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Extension Of Indo-Naga Ceasefire For Clinching A Political Solution

The ceasefire has been extended for another six months w.e.f. 1st February 2006 after four days (28-31 January 2006) of heated and intensive discussions held at a Hotel in the Thai capital, Bangkok. The ceasefire extension has been greeted with appreciation from different political, socio-cultural and religious organizations across the globe. Some media have reported that the ceasefire has been extended only after the Government of India assured the Nagas that ‘positive steps’ on substantive issues including politico-geographical integration of the Nagas would be taken within the extended timeframe. Both the parties in their ‘Joint Statement’ issued on 31st January signed by Th. Muivah and K. Padmanabhaiah recognized that ‘as there has been insufficient progress in the talks it was decided to carry the political negotiations expeditiously forward taking new initiatives.’ ‘It was also agreed to re-activate and make effective mechanisms to address all cease-fire issues including modifications of ground rules.’ In order ‘for political negotiations to fructify, both the parties have also agreed to maintain a congenial atmosphere’ in the coming days. It is natural that the Indian Government would be obviously happy and extremely delighted about the ceasefire extension. The Nagas have also welcomed cautiously the ceasefire extension considering the repeated ceasefire extension without any positive outcome. And yet it is difficult to say whether the Nagas are really happy and delighted about the non-committal attitudes and the delaying tactics of the Indian Government in the past eight and half years. Moreover, sincerity, honesty and respect for their rights has never been experienced in their ‘˜political journey’ vis-a -vis the Indian Government. It is from this short background that this article intends to critically analyze the possibility and potentiality of the ceasefire extension leading towards either positively for clinching a political solution or for another dangerous firing bullet.

The ceasefire agreement was signed on 1st August 1997 after the Indian leadership realized Indo-Naga conflict as a political issue. We have seen and observed less of ups and more of downs so far. Doubts and apprehensions have crept into the minds of the proud and honest Naga people. Such doubts and apprehensions are formed which is not unusual in the context of the past historical experiences: Doubts on the seriousness and sincerity of the Indian Government, and apprehensions of a possibility of returning to a lethal and bloody war in the event of the Indian Government’s failure to take political steps. The failure to take a political decision would mean resuming the past measures of obnoxious military decision.

Some of the positive political aspects taken in the talks are like the official recognition of ‘the Unique History and Situation of the Nagas on 11th July 2002’, lifting the ban on the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) on 26th November 2002, relative decrease in lethal armed conflict between the Indian Army and the Naga Army etc. However, this decrease in armed conflict does not mean the Indian armed forces have not been killing the Naga nationalists as the figure clearly indicated that till 6th October 2005, 96 NSCN activists were killed in the past eight years. This is a clear violation of the ceasefire ground rules of 12th December 1997. This is not only an indicator of the downs in the peace process. The Indian Government even back tracked the Bangkok Agreement of 14th June 2001 by deleting three words ‘Without Territorial Limits’ on 27th July 2001. The Indian Government succumbed to the ‘˜protest politics’ of the neighboring community by giving excuses that the situation, if it does go out of control, would lead to political crisis. Succumbing to such an opposition has done great harm rather than strengthen the peace process. It created an unfriendly environment for the negotiating parties that subsequently delayed the talks. Continuation of the talks due to lackadaisical approach and lack of concrete policy mechanisms of the Indian Government on the substantive issues including the politico-geographical integration of the Nagas is a matter of concern for the people. It is because of the non-seriousness on the part of the Indian State to the given issues that Th. Muivah told the BBC World during an interview by Subir Bhaumik that, the Nagas would call off the ceasefire and go back to jungles if the GoI does not assure them of taking positive steps before 31st of January 2006.

On the question of the politico-geographical integration of the Nagas the Indian State has been taking a rather negative position. AB Vajpayee talks of consensus, Oscar Fernandes talks of Parliament cannot force the states on integration issue etc. are nothing but political gimmick which are out of context even from the Indian Constitutional requirement. If such are the approaches being adopted by different Indian leadership, where is the possibility of locating their talks of seriousness and sincerity on the political issue? The question then is, is the GoI really engaging the Nagas to stage-manage a different kind of solution like the way it had done in the past? Or, is the GoI planning to resume its firing bullets against the Nagas’ principle stand about their inherent rights to decide the future for themselves? These are questions to be reckoned with.

The past eight and half years are not too short a period to have clinched some concrete political steps to arrive at a final solution. Now that the Nagas have explained the political history and root of the Indo-Naga politico-military conflict to the Indian negotiators and political leadership across the spectrum of parties, it would be highly superficial and dubious on the part of the GoI to make unexplainable excuses which are peculiar and typical in nature. The Indian State has never respected the rights of the Nagas since the conflict started, the very reason why the Nagas have been unceasingly seeking for justice without surrendering their inherent rights as the Nagas have come to realized that human rights of a people are not a commodity that can be sold in the market. For such act of defending the rights of a people, the Indian and the Burmese regimes have tried hard to crush through ‘Carrot and Stick‘ policy. However, history tells us succinctly that both the regimes failed miserably in their missions through ‘Stick’ policy.

