Continued from previous post.
Democratic principles were alien to him because he came from a tribe, Pangmi, closely associated to Konyaks, which leaders ruled supremely. He was above critique and so with the Eastern Command under his wing, he did what he felt like doing. When called for an NSCN meeting in Eastern Nagaland for which the other leaders had travelled wide and, under the guise of darkness he attacked their camp and killed many NSCN men instantly, many more survivors of this treacherous attack were on the run for safety, his men in persecution. Th. Muivah among then narrowly escaped the onslaught. That Khaplang could do this was made possible by S.C. Jamir who had command over the Assam Rifles and access to funding all kinds of operations. S.C. Jamir in the hands of the Indians masterminded Khaplang’s moves and so it was the Indians once more who were able to disunite the Nagas.
Though they thought, 1988, the Nagas were beaten for good; they had to learn the hard way that united Nagas do not easily give up. Consequently, after 1988 the war went on and while Khaplang frustrated the initiatives of the NSCN, those who frustrated by the hardships and sacrifices the NSCN required of them became renegades and defected to Khaplang, Yet the NSCN grew stronger nevertheless and the Government of India realized that this was the force to deal with for a solution and when the generals stated the war could not be won, they decided to seek a ceasefire.
Looking back on this background while reviewing the Peace Talks one cannot but conclude that the Government of India talks with a split tongue: officially, so on the table, it speaks of an honorable solution through peaceful means, while under it, it works hard to frustrate that goal. The last round of talks in Amsterdam from 7 to 9 December is a shining example of this. With the NSCN-Khaplang nexus on the table the talks the Indians avoided talking of a future relationship again. This was remarkable if not symptomatic and significant and because during the former talks in Delhi, the same representatives of the Prime Minister of India announced that, during the next talks in Amsterdam, they would come up with an interim proposal. Though they did not elaborate on what this ‘interim proposal’ would be, the Nagas knew that any proposal to solve the conflict has to begin with the first step.
That first step had to undo what has been done to the Nagas, in other words the first step to reunify Naga areas which were so harshly separated by states and countries. “Yet”, said Th. Muivah in an interview preceding theAmsterdamtalks, “we understand the predicament of the Indians. They have their opposition to deal with and these are like hawks. On the other hand elections are near so the Congress Government likes to live up to its promises and by settling the Naga conflict once and for all, so they score. But then, this government is weak, it does not dare to take decisions with far reaching implications. This Government is afraid; it has no backbone, so I would not be surprised if their first step regarding this interim proposal is to allow the Nagas in other states than Nagaland to have more autonomy. They are right too in that case, because if they do that, it is a good sign. It means they are serious with us. They will have to go against the interests of the states who incidentally have no rights to our land, like we have no right to the land of other peoples living in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh andAssam. So, when they see that as an interim proposal we will say yes, but as a first step to an honorable solution.”
Stalling for time to wear out the Nagas, or a genuine discomfort on how to solve this conflict without angering anyone: opposition, the states concerned especially Manipur which rose violently over a minor snag in the ceasefire? “The Government of India cannot be but insincere. We understand that but we cannot tolerate indefinite stalling. So, I have told them again about Naga History and what this could mean should there be no resort but to resume the war. I said to them: the Nagas will never give up, no matter how much money you pour in getting at those who will ‘temporarily’ support you. Ask your Naga supporters whom you pay what they will choose in the end: will they choose forIndiaor will they choose to be independent?”, I asked them. “They were silent but said that they needed more time to work out the interim proposal they had promised and they apologized.”
That the Indians find it hard to come up with anything at all is obvious when one considers it just wants any people to abide by their rule. That nature was blatantly exposed when an extension of the ceasefire with the Boros of Assam was at stake. First of all the Indians wanted the Boros to sign an agreement containing the precondition that the talks were to be held ‘within the Indian constitution’. Secondly they accused the National Democratic Front of Boroland, NDFB of being the instigator of the Bangla-Boro clashes in Udailguri which left close to a hundred people dead and thirdly they held the same organization accounted for the serial bomb blasts in places inAssam. Mounting pressure bestowed on the Boros, who are similar in heritage and aspiration as the Nagas, resulted in the Government of India dictating rather than seeking an honorable solution for the Indo-Boro conflict. It wanted a solution of its own making. And, effectively this just meant: stop talking, lay down arms and sign to be part ofIndia. Because some of the Boro leaders succumbed under this pressure, they indeed signed and a split, similar to the one in the Naga ranks, became fact. But the Nagas, though also to an extent divided, still stand strong and consequently, unless in the foreseeable future the Government of India comes up with a genuine ‘Interim Proposal’, the future of India and Nagaland will be one of bloodshed. The Indians will attack and the Nagas will defend their stand. In the fall out the Northeast will be burning again, but with a difference.
This time around India cannot conceal what it does; it cannot to keep the then full blown conflict secret anymore. With many means of communication means available today, not this time it can keepIndiaas well as the world oblivious of what it unleashes. The International Community, the world will come know of the suppression which already in the past resulted in land grabbing, torture, rape extra judicial killings and blatant extermination, in short genocide. The Nagas will spread the news on atrocities being committed while fighting for their cultural and personal survival. Many stories of these atrocities of the past committed in the fifties and sixties have been documented by the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, stories only old Nagas can still tell.
In conclusion, the Indo-Naga Peace Process has been one of the Mouse taking to the Giant, or in Naga Christian terms, the story of David and Goliath talking peace. And though the Goliath now knows what David is going through it cannot and will not grant it the freedom David so dearly desires. Almost sixty years of war of which, since the last ceasefire, 13 years of talking led to the Government of India doing nothing to solve the conflict. Instead it still uses sheer force. If nothing changes eventually more and more Nagas, like former Chief Ministers of Nagaland and Manipur respectively S.C. Jamir and Reishing Keishing will feel that there is nothing to gain when the conflict is prolonged indefinitely but destruction and death and are pressed to accept anything the Government of India is willing to hand to them. Is this whatIndiais banking on? IsIndiabanking on the time the seemingly eternal life of the Naga Leaders will come to an end? Is the hidden agenda ofIndiato wear out the Nagas out so they will come to accept the inevitable?
Though getting old, Khadao Yantam vice president, recently died, the Naga leaders are still vibrant. Is India reasoning and taking its chances that next generation of leaders may be less competent, less convinced, have less charisma, are more corruptible, are susceptible to the reasoning of Indian leaders? Indians may think that these Naga men and women don’t have the integrity and credibility of the old leaders and patiently wait while they scheme. They keep on pouring money to destabilize and confuse. They supply weapons to renegades who committed crimes they cannot conceal. They oppress their own so that the Indian Government can blame it all on the Naga infighting.
Interesting observations and questions perhaps, but they are of no significance if the Nagas do not bow but make stronger impact. When the Nagas apply more substantive clout, militarily, politically home and abroad the talks will become more equal and David will use his wits, not to fell Goliath but to open substantive talks for a future and mutual relationship. How they can do that? How can a mouse put pressure on an elephant? How can David rise to the level of Goliath? One mouse cannot, but when David had thousands of mice on his side the situation changes dramatically; when thousands become millions, the international public, no elephant will be able to sustain. Goliath has to come to the level of David to talk and decide on the future of the Nagas, a future which has the right to self determination secured. How it all began and how it arrived at this juncture, for a good understanding of the conflict let’s review the History. To be concluded.
Extracted from the book: Between David and Goliath -the Conflict and Peace Talks between Nagaland and India: The Indo-Naga experience by Frans Welman, Amsterdam