Thursday, August 18, 2022

A way forward on Indo-Naga peace process

Exploring a middle-ground to break the current impasse
The Naga Rising (TNR) undertook the initiative to tap into the rich knowledge and experiences of experts/thinkers to explore a middle-ground on the Naga flag that may be acceptable to the Government of India (GoI) and the Naga Political Groups (NPGs).
The intention behind the initiative is to offer new ideas and formulations to help break the current impasse in the negotiations so that the Indo-Naga peace process moves forward towards its logical conclusion of an early solution as desired by the Naga public.
The key task involved reaching out to a few individuals to seek their views on how a meeting point may be arrived at with a specific focus on the Naga flag. For this, a few questions were shared with the selected participants to respond. Participants were also asked to share their thoughts beyond the questions provided.
On receiving the responses of the participants, TNR has prepared this release offering some fresh ideas on the way forward for the peace process ranging from the Naga flag, the Naga constitution, the notion of shared sovereignty and the question of Naga-inhabited areas.
It may be mentioned that the views expressed here are that of the participants, not of TNR and they may not necessarily represent or reflect the views and position of TNR.
The Naga Flag
The participants were of the view that recognizing the Naga flag would neither “challenge” the Indian tri-colour nor “compromise” the sovereignty of the Indian union. According to a participant the Naga flag is “a constituent of India’s multi-ethnic identity” and that it would be “to recognize the history of sacrifice and nation-building” by the Nagas. Another participant pointed out that the Indian state should recognize the Naga flag and that there is nothing wrong to accord “similar treatment” to other states demanding recognition of distinct identity.
Naming the flag
A participant offered the idea that the Naga political flag should be recognized and it could be called the “Naga Identity Flag” based on “the distinct historical roots and antecedents” of the history of the Naga nation.
As extension of state emblem
According to a participant, all the Indian states already have their emblems and the Naga flag could be viewed as “an extension of the state emblem.” Asserting that there exists “no contradiction” between the state emblem and the national emblem (Ashoka Chakra) and the flag can be viewed in a similar way.
Projection and use of flag
As regards projection of the Naga flag, a view was made that the Naga flag should not be “projected as a parallel” to the Indian tri-colour, but rather “project” it in the nature of a state emblem.
Echoing this view, a participant suggested that the Naga flag should fly in Nagaland alongside the Indian tri-colour “but placed slightly lower” than the Indian union flag and offered the model of European Union flag flying alongside flags of member states of the Union.
As far as the use of the flag is concerned, while a participant pointed out the use of the Naga flag should be “restricted to within the state of Nagaland” and for “purely representational purposes” in the capital, another participant noted that the Naga flag “should not be used outside the territory of the Union of India.”
The Naga Constitution
The participants were of the opinion that Article 371-A of the Indian Constitution could be “enhanced” or “recast” to accommodate the Naga Constitution and incorporate the new understanding.
“Shared Sovereignty”
On the question of shared sovereignty, a participant suggested that the Indian Constitution already has a feature that addresses this issue under Schedule 7 that deals with the state list, centre list and concurrent list of responsibilities to be shared by both the states and centre.
It was suggested that “modification” could be made to realign these responsibilities that might also help realize the felt need for asymmetric federalism.
The participant also pointed out that the very first article of the Indian constitution says “India, that is Bharat, will be a union of states” and that some “variations” among the constituent states should not be anathema to Indian nationhood, rather should be encouraged. At the same time, another participant opined that the sovereignty and integrity of the Indian union should be “explicitly recognized” in the new understanding with “shared sovereignty” limited to what is defined in the new understanding, including the right to a distinct flag.
The Naga-inhabited areas
To address the question of Naga-inhabited areas, a participant offered the idea of “a specific Schedule” in the Indian Constitution that could incorporate the Naga Constitution and could also cover the specific areas where Nagas are living.
The participant opined that the rights of other minorities, both Nagas and non-Naga minorities, living in those areas should also be “recognized” both within the Schedule of Indian Constitution as well as in the Naga Constitution to ensure that everyone enjoys “equal rights” within those Scheduled areas in the spirit of sharing resources and power without any ethnic, linguistic and cultural divisions.
Furthermore, such a framework would “ensure” livelihood, ecosystem related protection and rights of stakeholders over natural resources (“un-infringable by any Eminent Domain”), recognition of customs, and also facilitation of both communitarian and individual rights and aspirations. According to this participant, “a place-based charter” can detail what the Government of India can extend under Part 3 of the Indian Constitution that deals with Fundamental Rights.
The following experts/thinkers took part in the initiative:
Prof Balveer Arora, Former Rector cum pro Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and presently Chairman, Centre for Multilevel Federalism (CMF), Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.
Mr Pradip Phamjoubham, Senior journalist from Northeast and a much revered Editor.
Prof Prasenjit Biswas, Department of Philosophy, North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, Meghalaya.
Issued in public interest by The Naga Rising (TNR), Kohima

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