A layman’s analysis on Indo-Naga talk

By Z. K. Pahrü Pou, Mission Colony, Pfutsero.

Naga freedom movement is considered to be one of the longest people’s movements not only in Asia but also in the whole world. This movement is also one of the strongest movements that had survived the onslaught of mighty Indian armed forces as well as violent conflict among the various Naga groups. It has secured a revered place in the hearts of many indigenous people. Nature (type) of settlement that is going to arrive at will not only decide the destiny of the Nagas but also the fate of many other indigenous people’s movement both in India and abroad because the powerful empires are likely to use the same yardstick in dealing with the colonized people. For this reason, many indigenous people are looking with curiosity at the final result of Indo-Naga talk. However, the talk that begins (in 1997) with much hype and hope has been mired with confusion and ambiguity after more than 20 years and nearly 100 rounds of talk.

Is the GOI playing various cards to confuse the Nagas? The present Indo-Naga talk begins with three conditions: that it will be held in the third country, at the highest level and without any pre-condition. Whether the Government of India (GOI) is faithful to the promise they made to the Nagas is opened for all to see. But that cannot be considered a surprise as GOI has been doing the same thing again and again even in the past’s agreements/accords with the Nagas. In more than two decades of talk, the GOI has been playing with various cards and trying her best to downgrade Indo-Naga talk from sovereignty (as two separate entities) to ethnicity to a tribe and to factional level. This has created lots of chaos resulting in fear and suspicion of each other within the Naga family. In the name of inclusivism (stakeholders), the GOI has put various NPGs and civil organisations to compete and fight with each other.

This has been done intentionally so as to turn Naga political issue into internal ‘law and order’ problem and make the unique history of the Nagas meaningless. Today, respected interlocutor and Governor of Nagaland continuously talks about ‘corruption’ as the main problem of the state.

Few Nagas sincerely believe this ‘deceptive sermon’ without realizing that it is just a ploy to divert people’s attention from pursuing political freedom. During these many years of political lesson given by the GOI, many Nagas including some intellectuals were convinced that according to ‘contemporary reality’ the only way for the Nagas to survive is through total submission to Indian Union. This ‘reality’ says that ‘either you accept monetary assistance and be quiet or face bullets, bombs and death fighting for your rights.’ As a response to this threat, many Nagas have probably approved that India has the legitimate right to continue colonizing Nagas while the Nagas should surrender her right to exist as a free nation.

Is Article 371-A qualifies to be the crux of Indo-Naga political settlement? We were told that the Nagas have been denied of sovereignty. We heard that the Nagas were denied of physical integration of all Naga inhabited areas to live under a single administration. However, we were told that there could be the formation of the Naga Regional Territorial Council (NRTC) in Naga inhabited areas. It is likely that NRTC will be empowered by extending Article 371-A which at present the state of Nagaland is enjoying. Although this is purely under the purview of the Indian Constitution, it gives certain powers to the state/people especially in regards to customary laws and practices as well as ownership of land and its resources. If Art. 371-A is to come as part of settling Indo-Naga talk, it needs serious deliberation to correct the flaws and also make more powerful than now.

Art. 371-A with its main clause ‘customary laws and practices,’ has been used to discriminate women in the decision making bodies. Because of this Article, 33% reservation for women in the decision making bodies was denied in the state. Naga patriarchal society has made this Article to protect men’s interest at the expense of women’s right. It should be amended or interpreted so as to make inclusive and people’s friendly Act where no one is discriminated on the basis of sex difference.

Art. 371-A needs to get strengthened with autonomous power. In its present form, it has no power to protect its citizen from cruellest and draconian laws especially AFSPA & NSA. This means even after the final agreement, Nagas will be completely under the control of Indian armed forces and will face arrest, torture, frisking and detention without any warrant and on mere suspicion.

It is also true that Art. 371-A does not give full freedom to the Nagas to explore and extract oil and mineral resources in their own land. Oil and mineral resources are crucial towards developing one’s economy and Nagas should get 100% ownership right.

It is equally important to analyze to what extent Art.371-A can protect us from CAA as it might automatically pave the way to the introduction of UCC in the near future. Some Naga political leaders, instead of strengthening Art. 371-A, think that it is a stumbling block to development in the state. Hence, the signs of the time predict that Art. 371-A will gradually lose its strength and completely vanish in due course of time unless it is back up by a strong Naga Constitution.

