Monday, August 8, 2022

If negotiators cannot deliver, wind it up and let people decide: NPAC

Staff Reporter

In a hard-hitting statement, Nagaland People’s Action Committee (NPAC) convener Theja Therieh demanded that if Government of India (GoI) and Naga political groups (NPGs) were not able to bring any solution, then they should just wind it up and let people decide their future.
In an exclusive interview with Nagaland Post, Therie said, “If this negotiation cannot bring about any solution, then just wind it up and let the people decide what they want. I think we are capable of deciding what we want for our future. Don’t undermine the people.”
Commenting on delay in solution due to differing positions over demand for separate Naga national flag and constitution despite 25 years of peace talks, he said the negotiating parties should know their parameters and hammer out a solution within those parameters. He mentioned that the negotiating parties knew what was possible and what was not, while government of India being the one engaging with the two Naga negotiating parties should not hang on to what was not permissible.
The NPAC convener mentioned that without sovereignty as an agenda on the table and integration not practically workable at the moment, there was no requirement for constitution and even if it was required, then people should take the decision. “Even if the constitution is required, constitution have to be of the people, by the people and for the people. The people will decide. We should not put the cart before the horse. Constitution should be derived from the people,” he stressed.
Excerpts of the interview
NP: Comment on the response and outcome of the rally?
Therieh: Today’s rally was beyond expectation. NPAC was formed only in the month of July. We were not immediately active but we sought opinions for here and there. There is a desire from every nook and corner that people must be allowed to express what they have in their mind. There are so many people especially the business community who are in the frying pan. Every day they are suffering. People seems to be very anxious; people want to know whether there will be any outcome to our Naga political negotiations. So NPAC decided to organise a rally and see whether people would respond to it. The response was overwhelming, which means they have come for a very decisive expression and exertion of their mind and that exertion is very clear, people want solution.
NPAC will work and voice out on behalf of the people, we will represent the voice of the people and we will represent the grassroot people. We have no intention to take up any other issue. 25 years is a very long period of time, it is a generation wasted. Government of India on October 31, 2019 made it very loud and clear that formal talk is over. If formal talk is over then what is stopping government of India from implementing it? They are negotiating with two groups so they should know how to conclude it. They should bring these two negotiating points together and bring out one comprehensive, common draft and before signing it bring it to the people. What they have decided on behalf of the people must be made known to the people by either of our negotiators if not the government of India.
Since it is the people’s movement, people must accept it then that will be lasting solution. If people don’t accept then you know things cannot go well, landing cannot be smooth and we want it to be smooth and acceptable by the people.
NP: Naga society has maintained the position for last 25 years since peace talk began that GoI must expedite solution without delay. Today, solution remains elusive in view of the demand for separate Naga flag and constitution. Apart from urging GoI to expedite solution, what is new that NPAC wants to say?
Therieh: The negotiating parties should know their own parameter. They say that this negotiation is without sovereignty as an agenda on the table. They say that integration is not practically workable at the moment. From their own expression, they say that sovereignty at the moment is not negotiable. From their own words, they say that integration at the moment is not workable.
If that is the case then within that parameter, they should bring out what solution they can hammer out. I think, they know what is possible and what is not possible. Yes, Naga negotiators will demand because these are very complex issues and we have a long way to go even beyond this solution. Government of India is the one who is engaging these negotiators, they know what can be given and what cannot be given. So, if something is not permissible, something which they cannot give, they should not hang on that. If this negotiation cannot bring about any solution, then just wind it up, close it, no negotiation, let the people decide what they want. I think we are capable of deciding what we want for our future. Don’t undermine the people, we are all capable.
NP: Are you suggesting that if a definite decision cannot be taken on the issue of Naga flag and constitution, then should GoI engage with the people?
Therieh: The public as such cannot enter into the negotiation because we have given the mandate very clearly till such time they cannot proceed any longer. It is for them to come to the people and tell what is their difficulty. They cannot just keep stalling the process.
NP: GoI has reached out to civil and tribal bodies and made clear the reasons for the delay in solving the Naga political issue. Should public continue to blame GoI for the delay?
Therieh: Yes, GoI has come to the people. It shared even the Framework Agreement and Agreed Position to the public. And as far as I know, people have not given any negative reaction to that, which means they are ready to accept or are prepared. So, what is not possible is not possible and what is possible is possible. It is for GoI to say what is not possible. And our negotiators cannot just go on with what is not possible.
NP: GoI has made its stand clear on the demand for separate Naga flag and constitution. NSCN (I-M) has also maintained that there can be no solution without flag and constitution. What is the stand of NPAC?