In the 90s, it was slowly and increasingly felt by Indian political leadership that the issue is none other than political for which many of them ruled out military measures as the right approach. This political realization, however slow, prompted the GoI to start sending feelers to reach out to the Nagas’ leadership. The current ceasefire has been signed only after the Indian leadership recognized the conflict as a political issue between two entities. But, after more than 50 rounds of political negotiations, the attitude of the GoI had not come out from the past-orientation of solving the issue within the box framework totally disregarding the rights of the Nagas and their aspirations. The long impasse in the political talks has been because of the Indian State’s policy of dilly-dallying the peace process. This is a policy impregnated with the military tactics of counter-insurgency. The ultimate State’s strategy would be eliminating the national spirit of the Nagas by pouring a huge ‘Carrot’ packages into Nagalim. ‘Carrot’ policy is always supplemented by ‘Stick’ policy as it is evident from the joint Indo-US counter-insurgency exercise undertaken in Mizo-ram and other places. This exercise is basically undertaken to show to the world that movements including the Naga national movement had to be dealt firmly. This is sufficient proof of the Indian State’s preoccupied old mindset strategy of dealing with military measures against people-based movements. The ‘Carrot and Stick’ policy compounded by insincerity and delaying tactics of the Indian Government has been the sole reasons why there has been no solution insight.

The Indian Government’s deliberate policy of buying more time had to employ maneuverability in handling the whole peace affairs. To this end the Indian State has successfully exploited the political currents of different nationalities and diverse ethnic groups in the North East in its ability to find some ‘˜pockets of opposition’. The recent past years have witnessed such emotional and immature political upsurge especially in the context of the Nagas’ ‘˜politico-peace journey’ with the Indian State. These nationalities and diverse ethnic groups have been, unconsciously or consciously, managed and exploited by the State to its advantage in engendering ‘˜pockets of opposition’. They have seemingly forgotten the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the neo-colonial States in directing its oppositions, which, if they are unaware, would become the ultimate victims of the trap being laid. However, it is learnt through the decades that the politically conscious Nagas at any cost would avoid such ‘glory-hunting.’ For the struggle of the Nagas has been and is not a temporal in its nature and meaning. The Indian State had explored almost all means and tactics to downplay the Nagas struggle for their right to self-determination. Nevertheless, the foundation of the Naga nationalism have been laid so strong in every blood, heart and mind of the people that it will be of fruitless efforts to play with bread, butter, wine, money, emotions and sentiments. The vision of the Nagas’ struggle is for long-term political engagement with GoI and the rest of the neighboring communities. Towards this vision the Nagas have collectively embarked upon political dialogues with the Indian Government. The solution, therefore, must be found on the basis of nature of conflict without neglecting the empirical historical facts and its uniqueness.

It is noteworthy that the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, knew to himself the politico-historical and geographical setting of the Indian sub-continent without any fear and doubt. In his letter to the President of NNC, Nehru wrote on the future of the Nagas as follows: ‘It is obvious that the Naga territory in eastern Assam is too small to stand by itself, politically or economically. It lies between two huge countries, India and China’¦and part of it consists of rather backward people’¦it is not possible for the British Government to hold the Naga territory or part of it’¦.They would be isolated there between India and China. Inevitably, this Naga territory must form part of India and of Assam with which it has developed such close association’¦’ (The Collected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vol. 15, pp. 278-79). Such was the policy of the Indian Government for forcibly occupying the Naga territory. But, forcible occupation of the Naga territory on the assumption that Nagas were politically and economically backward is rather a policy which is unjustifiable because it would mean forced union devoid of consent and agreement. Nehru’s policy of occupation has given birth to an argument that once the British left Indian sub-continent, then the Naga territory automatically becomes the Indian Territory irrespective of the Nagas’ wish and dreams. This shows that the theory of occupation was explicit, as Nehru’s letter is any indication, in the Indian Government’s policy vis-a -vis the Nagas. This was the root cause of the conflict. This historical truth is the main reason why the Nagas are still resisting systems of both India and Burma. As such without addressing the root cause of the conflict, seeking solution through negotiations does not make any sense. On top of that some people tend to be easily swayed by the beautifully worded constitution to be the best lacunae for the problem. However, it is to be noted with care that before such a quick conclusion is advanced, one must not view the root cause of conflict as solvable only from the prism of the constitution. The right steps for both the parties are to take a concrete political step on the substantive issues. It is high time that the Indian Government initiate policy mechanism for integrating the Naga areas so that the political-peace journey between the two parties could move ahead for finding a solution. However, if the Indian Government decides not to respect the rights of the Nagas, then it is crystal clear that lethal armed conflict would immediately resume as soon as the ceasefire extension is over.

*** The article is written by Yaronsho Ngalung.

*** The article was written during the earlier part of 2006.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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