Pan Naga Hoho as the apex authority body. In the absence of full independence or sovereignty, Nagas need to have a strong common political body. All Naga Political Groups (NPGs) seems to have understood that the present settlement is not going to be the final agreement. It is also understood that the right to self-determination will be pursued through ‘democratic means.’ However, after inking the present peace accord, all the members/cadres of various NPGs will be rehabilitated by the GOI and placed in their respective state where they belong. Majority of them will be absorbed into Indian armed forces. With this development, Nagas will be kept in pieces and a huge vacuum will come into existence in the Naga freedom movement. This is where the Nagas need a strong common political body to continue the dialogue with the GOI to recognise and grant the full rights of the Nagas. In this context, PNH is necessary. It should be properly established before signing the present deal and empowered to inculcate and foster the spirit of oneness and unity of all Nagas. It can be endowed with full power to oversee the administration of all the Naga inhabited areas as well as act as the custodian of Art. 371-A. Even NTRC will have its strength and will be effective only when there is a binding mechanism such as PNH. In the set up of PNH, there should be fair representation from all NPGs and various tribes of all Naga inhabited areas. It should become a brainstorming platform for Naga intellectuals where not only the welfare and development of the Nagas will be taken care of but also that of neighbouring communities and India as well. It is a layman’s fear that without having a strong PNH as a common platform, Nagas will be broken into pieces after the present Indo-Naga talk is over.

Conclusion: It is expected that GOI recognises and respect the unique history of the Nagas despite disunity among the Nagas. Trying to downgrade Naga political issue to economic issue or to solve from of ethnic perspective (e.g. Bodo Accord), will not bring a lasting solution. GOI of India should stop dealing with Naga’s issue solely from her security and international trade perspective.

It may be difficult for GOI to digest the idea of establishing PNH with full power but it is the only way forward for the Nagas in attaining their aspiration of living together under one administrative umbrella. Whatever accord/agreement is going to be inked this time; every party should honour and abide by it in letter and in spirit. It is hoped that India will not cheat again the Nagas as in the past. On the part of Nagas, we must transcend geographical division and tribalism, come together and stand in unity as one nation for there’s nothing to lose in unity but gain abundant life in freedom.

Memorandum to PMO of India

Shri. Narendra Modi
The Hon’ble Prime Minster
Government of India

Subject: Memorandum

Hon’ble Sir,

We bring Warm Greetings from the Office of Naga Students’ Federation

*1) About Naga Students’ Federation:*
The Naga Students Federation (NSF) was formed in 1947 founded on the vision and sacrifices of educated Naga youths of that time, who felt the need to have an organized body through which collective aspiration could be articulated and at the same time respond to issues confronting the students in particular and Nagas in general. It came to being at a time when there were only few Nagas who could apprehend futuristic possibilities with clear political and social acumen.
Since then, the Naga Students’ Federation has been striving for the larger interest of the Nagas-unwavering in its stand and persevering in promoting the rights of the Nagas. NSF has been standing firm without compromising on any issues, according to their correct perspectives, which are a matter of concern for the Nagas as a people, irrespective of tribes or divisive elements that may prevail from time to time.
It has always been the standpoint of the federation that Nagas in general would live under one administrative umbrella under a sovereign government and that the stand of the federation has always been integration of all Naga homeland and sovereignty in line with our motto ‘For Unified Lim and Glory of Nagas’.

*2) Brief Background of the Ongoing Peace process:*
The journey of Naga Struggle has never been an easy road. However, after a prolong military confrontation, the NSCN and GOI entered into second ceasefire on 1st August, 1997; with the initiatives for a peaceful resolution to the indo-Naga conflict. The basis of present political dialogues between the Government of India and NSCN representing the Naga people are a) without any pre-condition b) at the highest level and c) in third countries.
On June 14, 2001 in Bangkok it was re-affirmed that the ceasefire agreement is between the Government of India and NSCN as two entities without territorial limits. The process was further strengthened on 11th July, 2002, the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared recognition of the ‘unique history and situation of the Nagas’ by the GOI. This agreement is land mark in the historical and political journey of the Nagas as India accepted for the first time that Nagas were never a part of India either by conquest or by consent of the Naga people. In addition, it recognizes that, the prevailing situation in Nagalim is political in nature and not that of law and order problem of India, thus, requiring political solution. Hectic negotiations for eighteen (18) years culminated to the historic signing of Framework Agreement between the GOI and NSCN on August 3rd, 2015. Thereafter, the seven (7) NNPGs were joined the talk for an inclusive peace process on September 27th 2017.

