By: Talmizur Rahman
Seven decades of insurgency and 22 years of peace talks. With any solution to the Naga Insurgency problem (referred to as Indo-Naga problem by the Naga militant groups ) continuing to be as elusive as a mirage, the reality at the ground level remains stuck at square one despite over two decades of peace parleys.
Over the decades, the run-up to the continuing political deadlock witnessed at times flashes of thundering political hoaxes, courtesy the Delhi Czars. The Shillong Accord signed between the Centre and the Naga National Council (NNC) way back in 1975 dashed across the political horizon at an electrifying pace straight into the dustbin of history no sooner the deal was signed. It simply disappeared in mountains of political garbage and has turned into a political fossil.
In 2016, one fine summer afternoon, New Delhi left the nation, particularly the North-east, awe-struck with its roaring announcement that a Framework Agreement (FA) has been signed with the NSCN (IM). However, till date nobody, except perhaps some government functionaries and NSCN (IM) leaders, has any idea as to what the contents of the much hyped agreement may be. Interestingly the agreement, hidden from public view by thick clouds of secrecy, apparently proved to be a huge political bonanza for the ruling party in the country till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It managed to create the impression among countrymen that the Modi-led government had the political sagacity to almost find a solution to the highly complex decades-long Naga imbroglio or for that matter any complex situation.
Now that several rounds of peace talks were held in October last without any positive outcome in black and white, even the run-of-the-mill observer may feel that FW might perhaps have been a huge political hoax thrust upon the people by the Centre. It is only a matter of ordinary common sense that if the FA contained an content worth its salt, a good deal of progress based on the same might have been made on several factors comprising he complex subject and a finality, at least verbally, might have been reached. In such an eventuality, despite the final agreement in writing still nowhere in the horizon, the Centre might possibly have gone hammer and tongs over its success if the high voltage rhetoric unleashed by the government after signing the FA is any pointer.
Unfortunately, a final agreement by and large guaranteeing a lasting solution to the Naga imbroglio still appears to be years away. The most complex issues of sovereignty, shared sovereignty (whatever that may mean), and integration of Naga dominated areas in the neighbouring states and the like continue to be fully entrenched at square one as was the case 22 years ago, nay the vanishing trick played by the Shillong Accord in 1975. In terms of years, for as long as 45 years the Naga imbroglio continues to be stuck at the same juncture. The only area where some kind of loose and vague understanding might possibly have seemingly been reached is the demand for a Naga flag. In this respect, the news emanating from various sources as well as the media is that the Centre has purportedly agreed to allow the Naga militant groups to have a Naga cultural flag and not a political one.
Further, as per sources, some kind of understanding has been reached between the Centre and the NSCN (IM) and other Naga militant leaders in respect of formation of seven Naga development councils in the Naga dominated areas of Manipur, three such councils in Arunachal Pradesh and two in Assam.
On this count, leave alone the possibility of Manipur ceding even an inch of its territory, even the minutest of concession to the Naga demands by the patriotic people of Manipur may be ruled out. The writing may be loud and clear on the wall that the valiant Manipuris may be prepared to die in thousands to protect their motherland. The Manipuris had earlier displayed the required valour around the time when the Central government headed by AB Vajpayee made a proposal for setting up of NSCN (IM) designated camps even in the neighbouring states. In contrast, the then Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar purportedly endorsed the proposal mooted by the Centre in utmost silence.
While the Centre may certainly not dare to touch Manipur if the boundaries of the neighbouring states are to be reorganised to concede to the NSCN (IM) demand for integration of all Naga inhabited areas, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh may prove to be sitting ducks for New Delhi and the Naga rebels if contemporary history is any indication.
As of now, in the context of the Naga-India deadlock, the situation in Manipur is seemingly turning more and more volatile with every passing day. The people of the state took to the agitational path even before the so called last round of peace talks on October 31 was over. On the other hand, the people of Assam as well as the leaders of the political parties and civil society are apparently unmoved by the development and seemingly continue to enjoy a happy-go-lucky time.
While the Centre has so far been maintaining that the territories of the North-eastern states would not be altered in order to arrive at a settlement with the Naga insurgents groups, one can never be sure what roadmap the Centre may be having on the anvil on this count. So far as the possibility of setting up of Naga development councils in the neighbouring states is concerned, one is afraid that, considering past political developments, God forbid, Manipur may withness the emergence of a highly volcanic situation. It indeed would require extraordinary political sagacity on the part of the Centre to evolve a strategy where the brave and remarkable people of Manipur may be successfully persuaded towards accepting any of the demands of the Naga militants.
So far as Dispur and Itanagar are concerned, the diktat issued by Delhi will in all probably rule the roost. As of now, both the capitals may roar that the interests of the respective states would be allowed to be compromised while finding a solution to the Naga imbroglio. However, the way both Dispur and Itanagar went down on their knees in respect of the CAB last year and very likely to do so again when the CAB in a new garb is to be introduced in the Parliament soon, one only feels that, leave alone Naga development councils or a pan-Naga body (as is being rumoured), both these states may adopt a “Yes boss” approach even if Delhi goes for territorial changes in respect of the two states to accommodate the demands of the Naga militants. So far as the demand for greater Nagalim is concerned, parts of Assam and Arunachal are very much included in the map. Hence, even if Assam and Arunachal are forced to cede stretches of land in order to realise a lasting solution to the Naga-India problem, one feels, the Sultans of Dispur and Itanagar may come up with a new roar that at times sacrifices have to be made in the greater interest of the unity and integrity of India. Perhaps Dispur and Itanagar are preparing still better answers.
In the eventuality of the emergence of such a scenario, mild protest against the same may surface in some areas of both the states. However, by then it may be too late and may be akin to opening of one’s umbrella after the shower is gone.