In a major breakthrough in the Naga peace process, the Centre has secured a written commitment from the separatist NSCN (IM) that it will accept the Indian Constitution. According to sources, the Naga group has also recognised the impracticality of redrawing state boundaries in the interest of peace in the Northeast.
This means that the government can now look at thrashing out a final settlement in consultation with Nagaland’s neighbouring states. Until now, the NSCN (IM) had been insistent on forming a greater Nagalim including territories in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
In lieu of the written commitments, the Centre has accepted the condition that it will ensure that Naga people enjoy certain special rights, especially in the above three states where they are in a minority. In other words, the success of the peace process will depend to a great degree on the extent to which the Centre is able to deliver in terms of a special set of rights.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to initiate a political conversation with the chief ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal to arrive at a framework settlement. It’s learnt that Shinde has already met Manipur CM Ibobi Singh in the past few days. The state governments would, as a next step, talk to their respective local Naga groups towards carving out a special status for the Nagas.
The team of interlocutors led by R S Pandey, meanwhile, will continue talks with Naga groups besides the NSCN (IM) to broadbase the understanding reached with the latter.
What is important, sources said, is that there is now a basic agreed document with the contours of a final settlement. The government hopes to finalise an agreement in the next few months as elections are due early next year in Nagaland. A settlement would make it possible for the separatist Nagas to join the mainstream by contesting the Assembly polls.
The government’s hopes are high given that all the three states with significant Naga population have Congress governments. However, as some point out, local Congress leaders could be wary of the political fallout of any major concessions given to the Nagas by the UPA government.
In the case of Nagaland itself, some 60 MLAs have already come and expressed their desire to resign if that paved the way for a settlement. While it could be seen as a political stunt given that elections are just a few months away, it did underline that the political environment was conducive for a settlement.
Back in March itself, at its Republic Day function, the NSCN (IM) had given positive signals, with leader Isak Chisi Swu acknowledging the “sincerity” in negotiations from both sides and saying that the government was determined to work out a mutually acceptable solution.
The Naga insurgency is among the oldest insurgencies in India and this is the second serious shot at a final settlement after the 1975 Shillong Accord. That agreement was not recognised by many separatists, leading to the creation of the NSCN. Source: Indian Express