Appeasement And Treachery In High Places

In mid-1997, the I.K Gujral government arrived at a Ceasefire Agreement with the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). It was not a comprehensive ceasefire. It extends only to one- albeit the main – insurgent group. Its territorial spread was limited to Nagaland, although the activities of the insurgents extended to other parts of the North-East, not only Naga-majority enclaves in neighboring states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, but also through the linkages which the Naga insurgents established with non-Naga insurgents in other states.

Moreover, the Ceasefire was just that- a ceasefire, not a political settlement. A few months after the ceasefire, the Gujral Government fell, there was fresh elections, and in March 1998, the first National Democratic Alliance government under Atal Behari Vajpayee was sworn in.

It is now three years that is over one thousand days, since Vajpayee became Prime Minister with his self-proclaimed Sardar Patel, Lal Krishna Advani, as Home Minister. Till last week, they did nothing. Now, by submitting to the NSCN (IM) demand that the Ceasefire be extended to all parts of the North-East where Naga insurgents are disturbing the peace, Vajpayee and Advani have sent up all of the North-East in flames. Manipur is paralyzed. Assam is infuriated. Arunachal is angered. Tripura is incensed. And there is no joy in Kohima. What the Vajpayee government has secured is not peace but craven appeasement.

The historical parallel is Munich, September 1938. Hitler had invaded and annexed Austria. He now demanded the return to Germany of Danzig and Prussian lands in Poland, the vivisection of Czechoslovakia to secure what he regarded as “German” Sudentenland, and the incorporation into the German Reich of vast areas of Slav- inhabited East Europe as “living space” for the expanding German Aryans.

The NSCN (IM) is demanding annexation to Nagaland of the Manipur districts of Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Senapati; the return of Naga villages on the Nagaland- Assam border; the vivisection of Tripura; and “living space” for Nagas in Arunachal Pradesh. Instead of resisting these insidious demands for “Greater” Nagaland, Vajpayee and his cohorts, whose role model in the rest of India is Hitler, have, in the North-East, preferred to play Neville Chamberlain, not standing up to ridiculous claims (which include the relinquishment of Indian sovereignty over all Naga- majority areas of the North-East) but surrendering, as Chamberlain did to Hitler, in the illusory hope of bribing their way to peace.

Even as history mocks Chamberlain for believing, as he proclaimed on his return to London, “I’ve got it…. It is peace for our time”, so will the nation rue the Vajpayee-Advani appeasement of the Naga insurgents unless the duo is stopped in its tracks. They have not got us peace. They have only paved way for the surrender of most of the North-East to forces they have neither the will nor the wit to control.

From March 1998 to date, the Vajpayee government has entrusted negotiating responsibility to a former Union home secretary, K. Padmanabhaiah. He has neither political credentials nor any political experience. He has not been entrusted with a political mandate. His job has been strictly limited to keeping the Ceasefire going- whatever its violations by the NSCN (IM), whatever the excesses committed by the insurgents, however widespread their depredations, however nefarious their links to other insurgent groups. The costs have been enormous.

The NSCN (IM) has made a fine art of hoodwinking the Indian Government on the surrender of arms. Kidnapping, extortion, exactions and gunpoint murder continue unabated. The Nagaland Chief Minister, S.C Jamir, was saved only by good fortune when ambushed on the Dimapur-Kohima Road. Jamir’s plea for a political initiative has fallen on deaf years in North Block.

The Ceasefire has been maintained only for the Indian Security Forces to ceasefire, not to build peace on the ashes of torched villages and on the graves of butchered innocents. Neither has the Center responded to the political demands of the insurgents, nor has it formulated its own terms for a political settlement. Indeed, the Center underlined its reluctance to embark on a political path by persisting with Padmanabhaiah long after Jamir pleaded for a political interlocutor to undertake a political dialogue.

Now the Center has moved- but in the wrong direction. Instead of bring all insurgent Nagaland groups within the ambit of the Ceasefire with a view to moving to the negotiating table to hard talk the way to a final political settlement, the Center remains stuck in the groove of a Ceasefire without political initiative, but further appeasing the Naga insurgents by extending the Ceasefire to non-Nagaland areas of the North-East, thus signaling, whatever its protestations, a willingness to consider a Greater Nagaland with insurgents whose bottom line demand is Greater Nagaland, which can take an even larger slice of India out of India’s sovereignty. In one silly, stupid- I would go so far as to say, treacherous- act of appeasement, the Vajpayee government has jeopardized decades of patient and courageous integration of the North-East with mainstream India.

The irresponsibility of the NDA with regard to the sensitive North-East was demonstrated in the political games it played in the Manipur Assembly. With virtually no members of their own, the NDA first abetted the Samata Party in engineering defections to proclaim Radhabinod Koijam (elected on a Congress ticket) as Chief Minister, only for the NDA’s den of thieves to then fall out in the endeavor to get the “Samata” Chief Minister replaced by another defector, this time a legislative horse traded to the BJP.

Having thus alienated every Manipuri- Meitei, Kuki or Naga- the NDA government has added insult to injury by first buying democracy and on its grave placing the sepulcher of Greater Nagaland, primarily at the expense of Manipur, which stands to lose more than half its hill territory, if the worst were to happen. President’s Rule has been declared in Manipur. It is even more important that President’s Rule be declared in Delhi- before the Vajpayee government sells out the North-West to Pakistan and the North-East to the enemies of India’s integrity.

*The opinion is written by Mani Shankar Aiyar

*The writer is a Congress Leader

(Source: The Imphal Free Press)

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