By Oken Jeet Sandham
“I assure you that we will always be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the people of Nagaland, as also of the people of other North-Eastern States. Similarly, the people belonging to each State, and each ethnic group, in the North-East should be sensitive to the needs and concerns of their neighbors. Let us leave behind all the unfortunate things that happened in the past. For too long this fair land has been scarred and seared by violence. It has been bled by the orgy of the killings of human beings by human beings. Each death pains me. Each death diminishes us. My Government has been doing everything possible to stop this bloodshed so that we can together inaugurate a new era of peace, development, and prosperity in Nagaland.”
— Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said while attending the “First Convocation of Nagaland University” on October 28, 2003, at the Central Secretariat Plaza, Kohima.
The Narendra Modi Government had not announced the timing and the venue to clinch the “Framework Agreement” with NSCN (IM). Everyone was caught napping when they announced the agreement with the group on August 3, 2015, in Delhi.
However, some political pundits and media specialists in the Region particularly in Nagaland and Manipur got wind of the Center’s planning to enter into some type of “Agreement” with NSCN (IM) at any time. It happened on August 3, 2015.
Buoyed by the successful agreement with NSCN (IM), Modi announced that with it, the Government hoped to open the NE to development. The India-Thailand trilateral highway has been held hostage to a number of violent incidents.
In the 10-year UPA regime, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and NSCN (IM) had really narrowed down their differences. They could manage to remove political glitches. This is, without a doubt, a big achievement on their parts.
Out of 16 years of peace process till 2013, the UPA Governments had been dealing with the Naga underground leaders for 10 years. Dr. Singh used to say that the solution to the protracted Naga issue would be arrived at during his tenure. It was, certainly, a welcome gesture. But in reality, since the nature of the process is political and when the political stability is not there, no political talks can be safely held whatever the case may be. And the political instability in the Congress-led UPA Government had increased in their second tenure while their allies were heaping all the blames of the political crisis on the weak leadership of the Government.
Yet, one should keep in mind that the UPA Government was a coalition one and the majority Congress alone could not take any political decision such as the Naga issue without the consent of their allies. Besides, the issue needs debating on the Floor of Parliament while consulting the respective Chief Ministers of the NE States, and because of this complicated process, a strong political will with a stable Government at the center is needed.
Look at the following sequence of the political events that had taken place since the Naga Club submitted a Memorandum to the British Statutory Commission in 1929.
- The Naga Club’s submission of a “Memorandum” to the British Statutory Commission popularly called the Simon Commission on January 10, 1929.
- The Naga-Akbar Hydari Accord, 1947 popularly knowns as “9-Point Hydari Agreement of 1947.
- The NNC’s declaration of “Naga Independence Day” on the 14th of August 1947.
- The NNC’s conduct of the “Plebiscite” in 1951.
- The 16-Point Agreement of 1960
- The Government of India’s First Ceasefire Agreement with NNC/FGN in 1964.
- The Shillong Accord of 1975.
- Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao had a secret meeting with the collective leadership of NSCN (IM) on 12 June 1995 in Paris.
- Prime Minister Narasimha Rao also declared that the Naga issue was political and hence, it should be solved politically.
- Rajesh Pilot met NSCN (IM) leaders at Bangkok in 1996 and held talks with them.
- Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda met NSCN (IM) on 3 February 1997 in Zurich.
- Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda also visited Kohima in 1996 and disclosed about his mind towards the Naga issue.
- The Government of India declared the Ceasefire Agreement with NSCN (IM) on July 25, 1997.
- Prime Minister IK Gujral made an announcement on the Floor of Parliament on July 25, 1997, about his Government’s inking a historic Ceasefire Agreement with NSCN (IM).
- Chief Minister SC Jamir while welcoming the accord announced simultaneously the Suspension of Operation (SoO) against the NSCN (IM) on July 25, 1997.
- Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee along with Swaraj Kausal, Interlocutor, met NSCN (IM) leaders in Parish in 1998.
- The Government of India declared Ceasefire Agreement with NSCN (K) on April 28, 2001.
- For the record, Prime Minister Vajpayee again met NSCN (IM) leaders in Osaka in December 2001.
- Prime Minister Vajpayee visited Nagaland on 28 October 2003 and made a historic announcement of the “unique history” of the Naga people.
- The Government of India signed a Framework Agreement with NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015.
- The Government of India signed the “Agreed Position” with the WC of NNPGs on November 17, 2017.
When Modi announced his desire to conclude the Naga talks in three months and its deadline comes to end on 31st of October 2019, we only remember the previous Prime Ministers, Interlocutors, media personnel, bureaucrats, writers, leaders of various civil societies, and politicians who had played their roles in shaping the process to reach the logical conclusion. In fact, it is a teamwork that has been shaping the process to reach the final stage.
So many leaders – be it politicians or bureaucrats or leaders of civil societies or writers – had played their important and positive roles over the years preventing the fragile Naga peace process from collapsing at many stages. The issue became sometimes threatening to the ethnic diversities of the NE people who have been, otherwise, living so peacefully since time immemorial. This unprecedented threat to the ethnic diversities of the NE people has actually forced the Region’s intellectuals, academics, writers and leaders of civil societies to go deeper analysis of the process. It is not an easy task convincing the leaderships of various groups to come down from their earlier stands to certain level. These leaders should be credited for it.
Now, the hectic political parleys between the Interlocutor and NSCN (IM) and also NNPGs are going on at Delhi to wrap it up before the deadline ends. Though the Interlocutor and NSCN (IM) are at loggerheads on the issue of a separate Naga Flag and constitution, it is hoped that they will be able to sail through. As far as the WC of NNPGgs is concerned, they are ready to sign the final accord with the Government of India and they have already laid out their points to be agreed upon.
Fighting failure is different from making a failure. In our present situation, we all are making failures, not fighting failures and then indulging in playing the blame games for the failures. It should no longer be seen as a lair is lecturing and believers are listening. The biggest problem we have is that these believers continue to clap happily as liars raising their voices. There should be no more political rhetoric on finding a solution to the Naga political problem. Let us stop playing any more rhetoric and gimmicks for a narrow political mileage. We should no longer design any political language to lie. We need big hearts for big political concessions.
We sincerely believe that Modi, with his dynamism and charisma as the Prime Minister, will be able to resolve this longstanding Naga political issue once and for all. He must also remember what Vajpayee said: “I assure you that we will always be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the people of Nagaland, as also of the people of other North-Eastern States. Similarly, the people belonging to each State, and each ethnic group, in the North-east should be sensitive to the needs and concerns of their neighbors.”