The single biggest take away from August 3, 2015, the agreement between the Government of Bharat and the NSCN (IM) is that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won the first round winning over the militant group’s ailing chairman, Isak Chishi Swu and mercurial general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, but there are still miles to go. This would require sagacity, a calm approach and utmost restrains.
Close on the heels of agreement signed between Muivah and the peace interlocutor RN Ravi, the prophets of Doom especially in English media almost looked for cover initially and then settled down for a disturbed night! Some chose social networking websites and wondered whether this agreement too will fail like the Shillong Accord signed in 1975. The Modi and the detractors of a supposed pro-Hindutva regime got a resounding ANSWER – YES, this Prime Minister is working. And his government means business.
I have no illusion to suggest, however, that PM Modi on his own all alone and in little over one year mastered the peace-pact with a tough negotiator like Muivah, the powerful leader of the “most potent” Naga group NSCN (IM). But that Indian Prime Minister is decisive and that HE IS AMBITIOUS to deliver, as a Congress MP Shashi Tharoor says, has merits!
But two days after the landmark achievement, Congress President Sonia Gandhi sought to play spoilsport. The Congress president’s outbursts that PM Modi only showed ‘arrogance’ by not consulting Sonia’s handpicked three Chief Ministers – Tarun Gogoi (Assam), Ibobi Singh (Manipur) and Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh) has led the cat among the pigeons.
Her outbursts came notwithstanding two prominent Congress leaders from the region, including Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had welcomed the latest peace booster. While it is known that Sonia Gandhi is seemingly losing the plot on how to deal with the Modi Government, it is no body’s case that resolving Naga problem will be an easy task.
The Government of Bharat cannot treat Nagas with kid-gloves after fighting for about 50-60 years and vice versa; nor can anyone ask the Meitei Manipuris or the Assamese people to give a pound of their flesh to keep the burning Naga hills under control.
It’s a burning issue and thus ought to be handled with maturity. As a leader of Congress party, which has ruled Nagaland and other north-eastern states for long period, Sonia had an opportunity to show that when it comes to ‘national (India’s) interests’, she can rise above party lines.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman wondered, how the Congress chief is questioning the accord after three days when the party leaders including Ninong Ering and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had welcomed it! “Whose interest is the Congress serving?” asked Sitharaman adding, “We probably never saw an Opposition speaking against the interests of the country”.
“Sagacity has never been the forte of Congress and its leadership. In fact, they are the most elitist, feudal and arrogant bunch of politicians, who think that ruling the country is their birth-right,” wrote one Prashant Pandey on the internet responding to this writer’s blog.
There is a version on why the signing process was actually expedited. The illness of aging Isak Chishi Swu, 85-plus was seen as a catalyst to sign the preliminary accord at the earliest. NSCN (IM) chairman Swu, who formed NSCN after causing a split in NNC, had reportedly wanted an agreement signed between the two entities in his lifetime. His only condition was both sides should agree upon “major issues”.
While the pressure on Modi and his ‘personal ambition’ has been always to “deliver”, the real compulsion to see a peace accord fructify at the earliest was perhaps on the collective leadership of NSCN (IM).
The general fear is, any agreement without endorsement of Isak Chishi Swu would be simply unacceptable to a large section of Swu followers and also among the Naga civil society. In case the worst news had come from Fortis Hospital where Swu is undergoing treatment at a ripe age, things could have been difficult for Muivah to carry along the entire ‘collective leadership’ of NSCN (IM).
Thus, sources in the government say, the August 3 ‘framework peace pact’ was very timely. How far it will go to achieve lasting peace for Nagas as well as for the rest of the states in the northeast, now remains to be seen.
Nirendra Dev (The writer is a Spl Representative with The Statesman in New Delhi)