Therieh: Personally speaking, constitution or flag will only symbolise and represent what is agreed upon. So, it is not necessary to ask for flag or constitution. At the moment, if there is no integration and if there is no sovereignty, I don’t know what is the requirement of constitution. Even if the constitution is required, constitution have to be of the people, by the people, for the people. The people will decide. We should not put the cart before the horse. Once something is agreed upon and if a new dispensation require constitution, then the people will vote for that constitution. Constitution should be derived from the people. I think there is no sense in asking for constitution.
NP: Are you implying that the demand for separate flag and constitution is just a way to prolong the Naga political issue without reaching any solution?
Therieh: They have not shown us the competencies. The flag will only symbolise and represent that agreed status. If we have a separate status, if we have a sovereign status or whatever status they have brought out of this negotiation, flag will simply represent that. Do we need to have a constitution or not is also an issue. At the moment, we are not privy to the negotiating points so just simply demanding the flag, I think, people are at loss. I think, it is because those negotiators want to continue to live in comfort zone, they don’t want to end up the negotiations. If that is the case, it is not fair.
NP: Should the negotiating groups inform the people what has been agreed upon?
Therieh: See, we have given mandate to somebody. If they are engaging with somebody on our behalf with our mandate, is it not proper for them to come to us and tell us this is what we have agreed upon? It is not appropriate to ask somebody else of what our representatives have agreed upon. Since they are negotiating on behalf of the people, they should take people into their confidence. Otherwise, where do we begin and where do we end?
NP: Naga peace process has been going on for last 25 years without any solution. Do you feel that the negotiators have lost the confidence of Nagas?
Therieh: It is a very complex issue; we do not blame anyone but there has to be a political will. Government of India being a very powerful democratic nation should conclude what they started. Both NSCN (I-M) and NNPGs have submitted whatever they want. All the points that they want are with government of India but ultimately it is what government of India can give, whether we like it or not. Government of India must consider what it can give and come up with a comprehensive common draft. They say talk is formally closed, we believe that and we know that the present negotiations are not discussing on major agendas. If that is the case then why should solution be prolonged? Interlocutor R. N. Ravi resigned but government of India has not appointed any interlocutor. So, I think somewhere people are being taken for a ride.
NP: Does NPAC feel that Naga political issue has been shelved by GoI?
Therieh: No, we believe the word of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He said that a great democratic nation like India is embarrassed when they cannot solve 70, 80 years conflict with the Nagas. We believe he is sincerely wanting to bring a solution. But he must demonstrate that and he must take the final call because the ball is in the court of Prime Minister and Home Minister to take a political call. Despite all these engagements, if the leadership don’t take political call, then it will not be closed.
NP: There is no consensus among the Nagas. In such a backdrop, how do you expect GoI to give a solution?
Therieh: In politics there can never be a consensus. In a democracy there has to be a majority and the voice of the majority should not be ignored.
NP: Before every election this kind of rallies happen. Political parties, NGOs make strong statements and some even call for boycott. With all these, elections still happen with high turnout and participation. So, what is new about NPAC’s rally?
Therieh: In the past, it happened because people have no option. When BJP came up with the slogan, “election for solution”, BJP was willing in the centre, they had absolute majority in the people’s house and people tend to believe their slogan but they have miserably failed. Now, again people talk about solution before election or whatever. I think as elected government they should be responsible enough to get clear signal of what people want and they should not press the people against their will and wishes again and again. If a democratic nation like India for that matter a state like Nagaland, if they want to prioritise five years assembly election to Naga political solution then it is very unfortunate. Election will come and go but this solution is already ripe, we must harvest. Why should we go for another election and let the people continue to suffer under the status quo? People should not continue to live and suffer under the status quo. This is like fishing in troubled waters. They confuse the people; they misled the people and when the water is dirty and people are not clear of what is going to happen, they take full advantage of it. If they really want to manipulate and if they really want to drag the people, people become helpless but in democracy this is not fair, they should respect people’s aspiration.
NP: What will be the stand of NPAC in case solution does not materialise before election?
Therieh: God forbid. We want to bring out a solution for that we are giving a final call to government of India. Please take a call, please demonstrate your political will, this is the right time, people are prepared to accept whatever maybe the circumstances because we want solution.
NP: Does NPAC consider itself a legitimate stakeholder?
Therieh: People are the legitimate stakeholders and we are simply a committee reflecting their opinions. Tomorrow if people say that they will express their opinions through another channel so be it. We will go by what the people want because NPAC itself is not an entity, it is not an organisation also.
NP: Is NPAC ready to engage with GoI?
Therieh: Yes, the representation we have approved in the rally is very clear. We will submit it to the government of India. If government of India so desire to ask the people’s opinion definitely we will consult the people’s opinion and come out with people’s ultimate opinion on this Naga political issue.

SourceNPN

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