the Naga movement. I recall that a few decades ago, NSCN has objected even to the tribals demanding for 6th schedule status saying that it will dilute the greater goal of the movement. I am wondering today, why it has not raised any objection to the much more toothless District Council proposed for the hill districts today.
ii. All other factions of Naga movement including NSCN (K), NNC and some other interested elements will raise a hue and cry finger pointing at collective leadership that it is a complete sell out and that they have been anticipating this since the 1989 split.
iii. Chairman of NSCN (I-M) may also raise his serious doubts on the intention of the movement.
iv. The intelligence department of the GOI will try to take full advantage of this and try further to split and undermine the cadre.
Nagas in Manipur can not affort to live on in the present condition under the complete domination of meiteis. While on the other hand, the demand for territorial integration by the NSCN does not seem to be happening anywhere near future, territorial domination of the meitei is slowly but surely spreading over the hill districts in the form of MLRA. It is therefore, imperative that a necessary legal precaution needs to be taken. As continuation under one administrative roof will only ensure perpetuation of domination of the valley people, a strategy that will ultimately separate administration of the hill area and the valley of Manipur need to be evolved. It will be worthwhile to note that while initiating this process at the public level, other non- naga tribes should be taken into confidence.
The option of demanding a separate administrative unit exclusively for the tribals of Manipur is the most viable short term as well as long term strategy. That it will dilute the greater cause is a complete misgiving for the following reasons: a) Nagaland State had been already created. The emotional barrier we have today between the nagas of Nagaland and other nagas is due to this artificial boundary. Adding another Administrative State for nagas will only help bridge the gulf between the brethren of these two states. This will be enumerated at the later stage. b) This movement will be solely at the public/ civilian level. C) Any political struggle process involves short term measures which will uplift the overall condition of the people. For example, during the Indian freedom struggle, several Acts were passed at the behest of INC to bring reforms within the colonial structure to ameliorate the political, social and economic lives of people although the ultimate is independence. The political reforms introduced did not in any case dilute the ultimate goal of the struggle. In fact, it concretizes the ultimate goal and therefore, laid the very foundation of Independent India.
i. Short term benefits: a) This will immediately redress the issue of discrimination and marginalization of tribal by the meiteis. b) This will provide some kind of vision for the middle rung cadre who can not share the ultimate vision of the top leadership. Several small splinter groups that have come up in recent times seem to be the result of murky vision. They will have something immediate to fight for. It may be clarified here that this movement will be solely spearheaded by public/ civilians. However, this process must have the blessing of the leadership.
ii. Medium term benefit: The difficulties associated with the effort of territorial integration have been explained earlier. This involves both political and economic dimensions. Reiterating the points emphasized above, therefore, in short term measure, there is nothing for the nagas of Nagaland to gain as politically integration will eat into their political space. They also see integration through economic prism in terms of sharing more of their booties than benefiting from it. Therefore, though the rhetoric of integration and unity will be apparently maintained, there will be unlikely any serious efforts toward this goal.
Creating a separate political entity for the nagas of South will, therefore, go a long way in the process of integration process for the following reason:
i. Having a territorial entity of our own will raise the bargaining power with our brothers in nagaland. It will not be a move for integration of naga territory of Manipur with the territory of Nagaland but integration of two entities-an amalgamation.
ii. This will clear the constitutional hurdle of having consent of the States concerned for merger to create a bigger one political entity. It will be then that the sincerity of nagas from nagaland will be tested.
Strategy: As much as scoring goal is not a matter of one long shoot from one goal post to another, there is a need to have several steps if needs be to achieving this goal. For one should be fully prepared for a long drawn battle.
i. Demand for separate Hill Education Board.
ii. Demand for separate Hill University.
iii. Demand for separate Land Revenue and Forest Act for the hill areas.
iv. And, ultimately, demand for separate union territory/State
v. It should have an inclusive approach. It is important to note that right from the inception of this process other non- naga tribes should be taken into confidence. It will be suicidal on our part to commit the same mistake of the early 1990s.
I have tried to present in this paper a case which may not be the best but viable given the current scenario. While the GOI is fully aware that it will not be possible for it to completely wipe out the naga movement as in the case of Tamil tigers, reducing it to the level where it will have no strength to stand up as a united force is all what it desires. It may worthwhile to realize that we are dealing with a formidable force in terms of diplomacy, policy, strategy, and military and economic strength. In face of all these, there an absolute need to deal with the problem of the process in phased manner. The strategies enumerated above will provide a space for development to keep pace with the development of the world, add strength to the civilians to support the movement, provide vision to the middle rung leadership, evoke deference from our Nagaland brethrens and will not diffuse the ultimate goal of the movement.