Post Mortem

At the dawn of Political Agreement

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/23/2019 11:52:30 AM IST

 The Appointment of Shri. R. N. Ravi, the interlocutor of Indo-Naga peace talks, as the Governor of Nagaland has sent mixed reaction across sections of the Naga society. Many perceived Ravi’s appointment as a calculated manoeuvre to lay the grounds for the final solution and to oversee its implementation, should it come to that. However, the NSCN (IM), the principal organisation representing the Nagas in the peace talks, have taken offence in Ravi’s assuming a twin role as the interlocutor and the Governor, on the ground that it would reduce the peace talks to the governor level. The NSCN must have its reason for this discomfort. Initially, the talks were to be held unconditionally in third countries at prime ministerial level. But over the course of time these principles have some how changed or eroded one by one. The unconditional clause became not so unconditional when the NSCN were pressurised to negotiate for a solution within the ambit of the Indian constitution on the basis of shared sovereignty. The talks that were initially held in foreign country was also gradually shifted to New Delhi. And now with the interlocutor assuming the role of the state governor, it is perceived that talks have been downgradedto that of the governor’s table. 

However, on the brighter side,the position of India with the Nagas have also changed. In the Nehru era, when the Naga revolutionary movements were at its heights, India used its brute military force to subjugate the Nagas, and the revolutionary leaders were branded as secessionistor even terrorists. The use of the term ‘secessionist’ with reference to Naga national workers is rarely heard now, even though such usages are common in other parts of the country. This could be due to the implicit acknowledgement of the Naga peoples’ right for self-determination.  The outlaw and terrorist tag were removed to pave way for the political negotiations. The uniqueness of the Naga history and culture was also recognised. And in the words of RN Ravi, as stated in an interview with the Nagaland Post, “[the] government of India is respectful of Naga unique history, their rights and identity and have taken significant steps to accommodate the wishes and positions of the Naga negotiators”. 

So, while on the one hand, Nagas might felt betrayed due to the change in the terms and conditions of the political talks, the government of India has also yielded to some of the basic demands and aspiration of the Naga people. Hence, from the larger political point of view this is a progress in itself. However, the important question is, are we inching towards a lasting political solution or a lasting negotiation? These are issuesthat requires carefully consideration bythe negotiating parties. Because prolonged negotiation could further dilute the terms of the negotiations, weaken the trust and respect between the negotiating parties, erode the confidence of the people and could breed factional feuds and unlawful activities. RN Ravi has recently conveyed the intention of the Prime Minister to conclude the negotiations in three-month time, further asserting that there are no reasons why it can’t be concluded. He has also reiterated that all substantive issues have been resolved barring the Flag and the Yehzabo, which to him are just symbolic in nature. On the contrary, the NSCN asserts that the Flag and Yezhabo are the core demands of the Naga people. Hence, unless there is congruity on these issues, solution may not be forthcoming this soon. Further delay could, however, escalate the conflicts. The sounding of urgency to conclude the political negotiations is good news. However, the people do not know how to react because the contours of the proposed agreement have not been spelled out, barring the few wispy points mentioned in the framework agreement. The people are not even sure whether it will be solution or settlement.  If we observe Ravi’s statements carefully, he uses the word ‘agreement’ and ‘settlement’ more often than the word ‘solution’. While the word solution and settlement could be used interchangeably, it has different connotations. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word ‘solution’ as an action or process of solving a problem. On the other hand, ‘settlement’is defined as an act of bestowing or giving possession under legal sanction. Is Ravi, a shrewd diplomat, already hinting at something? 

Irrespective of the nature of the agreement that are being discussed behind closed doors, the current socio-political environments are favourable for both sides to secure a fair deal. Unlike the past, both over ground and underground Nagas have soften their stance on the issue of sovereignty keeping in mind the current political and economic realities. In addition, almost all major Naga political groups are included in the peace talks. On the other hand, we have a prime minister who is not only eager to solve the Naga issue but also have the numbers in the parliament to push through any required legislation. This is a rare opportunity that cannot be missed. Ravi, in an interview with Nagaland post published on 23rd August 2019, stated that “no political settlement is possible without appreciating the contemporary realities. To that end, the NSCN have conceded on some of the very core issues like sovereignty and integration. However, there must be other practical difficulties for the NSCN to accept a deal without the Flag or the Yehzabo. First, the Naga flag is not just a symbol, it is a manifestation of the covenant of God with the Naga people, and the flag has become a symbol of pride and identity for the Nagas.

Secondly, it would be difficult for the Naga negotiators to accept a half-cooked meal because that would be going against the very principles which they have uphold all these years. When the NPC signed the 16-point agreement in 1960, the signatories were considered as traitors for selling out the rights of the Nagas. Eventually, Imkongliba Ao, a leader of the NPC was assassinated. Again, when a section of the NNC signed the Shillong Accord, whereby the signatories agreed (or perhaps were coerced) to accept the constitution of India, factional feuds erupted and many lost their lives. It is also rumoured that during the negotiations in the mid-1960s, Indira Gandhi offered anything but without sovereignty, but the offer was rejected, because the position of the Naga national leaders at that time was for all or nothing. These are some of the practical difficulties that the Naga negotiators have to retrospect objectively while trying to secure a deal.

Nonetheless, as the Naga public are not aware of the details of the negotiations, it is difficult to assess how Nagas would react to any proposed agreement. It is also not clear whether the proposed agreement would unite or dissect the Nagas. But one thing is certain.  Keeping in mind the opposition of some neighbouring communities, there could be turmoil. In the past, Nagas have waged a war with Assam, this time it could different. But the learned negotiators from both sides must already have a policy in place to avert such situations. 

India has adequately hinted on rehabilitating the armed Naga cadres post solution, but has not stated anything about demilitarising the region. The presence of military personnel every nook and corner of the region instil fear and intimidation, and only reminds the Nagas of the atrocities committee by the Indian army in the past. That must go too. Armed conflict does not suit each other interest. The catchword “with India, not within India” must respect the civil, political and human rights of the Nagas in the contemporary world. A lasting solution, and not a piecemeal solution, should therefore, be the ultimate result of the negotiations.

Dr. N. Janbemo Humtsoe Wokha.

janbemolotha@gmail.com

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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