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EDITORIAL: Peace- A Harder Ball Game 1997 To 2011, 14 Year Itch

It is an irony but an educative irony, no doubt, and this learning curve has come not from the vicissitudes of the years spent in the jungles, but more from the days spent in sitting across the table and negotiating with the former foe. It took the NSCN, read the Isak-Muivah faction, more than or nearly 17 years to sign the peace pact and set the ball rolling for the political dialogue with the Government of India to script a storyline that would silence the guns once and for all and direct the days of the bush war to the pages of the history text books, to be documented and preserved for the future Naga generation.

Silencing the guns was but the first step towards the final and logical destination of a bush war that dates back to the time the Indian Nation was born in 1947. The NSCN came into being in 1980, but the Naga insurgency predates the birth of this organization and this in effect means that the people of Nagaland had experienced the state of conflict for well nearly fifty years before Isak and Muivah led their men to the negotiating table by inking the peace pact on August 1, 1997.

Since August 1, 1997, there have been more than 70 rounds of talks between the leadership of the IM group and the Government of India and while the Naga people did not demonstrate any signs of desperation in the fifty years, stretching from 1947 to 1997, that preceded the cease fire agreement, they appear to be a restless lot in only 14 years since the cease fire came into force. This is the irony but an educative one, for the lessons that can be drawn from the two eras, the one that preceded the August 1, 1997 cease fire pact and the one which came after this date, are something which can be learned only from firsthand experience and cannot be taught in the classrooms or in the hallowed halls of any places of higher learning.

The patience and responsibility of the leaders of the NSCN (IM) have never been tested as strenuously as now, when the cadres can afford the luxury of having a hot meal on time and a warm bed to retire for the night not to speak of a roof over their heads and herein lies the most visible irony. No one will know this better than Messrs Isak, Muivah,  Atem, Raising and the second rung leaders of the NSCN (IM) and the changing contours of their responsibility and the changing expectations of the public must surely started taking their toll.

It is not for nothing that there is the universally held belief that sustaining a war, particularly a bush war, is an easier ball game than sustaining peace. The real test of any underground outfit, which sees itself as a group taking up the gun for a political belief, starts the moment they give up their lives in the jungles and come to the negotiating table. Arabinda Rajkhowa and his men have also started experiencing this complex truth, if their gesture towards the public is any indication.

The air of despondency coupled with the negative frame of mind as demonstrated by senior leader of the IM group, VS Atem, before the next round of talks with Delhi have all the bearings of the “14 long years of talks  with no concrete answers” beginning to rankle the nerves of the IM leaders. This is not something unexpected and as long as the rebel leaders were tucked away somewhere in a foreign country or in the jungles, there would have been no pressure from the public to expedite the armed uprising for it would not make any sense.

In other words, the IM leaders had the room to maneuver and chart out their course of action while they were still waging the bush war, but once the peace bugle was sounded, the change was dramatic and suddenly Messrs  Isak, Muivah, Atem, Raising and the others were no longer unapproachable personalities or some romantic figures who existed only in the stories told by the elders—some rebel leaders who the public never had the chance to sit down and talk to—but their own people, who they could speak to in their own native tongue. Such a changed equation is bound to have an impact on the rebel leaders, who for decades had remained only names in the minds of their people.

How the expectations of the people coupled with the now familiarity brought about by the changed reality, are handled will ultimately turn out to be the litmus test of the IM leaders, particularly Messrs Muivah and Isak. Delhi does not have anything to lose as long as the guns remain silent and the longer it takes to thrash out a final solution the better it would be for them. Th Muivah and Isak Swu cannot be unaware of this and Delhi too will understand this much more clearly.

For the people of Nagaland, it is therefore necessary that they step in too and see how a solution can be worked out and the first step would be to acknowledge the fact that the grand idea of a Greater Lim resting on the premise of Naga Nationalism will only slow down the political process of negotiation and pose the biggest hurdle in the way of a “dignified solution.”  A solution to the Naga political problem can never be thrashed out by antagonizing any of its neighbors and as long as this fact is twisted, misrepresented and camouflaged to make it palatable to the Naga people, the longer it will take for a solution to be worked out. This is something which Kohima definitely does not need.

It would be a fallacy for the IM leadership to believe that since a Greater Lim is a climb down from sovereignty, Delhi will have no problem in toeing their line. The graveyards in Eastern Nagaland as well as in many other parts of Nagaland will tell many a story and one of the most prominent will be that the graveyards in these areas did not come up for the demand of a Greater Lim but for a sovereign Nagaland. Wasn’t this what the plebiscite of 1951 all about?

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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