*3) Resentment against R N Ravi’s dual role and his conduct thereafter*
R N Ravi in his dual role as the GOI interlocutor as well as the Governor of Nagaland was viewed with skepticism by the Naga people at large. However, the federation refrained from making our disagreement public hoping that he would discharge his dual duty with the highest degree of integrity which, to our utter dismay, was not to be.
R N Ravi has been indulging in rhetoric words and practices which has resulted in much chaos and confusion in the Naga society. Though his cunningly concocted attempt to divide the Naga society into ‘primary stakeholders’ and ‘secondary stakeholders’ was an utter failure, he has gone about painting a glossy picture of the same through print and electronic media.
It has come to light through various sources and media houses that the Indian interlocutor has been adopting the practice of twisting and misinterpreting the words enshrined in the historic framework agreement against agreed terms and principles to suit his political overlords. Such a practice is inimical to the unique history and legitimate rights of the Naga people. It has also become crystal clear to the Naga people that GOI is approaching the peace process from a bureaucratic lens which is leading to the misinterpretation of compentencies that has been mutually worked out so far between the entities.

*4) Deadline in the negotiation process*
The Indo-Naga peace process has been ongoing since the last 22 years making much progress. However, the recent development wherein the GOI interlocutor has been resorting to imposing a uniteral deadline of 31st October’ 19 upon the Naga negotiating team is against the universally accepted principle of a peaceful and mutually agreed negotiation. No honorable solution can be brought about if one of the teams to the negotiation starts to throw their weight around and tries to impose the same upon the opposite party. More so, the projected deadline has been responsible for much pain and has thrown the Naga society into further chaos which is totally the opposite of what the peace process seeks to achieve, i.e. permanent peace and tranquility in the Naga homeland.
The federation therefore seeks the intervention of your good office in advising the interlocutor to refrain from holding the hard earn peace process to the ransom of time.

*5) NSF and other civil organizations sidelined in the present consultative process*
It is an undeniable fact that the NSF is the oldest pan Naga civil society organization formed to represent the voice of the Naga people. It is also the fact that the federation is older than even the Union of India. However, in the recent series of consultative meets, the federation has been left out as an uninvited guest thereby depriving the Naga students and youths of the opportunity to express their aspirations and desires from the impending solution to the protracted Indo-Naga political issue. We must admit that our sentiments have been deeply hurt by the non-invitation by Shri. R N Ravi, the GOI interlocutor to the Peace talk and current Governor of Nagaland. NSF is not against any organization or individuals invited for consultation, however, as the main stakeholder representing the voices of those who will inherit ‘the solution, it is unimaginable for the consultation process to be a mandated one without the NSF.

*6) Economic packages alone is no solution at all*
The sacrifices of many Nagas whether they are dead or still alive, is not a struggle for Naga identity alone; it is also a struggle for self determination, a struggle against the imposition of alien culture and values upon us, a struggle against the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the forces determined to keep us subjugated.
It is in this background that the NSF made its standpoint crystal clear that Economic packages or monetary assistance cannot purchase the rights of the Naga people. Rather, the GOI should not hesitate from allowing the Naga people to retain their legitimate rights.
Further, the Naga people have come a long way by denouncing the 16th Point Agreement or the Shillong Accord and that any sort of agreement that is going to be signed between the GOI and Naga negotiators should not be mere reaffirmation or expansion of 16 Point Agreements.

*7) Conclusion*
In the backdrop of the above given history and position, the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) hereby demands your good office that:
1) The Unique Naga Identity be recognized through the Naga National flag which is dear to the hearts and minds of the Naga people.
2) The Government of India (GOI) to honor the 3rd August Framework Agreement both in letter and in spirit as it was signed by both the entities in the presence of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India.
3) Solution to the protracted indo-Naga political issue should be inclusive, honorable and acceptable basing on the uniqueness of Naga History.
4) GOI should focus on ‘mutually negotiated solution’ instead of ‘imposed solution’.
5) GOI should desist from provoking the situation by sending Indian Armies to Naga homeland and issuing statement of threat.

The Naga Students Federation takes our stand to make it succinctly and explicitly clear that the federation for all times to come continue to pursue the Pan Naga youth aspiration of integration and sovereignty through a democratic process. The Federation shall continue to stand by its own identity and principles laid down by its founding fathers in the larger interest of the Nagas.
We pray that the right wisdom will prevail and will bring lasting peace and progress to the Naga people.

