Unconditional Conditions

Late Laldenga of Mizoram. Image Credit: Mizoram Express.

Peace always comes with a price, a heavy one at that, and this may be the reason why it is so much easier to create violence and indulge in mayhem than containing or maintaining law and order and ensuring a peaceful environ for everyone. The late Laldenga who brought his cadres of the Mizo National Front from the jungles to the negotiating table in the mid-80s, that paved the way for the present Mizoram we see today, is no longer amongst us but he must have experienced the extremes of the two.

The peace that was sought through the Shillong Accord in 1975, recoiled with such disastrous effect that the bloodshed that followed is still recounted by Naga veterans and historians. Not only did the Shillong Accord render the charismatic AZ Phizo to something of a persona non-grata but in maintaining a stoic silence over the deal inked in Shillong in 1975, the aura that surrounded the personality of the late rebel leader as well as the charisma that he possessed to lead the first bush war against the newly formed Union of India, in the North East region or even in the whole country, took a beating and history tells us how Phizo was soon marginalized within the rank and file of every Naga rebel who had taken up the gun to follow him in the first place.

That the Shillong Accord was strongly opposed by the people who mattered then and even now can be seen in the manner in which the Naga National Convention, founded by Phizo, has been pushed to the fringes of Naga politics and how the two factions of the NSCN have been at the centre of every issue concerning the ‘Naga Nation.’ Now the table has turned full circle and Th Muivah, the general secretary of the IM faction of the NSCN and Isak Swu its president, are today treated as guests of the Government of India, whenever they visit Delhi to hold a meeting or address the Nagas from a more visible platform.

August 1, 1997 was the year in which the cease fire agreement between Delhi and the NSCN (IM) was signed and which was followed by the ongoing political dialogue. The Khaplang faction of the NSCN are yet to start any formal talks with the Government of India, but the guns of their cadres are today no longer trained on the Indian security forces. For the dialogue or the path to peace to proceed towards its logical conclusion, Messrs Muivah and Swu may have started feeling the weight of the price they may have to pay for the peace they are seeking right now.

Surely maintaining a cease fire and getting engaged in peace talks must be a totally different ball game than leading a group of highly motivated armed men in the jungles. Only Muivah and Swu can give a satisfactory answer to this, and soon we may have more than half the top functionaries of ULFA in the same position, talking peace instead of igniting a bomb blast or opening fire at the security forces. With the exception of Paresh Baruah, the Commander in Chief of the outfit, almost all the top rung leaders of the rebel group are today in Delhi where they have formally called on the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and met Union Home Secretary GK Pillai.

The natural and expected question that follows every time a major armed group comes to the negotiating table, is why and the factors responsible for making the rebels look at the same issues from different perspectives. If Rajkhowa is today sitting across the table with the Union Home Minister, then what were the factors that stopped him doing the same ten years earlier? The same question also applies to Muivah and Swu. We may also question what has made the Government of India more sensitive to issues concerning the North East region. Is it due to the armed rebellion, which threatened the very fabric of a Nation which saw the light of the day only in 1947, or is it due to the growing realization that the North East region can no longer be taken as just another frontier area, which is crucial to India’s security? Or is it due to the often provocative course of action that China has been adopting since the 1962 war and its claim over Arunachal Pradesh? Or is it because of the changing global scenario where India needs to open her eastern gates to the untapped but rich resources of countries like Myanmar, Cambodia, etc?

Only sincere answers, without a single trace of sugar coating, will produce the right momentum for the peace efforts to go to its logical conclusion. It is when either parties, the rebel groups or the Government of India, start to hedge and give incoherent answers to these questions that the first cracks in the talks will appear. Have the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India been sincere in their approach to each other and especially while dealing with their own people? Has peace really been achieved in the Naga areas, as officially recorded or are the people still gripped by an undercurrent wave of fear and anxiety?

What does unconditional talk imply? Isn’t the usage of the very term unconditional in the talk, a condition in itself? For the people of Assam, the answers to this will come later as the proposed peace talk is still in its infancy, but there is no reason why the Naga people should be in the dark over the peace process underway. Remember the peace that we are talking about dates back to 1997. In short, taking the peace route is something very different from a leisure walk in the park on a Sunday morning and the most ironical of all this lies in the fact that the price of peace, which have to be paid, will be mainly borne by the common people, who already have been at the receiving ends of both the security forces and the rebel groups. This is worrying.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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