Why is it that the protracted and frustrating political dialogue between the Government of India and the collective leadership of the NSCN (I-M) persistently defies solution? More than 14 long years of talks have failed to result in anything more than routine and formal statements issued by both sides that the exercise is “heading in the right direction”. This leaves the impression-at least for most living in the North-east region that parties involved are either incompetent or not serious about finding a permanent solution. In fact, most are amused at such amateurish approach to what remains a serious problem.
First, the so called political dialogue is not transparent. Public affairs cannot be veiled in secrecy since this creates suspicion and apprehension in the public mind. Second, stakeholders have the right to know the nature and the status of the political talk and that nothing is being done behind their backs. As of now, the people of Nagaland have been completely sidelined regarding the content, progress and likely outcome of the dialogue. Third, without the explicit and freely expressed mandate of the people, any decision-be it good or bad- that affects their political future cannot be handled without authorization and consultations through proper forum. The ongoing political talks suffer from this serious political infirmity.
Both the Government of India and NSCN (I-M) leadership appears to be reluctant to divulge the correct status of the exercise – whether it is on the basis of sovereignty and integration, or not. Purely to camouflage the truth from the public of Nagaland, both sides appear to be engaged in empty rhetoric and exotic political languages and phrases to make it appear as if something spectacular is in the offing. The time has come to come for the truth to emerge in a transparent manner, because the public frustration and disenchantment among the people is increasing. It should also be seriously noted that when there is no agenda, no outcome can be expected.
It should be appreciated that more than five decades of the Naga political movement should have by now reach a logical conclusion. In the past, several attempts were made by Government of India to resolve it by signing different agreements at different stages. For example, the Simon Commission Petition of 1929 too just one morning and one working day; the Nine-Point Agreement of 1947 took three days; and the 16-Point Agreement of 1960 took three days. The signing of this last agreement between the Government of India and the Naga Peoples Convention for the creation of the state of Nagaland on the basis of the 16-Point Memorandum was, indeed, a landmark political step to resolve the Naga political problem. It took three days negotiation with the Government of India. By this agreement Nagaland became the 16th state of Union of India. To meet the special requirements of its people, a special status was provided under the Constitution of India vide Article 371A. This is the factual political and constitutional position of Nagaland today.
Native Naga polity:
Retrospectively, the quest for a unique, optimally developed and respectable self-identity is one of the pursuits of any evolved person, community or nation. As a distinct people with a glorious history and prolific cultural heritage, the Nagas, too have the fundamental right to project, preserve and promote their inimitable social, political and cultural endowments and to nurture and realize their unique economic dreams and genuine political aspirations. Having said this, it is also pertinent and crucial to ponder the essential and inalienable attributes of a civilized and mature society. Society tends to fall into disarray and disorder if there is no enlightenment because of a lack of knowledge, spirituality and wisdom, but it prospers and proliferates if citizens are law abiding and disciplined. It should also be noted that the prosperity and power of any society and nation is contingent or righteousness, moral strength and ethical fortitude of its people and community leaders.
On the other hand, widespread sin and vice-like naked corruption, nepotism and favoritism, bribery, deceit, violence and abuse of authority-are a source of disgrace and shame for any society. How far present Naga society has been able to meet these basic standards of a civilized nation or as an evolved community is a question that warrants in depth analysis and examination.
In my opinion we are much too obsessed with the word “sovereignty” despite being largely ignorant about its concept and implication or connotations. This is purely a western concept based on alien polity and philosophy. The foreign word and phrase created an unimaginable cleavage in Naga society on account of bloodshed. Over the last five decades and more, the very concept of sovereignty underwent a tremendous transformation to keep in tune with the contemporary political and economic realities of the world. The Naga can shape their political future, firmly rooted in their native tribal polity. We have a distinct tribal identity, custom and culture, age-old tradition and system of governance. Instead of wasting out time and energy on exotic terms and words, we should fashion our political future based on the native tribal polity, fortified by the contemporary realities of the world.
*It is an accepted fact that the population of the Nagas is absolutely insignificant compared to the billion-plus population of India. The Nagas are genuinely apprehensive of their identity or existence in the midst of this vast ocean of “others”. One cannot comprehend the shape of political changes in the country in future. If extreme rightist parties come to power in the future, what would be the condition of small minorities and tribal like the Nagas?
*This issue needs to be carefully considered and with political foresight. To ensure that the Nagas feel secure and protected within the Indian polity, a very special safeguard warranted as part of the constitution, whereby political agreement with the Nagas should not be legislated through a constitutional amendment, unless the Nagaland Legislative Assembly by a resolution so decides. This fundamental political imperative has to be provided to safeguard the future of the Nagas.
*Massive infrastructural development needs to be carried out in Nagaland with a special financial package from the centre. Rapid economic development of the area is the best antidote to insurgency. The younger, educated generation is restive and frustrated because of lack of employment opportunities in the area, and this segment has the most potential for fomenting insurgency. Therefore, while drawing up various modalities for a solution of the Naga problem, accelerated economic development- including programmes for human resources development-should be treated as the greatest priority. For instance, a special financial arrangement should be made whereby all the major projects such as important roads and bridges, power projects, engineering and medical colleges, tourism projects etc are taken up as centrally funded projects. This arrangement should be for a period of 30 years.
