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After Kashmir, is Govt of India ready to go back on promise to Nagaland?

By Sandeep Pandey and Meera Sanghamitra*
The Nagas claim that their leader Phizo never signed any instrument of accession with India like the other 562 princely states and Nagaland or Nagalim, as they prefer to call their land, was never part of India either with consent or by conquest. Nagas are proud of their unique history in which they have never been subject to any foreign rule.
It was the British which first made Nagaland part of Assam after a number of violent clashes in which there were casualities on both sides. Nagaland has also witnessed intertribal violence. There are close to forty different tribes with distinct cultural identities. The Nagas had asked British to let them have the freedom to determine their future and the British had also agreed to a concept of limited sovereignty based on traditional idea of self-rule.
Mahatma Gandhi had supported the right of Nagas to determine their destiny and was against Nehru sending Army to conquer it. When India was about to achieve independence Jawaharlal Nehru offered local autonomy to Nagas but they continued to assert their identity as a separate nation. It remained part of Assam after India's independence.
After a violent uprising Indian Army was sent in 1955 and three years later Armed Forces Special Powers Act was promulgated to contain the Naga rebellion among other disturbances in the Northeastern states.
In 1963 Nagaland became a separate state after an agreement of Naga People's Convention with Nehru government which was described by Phizo as a sell out. In 1975 there was a Shillong agreement with Naga National Council.
This was rejected by some. Isak Chisi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and SS Khaplng formed National Socialist Council of Nagalim to carry on the struggle for sovereignty. In 1988 there was a split. NSCN (IM) leaders went to Europe and NSCN (K) leader settled in Mayanmar.
Since then Indian Prime Ministers Narsimha Rao, Deve Gowda and Atal Bihari Vajpayee met Isak and Muivah in Paris, Bangkok and Amsterdem, respectively. A process of dialogue has been going on after a ceasefire agreement in 1997. A Framework Agreement was signed on 3rd August, 2015 with the Narendra Modi government.
Interlocuter RN Ravi, now governor of Nagaland, signed on behalf of Government of India and Muivah signed on behalf of Nagas in the presence of PM. Isak signed from a hospital bed. A concept of shared sovereignty and inclusive relationship of enduring peaceful co-existence of the two entities has been agreed to.
NSCN (IM) has worked out in detail the delicate balance of competencies which will define the nature of relationship. They want Nagaland government to cover all Nagas, even living in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam and ultimately hope for integration of all land inhabited by Nagas, their long standing demand.
There will be Naga Regional Councils in these three states. Naga Regional Territorial Councils will have their own legislature, executive and judiciary. The judiciary will comprise both customary law as well as modern. Land and resources above and below will belong to Nagaland. Naga areas are rich in petroleum, natural gas, coal and other minerals.
Presently the Central government just shares less than a fourth of the revenue with states. International relations will be with India except for matters related to Nagaland. Nagaland will have separate foreign offices for culture and education. Nagaland will have its own education system. It will also expect reservation for students from Nagaland in Indian educational institutions. Even with a Christian majority Nagaland would remain a secular state.
Security will be with local government but defence will be shared with Indian Army. They aspire to have separate Anthem, Insignia, Flag and Constitution. Two members will represent Nagaland in Rajya Sabha. Agreement reached will not be altered unilaterally and will require two thirds majority of Indian parliament as well as Nagaland Assembly. Armed Forces Special Powers Act will be revoked and not be imposed by India.
Nagaland is not asking for independence. All they want is an arrangement of shared sovereignty and peaceful coexistence with India
In August 2019 immediately after abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of Indian Constitution, Governor RN Ravi revealed that the PM wanted a final agreement to be signed with Nagas within three months. He wants Nagaland to integrate with India like any other state.
When it was expected that a final accord will be signed soon, the government is trying to bring on board a group of six organisations called Naga National Political Groups which has raised a question on the proposed Constitution of Nagaland. NSCN (IM) leadership considers this as a betrayal.
Thuingaleng Muivah says that in a democracy sovereignty lies with the people, hence sovereignty of Nagas lies with Nagas. He warns that NSCN (IM) has come very close to an honourable solution to peace process with Government of India but if it doesn't materialise then Nagas will go away so far that it'll be difficult to bring them back to the table easily.
Indian government must live up to its commitment to NSCN (IM) with whom it has been in dialogue for 22 years. Nagaland is not asking for independence. All they want is an arrangement of shared sovereignty and peaceful coexistence with India. Muivah asks how can Nagas surrender without any achievement in peace process?
They did not dialogue for 22 years to merely become one of India's states. Granting a separate Constitution and Flag to them will not endanger India's sovereignty in any way. As Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan said it is better to have friendly Nagas on our frontier rather than unfriendly and discontented kept forcibly within India. C Rajagopalachari supported the Naga right to become independent.
---
*Sandeep Pandey is associated with Socialist Party (India) and Meera Sanghamitra with National Alliance of People's Movements. The writers were part of a delegation of 13 social-political activists invited to meet the collective leadership of NSCN (IM) on September 27, 2019 at Camp Hebron, Nagaland. Contacts: e-mail: ashaashram@yahoo.com, meeraengages@gmail.com

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