Insurgency in north-east
UPA between the devil and the deep sea
By Jyoti Lal Chowdhury
Letter from N-E
The Congress-led UPA government might blink at the serious problem of infiltration in the north-east in order to maintain and nurture its vote-bank, but it can hardly afford to gloss over the issue of insurgency, which, of late, has again come at the centre stage of turbulence. By following the ‘carrot and stick’ policy, the NDA government was able to rein in the extremist groups to a large extent.
Bodo Liberation Tigers bade farewell to arms and settled for an Autonomous Council under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution for the Bodos in Assam. The United People'sDemocratic Solidarity, fighting for an independent state for the Karbis, is engaged in the peace-keeping process. The National Liberation Front of Tripura too has decided to eschew violence. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland led by Khaplang has also agreed to a ceasefire. The Dima Halam Daogah campaigning for Dimaraji responded to the peace overtures of the Vajpayee government.
Similarly, Hmar People'sConference (Democratic) too followed suit. Feelers from Meghalaya-based A?chik National Volunteer Council and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council paved the ground for talks.
Vajpayee did well to discuss the matter with the Chief Ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Besides, the Chief Minister of Mizoram, Zoramthanga, who was the second-in-command of Mizo National Front, was quite appropriately made a catalyst in the crucial talks.
Most importantly, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) under the command of Isac Chishi Swu and Thuinge-lang Muivah (TM), a dreaded outfit, after more than six decades of bush war, sat thrice across the negotiation table with Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, and set the process for settlement of the vexatious Naga issue.
A significant milestone on Naga issue was to raise the dialogue to the prime ministerial level, a persistent demand of the NSCN leaders, Swu and Muivah. After their meet in Delhi with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on January 22, 2003, both Swu and Muivah were convinced that the NDA government was serious about resolving the Naga issue. It was a new beginning since substantive issues were touched upon, the most intricate being the integration of the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland.
Vajpayee did well to discuss the matter with the Chief Ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Besides, the Chief Minister of Mizoram, Zoramthanga, who was the second-in-command of Mizo National Front, was quite appropriately made a catalyst in the crucial talks. K. Padmanabaiah continues to act as an interlocutor of the Government of India.
Vajpayee'sstatesmanship and political sagacity came in for high praise from the NSCN supremos Swu and Muivah, who agreed to come back to Delhi last June end, but the venue was shifted to the Hague. After two-days of Hague talks on June 23 and 23 last, Swu and Muivah stated, “Nagas separated through states and nations should be reunited.”
On this sensitive and emotive issue, Vajpayee with his uncanny thought and vision kept the NSCN leaders in good humour with his strategy to carry all sides along for reaching a broad-based consensus.
And, when the time for tough talks came, the NDA government did not hesitate. It took the Royal Government of Bhutan to crack down on the United Liberation Front of Assam, National Democratic Front of Bodoland and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation. Their leaders and cadres surrendered in large numbers. The Bangladesh government and the Junta regime in Myanmar were put under pressure to flush out the north-east militants from their lands. Myanmar agreed. The Indian security forces at the same time continued their offensive against the unrelenting Manipur-based ultras—the People'sLiberation Army, the United National Liberation Front and the People'sRevolutionary Party of Kangleipak.
The Vajpayee government knew it well that if NSCN (IM) could be made to talk peace, other groups would follow soon. It was a cautious and pragmatic approach. The UPA government should have understood that any of its imprudent actions would put a spoke in the wheel of the peace process and frustrate all the spade work done by the NDA government.
Naga MPs, W.W. Konyak and T.R. Zeliang, irked at the attitude of the UPA government cautioned that “the collapse of the talks would be calamitous”. Neiphiu Rio-led Democratic Alliance demanded a statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on what transpired during the recent talks with Isac and Muivah at Hague. In all fairness, the UPA government is caught between the frying pan and the fire.
Fact File on Naga Insurgency
1826: British defeat Burmese. Ahoms and Meitei kingdoms fall under their control.
1866: British create the Naga Hills District.
1879: Naga hills are under British control.
1929: Nagas submit memorandum to the Simon Commission to be left alone.
1946: Naga National Council formed under A.Z. Phizo. On August 14, 1947 the NNC declares independence.
1956: Naga Home Guard was turned into underground army. Federal Government of Nagaland proclaimed. Indian army enters Nagaland.
1963: Nagaland state formed, placed under Ministry of External Affairs, and subsequently brought under the Home Ministry in 1972.
1980: National Socialist Council of Nagaland was formed with Isac Chishi Swu, president, and Thuingelang Muivah as general secretary.
1988: NSCN splits; another faction floated under Khaplang.