Naga Political Solution: The Long and Winding Road

NTIMES 13Nov: Naga Political Solution: The Long and Winding Road
By Abraham Lotha

“The Naga public needs to be mobilized. Nagas in Manipur seem to create more democratic spaces for discussing such issues. But in Nagaland, people are not talking as Mr. George rightly says. Nagas in Nagaland still live in FEAR. Because of the fear of the gun no one is telling the truth. This kind of passive position is not conducive to forward movements”

The current negotiations between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India (GoI) and the supposed “almost there” settlement is beginning to sound like a false promise. A settlement that is to be arrived at before the elections in March 2013, according to Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, is turning out to be like chasing the wind. What is taking them so long?

Recently, Muivah has denied “committing to Indian Constitution” as reported by the Indian Express. He has also asserted, “Integration is a must as without integration there will be no permanent settlement.”

“The ball is now in the court of the Indian Government,” Muivah said. But this is not really the case because the NSCN (IM) has some homework to do.
There is still a basic lack of connect between the ground reality of the Naga people and the talks going on in Delhi. This “disconnect between the rest of the public and the people who are talking in Delhi is not conducive to what is happening in reality,” said Maj. Gen (Retd.) N. George, the Chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Cell, in an interview.
The local papers reported that on their recent trip to Nagaland for broader consultations, Isak Swu and Muivah met with the Naga Hoho, UNC, and civil society, claiming that the tribal hohos and civil society gave their blessings. But, rightly or wrongly, the Naga Hoho and the UNC are perceived by most Nagas to be agents of the NSCN (IM). What about the ENPO?

When contacted for this article, Mr. Pongen, the ENPO President, confirmed that they had not been contacted and had no knowledge of consultation. So how can you say the IM represents all Nagas? Mr. Pongen also stated, “We are not adverse to any settlement that is for the welfare of the Naga people.” So why won’t the IM not take into confidence such overt openness to solving the Naga political problem?
The IM’s idea of bringing any negotiated points for broader consultation is also long winded. This process will take even longer time. So if the IM is honest and serious about consulting the other factions, why not take them on board in the current negotiation team?

With respect to NSCN (IM)’s recent meeting with NSCN (Khole and Khitovi [KK]), Muivah is reported to have said, “We want everyone to understand us and the true nature of the issue before us. If understanding could be arrived at and the way towards solution is also identified in the same, then we welcome them.” But unconfirmed reports said that the NSCN (KK) were insistent on knowing WHAT was being negotiated but were not told. The KK leaders have not been taken into total confidence yet. So collaboration between the IM and KK has not been successful.

With the initiatives of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), the IM leadership has managed to stand on the same platform with some leaders of the KK and a section of the FGN factions. But the IM are not accommodating enough to include the other factions in the negotiations with the GoI. It looks like most times when the IM says they will accommodate leaders from the other factions on the negotiating team, it means that the IM wants the leaders from the other factions to join the IM. The other factions are also guilty of egoism, prestige hankering, and opportunism.

Time and again the IM leaders have said that any decision they arrive at with the GoI will be finalized only after consultations with the other factions and the whole Naga public. At present, many, including the Naga Hoho, seem to toe this line. However, to get all the factions agree on any issue is a challenge. At the moment, NSCN (Khaplang)’s distrust for the IM is so deep seated that they are not ready to even consider any settlement that IM might bring for broader consultation.

The factions can learn from a Naga folktale about the toad and the mouse who were good friends. One day they started arguing about where they should live together, on land or in water. They kept on arguing without any resolution, and one day an eagle flew down and snatched both of them and they were eaten up. If the factions (especially IM and NSCN-Khaplang) think of their position as the only right way, they can expect a similar political fate, and they will be taking the Naga people along in their misfortune.
Muivah continues to assert that “Solution will be based on the unique history of the Nagas.” What kind of solution? On his last visit to Nagaland, Muivah described the would-be settlement as a “sharing of ‘function’ between the GoI and the Naga Government.” What does this mean?

In the first week of August, the 60 Legislative Assembly Members from Nagaland pressured the GoI to expedite the process and even offered to step down to give way for an interim government. What form of Government would the interim arrangement look like? In the present circumstances, the hard truth is that Nagas of Nagaland are not prepared to accept Muivah’s leadership even if it is only for an interim period. Lessons learned from the current IM leadership structure are prime examples of why Nagas of Nagaland are very apprehensive of Tangkhul leadership. The Nagas are also equally leery of Sema leadership under the IM umbrella for various reasons.

In the meantime, with the temperature of State election fever rising, all the political parties have compromised their constitutional positions by aligning themselves to the various factions; most politicians have already made alliances with one faction or the other.
If the 2013 elections take place in Nagaland, the elected leaders will not want to disturb their position and so the Naga problem will drag on. It will easily be another five to ten years before the talks are resumed. By then much will have changed in the minds and lives of the Naga people.

If the “ball is in the court of the Indian Government,” as Muivah says, does the GoI have the balls to solve the Naga problem? The GoI’s lack of political will is characterized by two impediments: inefficiency and lack of guts. The GoI seems to be fixated with the IM; it is tied up with the agreement that it will negotiate only with the IM. But the stark truth about the IM is that it is a case of an assumed leadership by one man whose standing among the Nagas is marginal. And the GoI speaking only to him and no one else on board is not realizing the ground realities. The GoI needs to be committed to a solution and take a firm stand with the IM. As Mr. George says, it is time for the GoI to say, “This is the last word, this is the last deadline. If you can’t do it, we will have to get the others on board.”

Alternatives
Nagas need to think of some issues before the final settlement is negotiated. Some practical difficulties need to be considered.

First, the need of the hour is to get more people on board in the negotiating team who are representative of not only the factions but also the Naga public – government and civil society. The IM has to get the confidence of the people.

The “greatest challenge,” says Mr. George, “is to start getting people on board and not to marginalize each other. The moment they (IM) are questioned and exposed, they will find themselves on slippery ground.” But the challenge has to be faced up because the realization of one’s weakness can provide opportunities for revising strategies.

Second, what kind of society do we want to have? The high anticipation for solution gives an impression that one document signed in Delhi will change everything. But how do we change the complex problems here in Nagaland where everything seems to be compromised? This is a greater challenge.

Third, if the Sept 1st incident in Dimapur is any indication, there are too many guns. What do we do to disarm the cadres and the many that have guns and terrorize people in the name of the factions? One of the greatest challenges is to neutralize the weapons. When there are no guns, the public will stand up to forced taxation. At the moment, economic growth in Nagaland is stunted. Peace will lead to investments. Naga economy will then grow by leaps and bounds

Fourth, the Naga public needs to be mobilized. Nagas in Manipur seem to create more democratic spaces for discussing such issues. For example, the recent annual conference of the Senapati District Students Association held from Oct. 12 -14 with the theme “Collective Envisioning” indicates that people there are talking. But in Nagaland, people are not talking as Mr. George rightly says. Nagas in Nagaland still live in FEAR. Because of the fear of the gun no one is telling the truth. This kind of passive position is not conducive to forward movements.

Nagas talk of an acceptable and honorable solution. It is also important to keep in mind that there is no perfect solution. No political solution will be written in stone. It is a process, an evolution. Hardcore Nagas (factions or overgrounds) have to realize that in the current circumstances, the ideal solution is one that has maximum acceptability. The most important thing today is to move forward.

The future of the Nagas, particularly the youth’s, is at stake. Truth hurts but we have to be willing to face it and respond positively if we need to make our future any better.

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