Home » Historic Framework Agreement That Can Burn Down ‘Sentiments’ Into Ashes

Historic Framework Agreement That Can Burn Down ‘Sentiments’ Into Ashes

by williamgurumayum
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Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam

Homen Thangjam

The ‘historic’ framework agreement of between the GoI and NSCN (IM) is presented in such as manner that it has the answer to the aspirations or ‘sentiments’ of the NSCN (IM) as well as the people of Manipur. However, a cursory peek into the earlier claims and trajectories as well as the currently secretive yet unfolding dynamics of the framework agreement as narrated by the “participants” seems to be a telling an altogether different story. In this sense, instead of bringing about lasting peace, the so called “historic” agreement is likely to burn down ‘sentiments’ of both the Manipuri Nagas and Manipur into ashes. The basic issue staring into our face is whether GoI, as a signatory of the framework agreement, has been able to kill two birds with a single shot. In other words, has GoI been able to dissuade NSCM (IM) to give up its claim for “Nagalim” or Greater Nagaland thereby make the party abandon its demand for inclusion of the 4(four) hill districts of Manipur into the pan-Naga politico-administrative structure. Further, in reaching such an historic agreement, has the GoI been able to unruffle the edgy Manipur’s historic demand for territorial integrity, and thus, respect its history.

Claims & Counter Claims

What unfolded after August 3, 2015 is that there is a war of claims and counter claims raging over old issues and sentiments. First, let’s get the perspective of GPRN/NSCN, which is one of the major armed groups based in Nagaland. In an exclusive interview with the Nagaland Post on August 5, 2015 at the Khehoi designated camp, Alezo Venuh, envoy to collective leadership of GPRN/NSCN said, “It has nothing to do with us as it (the Peace Accord) is for Muivah”. Further, Alezo maintained that the group has no problem with “Naga Peace Accord” if the agreement was “good for Mr. Muviah and Southern Nagas”. They pointed out that GPRN/NSCN and its collective leaders, on many occasions, have always supported “any kind of solution or settlement for our people out there in Manipur”. Alezo claimed that NSCN (I-M) Ato Kilonser Th. Muviah in “several occasions” has ruled out integration and during one of the meetings has made it clear that he was seeking “a solution for Southern Nagas”.

Vehement Manipur stand is counterpoised by the Chief Minister O. Ibobi himself. This is inspite of the fact that the Chief Minister of Manipur was informed and assured by the Prime Minister of India as well as the Home Minister, Rajnath Singh that the territorial integrity of Manipur will not be disturbed. According to the Chief Minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured that everything would be discussed with the state governments concerned before finalisation of the accord (Manipur CM seeks Naga accord details from Centre, Business Standard, August 8, 2015). Further, he shared that the Home Minister assured him that it (the framework agreement) would not affect the territorial boundary of the neighbouring states of Nagaland. Inspite of this assurances, the Chief Minister of Manipur in his 2015 Independence Day Speech declared, “Forget about the Centre, no super power in the world can break up Manipur,”( Suvojit Bagchi, Ibobi warns Centre against redrawing Manipur borders, The HINDU, Kolkata, August 17, 2015).

As contrary to the “assurances” given by New Delhi to Manipur, NSCN (IM) leadership comes out with an altogether different version regarding the framework agreement. NSCM (IM) General Secretary, Th Muivah asserted that their claim for Sovereignty and Integration is part of the frame work agreement, which was also not refuted by the GoI. This was declared on the occasion of the ‘Naga Independence Day’ celebration on 14 August, 2015, at Hebron, Nagaland. Muivah stated that there was no question of giving up the demand for ‘Naga sovereignty’. He further said, “It is clearly stated in the agreement that both sides respect the people’s wishes for sharing sovereignty. We have to work out to what extent to share our rights to sovereignty. We will have sovereign right on our respective competencies.” On the issue of Integration, he negated the “New Delhi’s assurances to Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh that their territories would not be disturbed by the final Naga solution. Nagas have the right to be integrated. There can be no solution without Naga integration. The Government of India has said the issue of integration will have to be worked out. Let us see how this is done.”

In such a perplexing state of confusion and secrecy, it remains to be seen what the framework agreement in fact holds for the fate of Manipuri Nagas, the states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Considering the situation, it is difficult to understand the reality as the text of the agreement has been concealed so far. Moreover, from whom the text is concealed is also a big question, whether it is concealed from the people of Nagaland or Manipur as signing an agreement with one group never brings peace. It remains to be seen which is the true version of the framework agreement – the PMO version, Home Ministry, the IM version or the one dearly guarded by RN Ravi, the Miracle Man.

Facilitating the Manipur Project of NSCN (IM)

RN Ravi, the present interlocutor for the Naga Peace talks, deserves to be named the miracle man, as he happens to be the only person so far who could bring about a “historic” framework agreement in the nearly 19 years peace talk between NSCN (IM) and GoI. He possesses an acute knowledge about the problem destabilizing the Northeast in general and the Nagas in particular. This was vividly captured in his article titled, “Nagaland: Descent into Chaos”, published in the HINDU on January 23, 2014.