*The “Look East” policy of the government of India will attain its full potential only when the entire North-Eastern region including Nagaland is on the threshold of phenomenal social, economic and human development. The younger generation of the Nagas should be fully involved in this new strategy. To enable competent and capable Naga officers to play a pivotal role in this exciting future, there should be reservation of posts for Naga officers in the foreign and trade affairs especially in the South-Asian countries. This can be worked out mutually by the GoI and the Naga representatives. This reservation may be for twenty years only.
* Article 371A of the constitution should be clearly defined with regard to land and its resources. It was made clear during the discussion with the Prime Minister of India in 1960, that petroleum was part of the land and its resources. There should not be any distortion or misinterpretation or ambiguity on this matter.
Pan-Naga Cultural and Traditional League or Association: The Nagas wherever they are, there is always a spiritual longing to be together. To fulfill their urged and aspirations and without disturbing the territorial integrity or the autonomy of the North-eastern states, there should be a Pan-Naga Cultural and Traditional League or Association, provided other Nagas living in other states voluntarily agree to join the league. Should other Nagas agree to join then the constitution and rules may be framed collectively by Naga representatives. This body will be solely cultural and traditional matters.
Representation in Parliament and composition of Nagaland Legislative Assembly: Keeping in view the very peculiar Naga polity, the norms and yardstick applied today under the constitution may have to be reviewed in order to allow a suitable space and in the new political framework, and for this the Nagas should consider all aspects in depths and suggest the structural frame-work most suited to Naga polity. In the meantime, we should put more emphasis on content rather than high sounding and outlandish phrases and words.
Special funding pattern for Nagaland: A resource-starved state like Nagaland shall never catch up the other developed states of the country without a special financial dispensation from the Government of India. The present funding pattern for the “Special Category States” shall not meet the new demands and after in-depth studies of the overall requirements of the state for 30 years, the quantum of financial assistance required for the overall development of Nagaland can be worked out by an Expert Committee of the Government of India. The present administrative arrangements of Nagaland are too heavy for a small state; hence the same committee should also work out a simple administrative pattern most suited for small states. Otherwise, as is the practice now, non-plan allocations will increase and will be used entirely to meet administrative expenditures. For instance, creation of administrative Head Quarters were mostly on political considerations not on administrative requirements of the state. Similarly, multiplication of departments through the process of bifurcation of major departments were mostly done without logic or rationale.
Formation of Central Armed Scouts: When the insurgency problem is solved, Nagaland may not require the present strength of the Armed Police Force, since very heavy expenditure is involved in the maintenance of many police battalions. It is therefore suggested that the Government of India may raise two or three battalions of Armed Scouts (by whatever name) to guard the international borders by converting some of the existing NAP battalions into it. Able bodied persons of the underground cadres may be recruited in these battalions in the form of resettlement. Many of the underground cadres can be recruited by relaxing some of the conditions.
Resettlement schemes for the underground: Resettlement of underground cadres will be the most challenging task for the government of India and the Nagaland government. After spending the best part of their lives living in bush they will suddenly be exposed to living normal lives and being law abiding citizens. They have to stand on their own feet, as any citizens of society. The first shock for them will be adjusting with society and carrying on normal life without knowing any trade by which to sustain themselves. The resettlement programme should therefore take into account the initial shock that is both psychological and physical. The resettlement programme should be drawn up so to resolve human problems and make them proud citizens of society so they can live honorably. Keeping in view the physical and psychological aspects, a comprehensive resettlement scheme for underground should carefully studied and drawn up.
Decommissioning of weapons: All weapons in the hands of the Naga army shall have to be decommissioned because after a peaceful and honorable political settlement of the Naga problem, both civil and armed wings of the underground shall have to suitably resettle in their respective places and lead peaceful lives. The mode of decommissioning can be worked out at time of final agreement.
Conclusion: The greatest dream in the heart of every Naga is for a better future. Their greatest desire and pursuit is to achieve this dreams. To implement and achieve this goal, the mandate of the people becomes paramount and with it to pursue their goal with commitment and honesty. So far none of the groups enjoy this mandate and therefore they could not measure up to the people’s expectations. Human being of all ages, genders, nationalities and ethnic groups are in the search for purpose and significance. Similarly, Nagas are in search for their identity and significance in human society. Deep down in every Naga heart, there is an unconscious awareness that the solution to the present dilemma and predicament can not come from the way we pursue or attempt to resolve the Naga problem. This is the most propitious opportunity for the Nagas to bury their hatchets and unite, and through their collective native political wisdom and foresight, design a political frame-work reflecting the urges and political aspirations of the Nagas and present it to the government of India for a final political settlement.
- Forum For Naga Reconciliation: An Appraisal (nagalandjournal.wordpress.com)
- The Sixteen Point Agreement (nagalandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Peace Mission’s Proposals 1964 (nagalandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Nagaland For Christ (by Niketu Iralu) (nagalandjournal.wordpress.com)