It has been truly historic that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could ultimately evolve solution to the six decade long Naga tangle and sign Peace Accord with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) led by its chairman Isac Chisi Swu and general secretary Thuingelang Muivah in New Delhi. The detractors and Modi-baiter political leaders even before the details of the deal or agreement having been revealed by the Centre have gone all hog to create unnecessary controversy over the territorial integrity of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam, is on the frontline to kick up all the row despite various tribal groups and civil society across north-east hailing the Accord as a “positive move by the Modi Government”. It will be relevant to know what led the signing of the Accord. One of the important factors working as a driving force behind it is the growing aspirations among the people of the state for creating a congenial atmosphere for the success of peace process. In fact, since the NSCI (IM) declared cease fire in 1997, the dialogue between Government of India and NSCN (IM) has been going on through ups and downs, often with some flickering hope. There was a time when the Naga leaders refused to sit for talks within India, asserting themselves to represent a sovereign and independent country under Indian subjugation.
But, with ground situation fast changing in Nagaland with the public outcry for peace, a campaign launched by Naga Hoho, the conglomeration of 26 tribes, Naga Mothers’ Association and other front ranking NGOs along with growing disillusionment among rank and file of the outfit, NSCN (IM) leaders, Isac Chisi Swu and Thuingelang Muiviah, cannot ignore the reality. Besides, both of them have been ageing. One still recalls similar situation in Mizoram and the cancer affected Laldenga, the chief of Mizo National Front (MNF), who ultimately realised that an independent Mizoram with separate flag and Constitution could never be possible.
Laldenga in a statement admitted how his vast number of cadres in jungles had grown disillusioned and realised that it was difficult to fight against the mighty Indian Army. Finally, Mizo Accord within the framework of Indian Constitution was signed. Today Mizoram is the most peaceful State in the country.
It was a long journey involving Prime Ministers, Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda, IK Gujral, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi. In fact, noted progress took place when K Padmanabhaiah was the interlocutor. Positive moves were available for finding an amicable solution to the six decade old Naga issue. There has been marked improvement as the ceasefire agreement has brought down incidents like extortions, kidnappings and fratricidal killings. The role of Padmanabhaiah was appreciated by NSCN (IM) leadership. But, next interlocutor Swaraj Kaushal’s unintentional statement on extending ceasefire between the Government of Bharat and NSCN (IM) anywhere in India and beyond led to mass agitation in Manipur.
The then Chief Ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur reacted angrily saying extension of cease fire beyond Nagaland would mean legitimatising the claim of Naga outfits on our land. As a true statesman, the then Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee understood its grave implications and invited the Chief Ministers of the three States to seek their opinion on the issue who gave a firm no to part with even an inch of their territory. Narendra Modi as a wise politician and being aware of the past reactions against Nagalim or Greater Nagaland would never agree to any such agreement that would jeopardise the territorial integrity of any other State.
The Accord signed recently, as indications are available, strives for political and economic solutions. Any solution will be within the ambit of the Constitution and federal structure of the country. The package includes enough funds for development, provisions for protecting the identity, interests, culture and tradition of Nagas. Provision would be made to provide greater autonomy and more powers for administrative expediency. The only hindrance in the peace process seems to be the return of NSCN (Khaplang) to jungles. But with the mass yearning for peace in Nagaland, it will have no alternative than to make a space for itself among the people of the state. On the whole, the most vexed issue of Nagalim calls for a cautious approach by the Centre without disturbing the territorial integrity of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
—Jyoti Lal Chowdhury from Silchar