He observed in the article, “Over 1,800 Nagas have been killed in some 3,000 fratricidal clashes since the beginning of the ‘ceasefire’ (1997-2013). Contrast it with the violence during the 17 years preceding the ‘ceasefire’ (1980-96) that took a toll of some 940 Naga lives in 1,125 clashes mostly with the security forces. The irony is underscored by the fact that while the security forces and the NSCN (I-M) have been at mutual ‘peace’ during the ‘ceasefire,’ twice as many Nagas have died, killing one another in some 300 per cent escalation in fratricidal violence. The vector of violence has turned inward with a vengeance, from between the security forces and the Naga militias to the one among the Nagas themselves. Some in New Delhi gleefully chuckle at their remarkable feat of trapping the ‘belligerent’ Nagas in this vicious cycle of fratricidal killings”.

Similarly, Yenning in an article “Tangkhul Society under Siege?” published in the Sangai Express, Imphal on July 20, 2014 observed that Tangkhul society has been under siege since the split of NSCN into the Khaplang and Isak-Muivah factions in 1988. It becomes inevitable for Muivah to keep the Tangkhul society under siege in order to achieve its Manipur project and thus, committed the highest number of crimes against his own people, and killed the maximum number of Tangkhuls during “peace time”. Citing the Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, Yenning asserted, “More than 400 criminal cases were recorded in the hill districts, maximum of them in Ukhrul district in the past 15 years since the NSCN-IM signed the cease fire agreement”.

Such political reality of the Manipur Nagas and the Manipur Project of NSCN (IM) could have never escaped the astute eyes of the Miracle Man (see Yenning, The Manipur Project of NSCN-IM, The Sangai Express, January 19, 2013). The question is: Is he consciously facilitating the Manipur Project of NSCN (IM) and call it an honourable solution for Nagas in general?

Razing Down the ‘Sentiments’ into Ashes

Naga issue and the Manipur issue are highly emotionally charged sentiments. If the solution comes in a package of secrecy as it is happening at the moment, compounding not only confusion but also the fear psychosis of the people of Manipur, the solution is bound to create more problem than peace. The issue has the potential to disturb the ethnic relations in Manipur and Nagaland. For instance, some sections of Nagas in Manipur are celebrating while the Nagas of Nagaland are sceptic that the agreement should not come out as a compromise. Similarly, the political class and the general public are worried that it should not disturb Manipur’s Integrity. The apprehension in Manipur is valid as the same government (BJP) has tried its hand earlier and was responsible for the mayhem on June 18, 2001 and the following months.

The choosing of date for signing the agreement was also very intimidating. It was reported that the date was decided considering the health of NSCN (IM) chairperson Issac Swu. The agreement was signed on 3rd August (2015) – a day before the “Integrity Day of Manipur” (4th August). The integrity day was observed for the first time on 4 August, 1997 to highlight the potential threat to the territorial integrity of Manipur with the signing of ceasefire and subsequently, peace talk of NSCN (IM) and the GoI. It was reported that more than 5(five) lakh people participated in the integrity rally in Manipur and took a resolution which stated that:

The people of Manipur shall stand firmly together for safeguarding, by all means available with them, the existing territorial integrity ad boundaries of Manipur State against all odds and take all steps and measure necessary and expedient so as to strengthen the existing inter-community bong, and made the ethnic harmony more meaningful and lasting” and resolve further that “The people of Manipur shall resist, as one main, the sinister ad diabolic designs which pose a tremendous imminent threat to the territorial integrity of the state and ethnic symbiotic harmony of its people”.

So the date for the agreement was fixed intentionally as it has the capacity to give message to the parties involved. It will not be the case that the GoI is not aware of the Manipur Integrity Day as the day was observed in response to the NSCN (IM)’s demand for Integration of Manipur territory. For instance, the GoI could easily remind the NSCN (IM) that besides the 2001, June 18 incident, the 4th August 1997 which is observed very year is very much alive. So it could be difficult for GoI to overlook the sentiment of Manipur. At the same time, GoI could explain to the people of Manipur that their sentiment is considered at the highest level so they decided a date close to Manipur Integrity Day. However, it could also be that GoI is also trying to pass the message to both the parties not to challenge the supremacy of GoI.

The manner the issues have unfolded as well as the framework agreement has been received by different stakeholder, we can only conclude by saying that it was a conscious ploy of the Government of India to burn down ‘sentiments’ of both Nagas and Manipur into ashes. In other words, it can also be inferred that there is nothing historic about the framework agreement if one looks from the perspectives of Northeast. Rather, it can be blatantly asserted that the GoI is playing with the sentiments of the people.

Dr. Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam is Assistant Professor, Social Work at Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Regional Campus, Manipur, He can be contacted at <[email protected]>; Dr. Homen Thangjam is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, MB College, Imphal. He can be contacted at <[email protected]>

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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