Copy to:
1) Eno. Antonio Guterres Secretary General, United Nations (UN), New York
2) Ralph Bunche, Secretary General, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples’ Organization (UNPO), Brussells, Belgium
3) Dr. Frans Welman, Secretary, Naga International Support Centre (NISC) Amsterdam
4) Guard File
Sd/- President, Naga Students’ Federation
Sd/- President, Anal Lenruwl Tangpi (ALT)
Sd/- President, Angami Students’ Union (ASU)
Sd/- President, Ao Kaketshir Mungdang (AKM)
Sd/- President, All Zeliangrong Students’ Union (AZSU)
Sd/- President, Chakhesang Students’ Union (CSU)
Sd/- President, Lotha Students’ Union (LSU)
Sd/- President, Lamkang Kurchuknao Kunpun (LKK)
Sd/- President, Mao Students’ Union (MSU)
Sd/- President, Maram Students’ Union (MKS)
Sd/- President, Maring Students’ Union (MSU)
Sd/- President, Mongsang Naga Students’ Union (STS)
Sd/- President, Moyon Naga Students’ Union (TTBR)
Sd/- President, Poumai Naga Tsiidoumai Me (PNTM)
Sd/- President, Pochury Students’ Union (PSU)
Sd/- President, Rengma Students’ Union (RSU)
Sd/- President, Sumi Kiphimi kuqhakulu (SKK)
Sd/- President, Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong (TKS)
Sd/- President, All Naga Students’ Association Manipur (ANSAM)
Sd/- President, All Nagaland College Students’ Union

Treading cautiously on the final Naga peace agreement


*The Hindu*

M.P. Nathanael
OCTOBER 24, 2019 00:05 IST

The Centre should not be rigid in its stance
Around the time that the Centre announced the abrogation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) under Article 370, there was a flutter of anxiety, bordering on panic, in the North-Eastern States, particularly in Nagaland, which enjoys certain special privileges under Article 371(A) of the Constitution. The State’s Governor, R.N. Ravi, assuaged the angst through assurances that there would be no tampering with Article 371(A).
Given that J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik had given a similar assurance to the denizens of that State when former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah met him two days before the constitutional change was announced, the Naga people are justifiably sceptical about the statements of their Governor that Article 371(A) is a “solemn commitment to the people of Nagaland…” and that they “don’t have to worry at all.”

Separate flag, Constitution
For reasons best known to the concerned officials in the government and the signatories on behalf of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), the Framework Agreement, which was signed with much fanfare in the presence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, has remained under wraps. Was there something in the agreement that was hindering its disclosure? Perhaps it was a clause regarding a separate flag and Constitution for Nagaland? Could the Centre have strategised that the final agreement for Nagaland would only be announced after the decision on J&K, so that the latter could serve as a precedent event and render reversal of any aspects of the Naga agreement — including clauses on its flag and Constitution — impossible?

Herein lies the crux of the matter. While the Nagas maintain that “the Naga national flag is the symbol of the recognised Naga entity… the Constitution of the Nagas is the book form of the recognised sovereignty,” the Centre has conveyed its firm stand that the matter stands rejected.
Meanwhile, akin to actions taken in J&K, leaves of all government officials including police personnel have been cancelled and the State put on alert. While the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), an umbrella organisation of seven insurgent groups, has consented to be a signatory to the agreement for the time being, it has asserted that the Naga Constitution, must be drafted by a committee of distinguished personalities from every Naga tribe. Though the NNPG does not distance itself from the final agreement, it holds the view that such a Constitution could be drafted subsequently. Currently, to meet the deadline of October 31, the agreement seems to be getting pushed forward, with the Centre hopeful that the talks slated for October 24 will be decisive and final.

However, with the NSCN (I-M) obdurate in its stand of having a separate flag and Constitution, the situation could take a turn for the worse. In a reference to the armed outfit of NSCN (I-M), the Centre has categorically stated that talks at gunpoint are not acceptable and has directed all armed outfits including the NSCN (I-M) to decide upon a date for surrender of all arms in their possession. While the other outfits like NSCN (Khaplang), NSCN (Unification) and NSCN (Reformation) may readily agree to surrender their arms, the NSCN (I-M) may not give up as easily, unless of course the prospect of governmental berths being offered in the Nagaland Assembly might be allurement enough for it to do so.

The Centre also could do well to step back from its rigid position of forcing an agreement that a major political stakeholder is not willing to ink. The government will have to tread cautiously in tackling the situation lest a variant of the pre-1997 militancy returns to the State. That would be a retrograde development, especially given the last 22 years of hard-fought peace.

M.P. Nathanael is a retired Inspector General of Police, CRPF