By: Salikyu Sangtam
Since the announcement of the new Governor to the state of Nagaland, we’ve seen a lot of optimism and euphoria, among various tribal apex bodies, civil organizations, public leaders, intellectuals, and the public in general, about the possible conclusion to the infamous and nebulous the ‘Framework Agreement.’ Yet, amid such elation, have we abandoned reason and sound judgement, in our desperate quest for an end to this protracted civil conflict? Have we allowed ourselves to be carried away by the sentiments of the popular masses rather than by reason and the power of human rationality? I must confess that what I am about to discuss may seem unconstructive and many may not like it (and, to be honest, who will, given how desperate we are for a conclusion). It may offend the senses of many, but for the sake of some sanity in this present mood of euphoria, we must, nevertheless, examine our present political scenario from a realistic point of view. Every citizen in a democratic society must examine what is being said through the lens of reason and not to indiscriminately believe what is popularly accepted. To simply swallow what is been told is to endanger the welfare of all. In this way, we implicitly accept that we have become sheep, who simply follows. And as citizens, we must not sacrifice the interest of our society for the sake of our self-interest, nor must we remain sheep.
One of the first lessons I teach, my students in politics, is that, do not mindlessly believe the politicians (in our case that includes the Governor) and those in power. This is an essential lesson, at least in the context of what we are about to discuss because people in Nagaland tend to usually fall for this sort of trick. The Framework Agreement so far is an enigma. No one knows what the agreement entails, but we are injudiciously acting as though the solution is already here, without even knowing anything about the essential contents of the agreement, the implications (whether positive or negative) of which will reverberate into every aspect of my life and yours. That is why, after going through some of the most fundamental treaties in diplomacy and politics, I have these concerns that make me unable to join the euphoria of the mass sentiments we currently find ourselves in.
Because no one, except for those who framed and those who signed, knows the details of the Framework Agreement, I tried to understand why something so important should be kept a secret. Especially, what is it that the Union Government of India (GoI), the NSCN (IM), and the NNPGs’ Working Group are trying to hide. To these questions, I can only infer and give the following estimation:
First and foremost we must realize that we are dealing with a hawkish hardliner the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, and his deputy, R. N. Ravi, who continues to work closely with Mr Doval. We are dealing with two highly intelligent and shrewd persons. For these two gentlemen, dealing with Nagas is like dealing with a child. Like giving candies to a child, that’s how Doval and Ravi pacify the Naga movement. We must not underestimate Ajit Doval’s effects in Kashmir. What we are seeing there in Kashmir is the first implementation of the infamous “Doval Doctrine.” This doctrine simply means, in the words of Doval himself: “…don’t give in, don’t follow appeasement…and [crisis]cannot be sustained beyond a certain point and even if they do there is a price that they have to pay.” Indeed, people in Nagaland are paying “the price” for sustaining “the crisis.” Such a hardline doctrine may be the driving force behind the Framework Agreement. If we are lucky, Nagaland is where Modi may implement Doval Doctrine 2.0, where Article 371 (A) may be scrapped or modified and we may not even see it coming, just like the Kashmiris (they never saw it coming). The same fate may await us. This is, possibly, why the contents of the agreement are not disclosed to the public.
Furthermore, India is too insecure to let any state have its flag and constitution (ask Kashmir, they’ll tell you). Hence, India will not “give in” to such demands. Interestingly, GoI (advised by Doval and his man in the ground, Ravi) has a long-term plan, as well as short-term strategies. These short-term strategies are geared toward the accomplishment of GoI’s long-term plan regarding “the Nagas.” The Framework Agreement falls under short-term strategies. This agreement was never planned to bring a permanent solution precisely because the agreement was signed based on the understanding that the protagonists (NSCN-IM, NNPGs, and GoI) agree in principle to work toward a “negotiated” settlement. It does not say “permanent” or “final” settlement. Rather it GoI’s short-term plan to “sustain the crisis.”
I can, at best, only infer what those long-term goals and short-term strategies of GoI are. According to my assessment, the GoI’s long-term goal is to either divide Nagaland into three states: Nagaland, Frontier State, and Zeliangrong Homeland; or proliferate innumerable divisive issues generating confusions that ultimately lead the Naga movement to its natural death. Or both, which is quite plausible. Indeed, if one studies this conflict, this is in India’s best interests to divide the menacing Nagas or to prolong the conflict so that people are fed up by the very thought of it. This way, India’s volatile eastern borders are secured. The short-term strategies, deriving from GoI’s long-term goal, would be prolonging the (social, political, economic) crisis in Nagaland, exploiting the acute tribal sentiments and animosities among the various tribes (which the GoI is fully aware of), supporting and welcoming splintering armed groups, promising early solutions by signing Framework Agreement, sending R. N. Ravi as Governor, inactions against rampant corruptions within the state government, no punitive actions on illegal taxation, etc. Thus, we can see Doval’s Doctrine being implicitly implemented in Nagaland, without the people of Nagaland even being aware of it.
The current short-term strategy of GoI, Framework Agreement, will no doubt bring temporary and face-saving relieve to NSCN (IM) and Working groups by establishing Pan-Naga Cultural body (Yehzabo), which for all practical purposes is only an agency symbolizing emotional integration of Naga, not territorial. India is not too insecure for that. But this Yehzabo is only symbolic, and it will become even more useless if Nagaland is divided. Moreover, any agreement from the present framework will create more animosities among tribal groups, which India is exploiting quite well. GoI know that people in Nagaland care more about their puny little tribes and are willing to sacrifice society’s interests if it benefits their tribes. Tribes come first in Nagaland. This will be supplemented by the fact that if NSCN (IM) and other NNPGs are assimilated into the mainstream society, new groups will form to fill in the vacuum left behind these groups. This is quite obvious because not all the card-carrying members of these groups will agree to the Framework Agreement. And with R. N. Ravi as the Governor of the state, it is like the icing on the cake for GoI. Ravi, inferring from what we’ve observed, was sent to pacify and prepared the groundwork for GoI’s long-term aims in Nagaland.
The question now is what is that threshold; that threshold to sustain the crisis when the GoI is not willing to “give in,” not “appease,” and willing to see how long the “crisis continues.” And if it continues, how long can the people of Nagaland tolerate to pay the price for this movement, before calamity befalls our nascent and unprepared society?