Skip to main content

Modi govt in a bind with respect to 'core' Naga demands: Separate constitution, flag

By Sandeep Pandey, Babloo Loitongbam, Meera Sanghamitra*
Thuingaleng Muivah, the supreme leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) [NSCN (IM)] says that Nagaland may be weaker in material sense but it is strong in politics. No wonder, the organisation which started off as an insurgent group was able to engage the Government of India in a process of dialogue for 22 long years after a ceasefire agreement in 1997, now as a parallel government of which Muivah is the Ato Kilonser or Prime Minister.
Even after the aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) of maintaining a certain degree of autonomy with a separate Constitution and a flag have been quashed by the Narendra Modi government by its decision on August 5, 2019, Muivah continues to keep alive his vision for a shared sovereignty and enduring relationship of peaceful co-existence with India, inked in the framework agreement signed on August 3, 2015 in the presence of Narendra Modi.
He has good reasons to be hopeful. Unlike J&K no instrument of accession was signed by then popular Naga rebel leader Angami Zapu Phizo with the Government of India. Nagaland was first made part of Assam by British and then by independent India by brute force. Nagas resisted both times and there was much violence from all sides. But Nagas never surrendered and believe that the ongoing dialogue will result in a political solution.
Muivah asserts that Nagaland has never been under any foreign rule either by consent or by conquest. Nagas had told the British that they should not be left to the mercy of independent India, a sentiment that Dr BR Ambedkar had interestingly expressed related to the Dalits, at the time of India’s independence.
Jawaharlal Nehru sent Army into Nagaland, against the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi, which faced resistance by Nagas armed initially with only bows, arrows, spears and some rifles left behind by the receding Japanese forces during World War II. According to Muivah, Nehru never respected the Nagas as human beings.
It was much later when PV Narsimha Rao met with Isak and Muivah in Paris, he agreed that dialogue would be held without any pre-condition, at the highest level of PM and outside India. He also acknowledged the unique history of Nagas. Subsequently, Indian PM Deve Gowda met Isak and Muivah in Bangkok. He wanted Nagas to accept the Indian Constitution, which was not agreeable to them and Muivah suggested that the two parties should go their own separate ways.
Two years later the Government of India admitted that Nagas were never formally under Indian rule and a unique solution to their problem was required. It was only after this that the concept of shared sovereignty was floated. After talks with PM Atal Behari Vajpayee in Amsterdam the NSCN (IM) leadership decided to move back to India and continue the process of dialogue with the Manmohan Singh government.
The Narendra Modi government declared with much fanfare that an agreement had been reached with NSCN (IM) leadership only to encounter the roadblock of demand for a separate Constitution and flag for Nagaland. 
Having taken away the Constitution of J&K, which incidentally mentioned that J&K was integral part of India, and its flag as part of the narrative of One Nation, One Constitution, the Bhartiya Janata Party-led government is in a bind with respect to the Naga demand. But Muivah is resolute about the demand for a separate constitution and flag which he describes as core issues.
The response of interlocutor in dialogue process, now Governor of Nagaland, RN Ravi, has been to bring on board another stakeholder since 2017, Naga National Political Groups, a conglomerate of seven organisations. This is an attempt to counterbalance NSCN (IM), which incidentally was the only Naga group with which he signed the framework agreement in 2015.
He should learn from the history that when the government reached an agreement with the Naga People’s Convention leaving out the Naga National Council of Phizo, it didn’t resolve the issue then. If NSCN (IM) is cold shouldered, the chances are that it’ll slip back into insurgency with a good possibility that NSCN (Khaplang), presently dormant in Myanmar, may also get reactivated.
From the J&K experience, even though the government is still not willing to admit its mistake, it should know that imposing any decision against the wishes of people will not help solve any problem. Contrary to government’s claim of total integration of J&K with India, the alienation is now complete.
The J&K kind of solution is untenable. Violence by the state, imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and counter-violence by the insurgent groups is an unequal terrain, which has been a site for major and incessant human rights violations, as Northeast has a direct experience of it. This is a cost we can ill-afford.
Instead of making a separate constitution and a flag a prestige or ideological issue, it’ll be better if the government concentrated on thrashing out the intricacies of competencies which NSCN (IM) has worked out in detail.
NSCN (IM) envisions a governance structure in the form of a pan-Naga apex tribal body Hoho for a period of six years with representatives from each village and Regional Territorial Councils for Naga areas in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, having realised that it may not be possible to integrate Naga inhabited areas in these three states with present Nagaland into a greater Nagalim.
The J&K kind of solution is untenable. If NSCN (IM) is cold shouldered, the chances are that Nagaland will slip back into insurgency
Already, the Coordination Committee on Manipur Integrity has given a call to people of Manipur to resist a final Naga Accord if it challenges the territorial integrity, economy, cultural practices and administrative setup of Manipur.
The government should not rush into a solution by declaring deadlines to ensnare itself like in J&K but should patiently involve all stakeholders from within and outside the state of Nagaland without marginalizing NSCN (IM) and evolve towards a solution with peaceful dialogue process to the satisfaction of all.
NSCN (IM) must acknowledge that even though it may have been the only force to reckon with in the beginning, there are now others whose sensitivities will have to be kept in mind. For example, Kukis, another tribe, enagaged in fierce tussle with Nagas in Manipur hills are unlikely to accept Naga dominance over their areas. Lammingthang Kipgen, President of an organisation of Thodous, a Kuki community, has expressed his apprehension to the interlocutor for Indo-Kuki talks.
While it is likely that groups within and outside Nagaland are being projected at this time by the government to blunt the edge of NSCN (IM) demands, it is also a fact that societies like Manipur are an ethnically plural society which have withstood the test of time for many millennia.
They are unlikely to acquiesce to any arrangement to part with their resources and polity at the exclusion of other stakeholders in their society. The government and NSCN (IM) must be completely transparent in their approach and must take into confidence all genuine political formations, civil society and ethnic groups co-habiting the geographical area in which a collective polity has evolved over time.
There was a time when Naga leaders were impatient and were willing to go back to Europe leaving the dialogue process open ended and now the Government seems to be in some kind of urgency. The Narendra Modi government would do well to resist the temptation of self-congratulatory preposterous grandeur in deciding the fate of Nagaland without culmination of proper consultations. 
In the name of an accord if the fragile ethnic balance of the region, which has a history of violence, is not handled sensitively it can potentially lead to an ethnic implosion. 
---
*Sandeep Pandey and Meera Sanghamitra are social-political activists (contact: ashaashram@yahoo.com, meeraengages@gmail.com), **Babloo Loitongbam is human rights activist from Manipur (contact: bloitongbam@gmail.com). Sandeep Pandey and Meera Sanghamitra are grateful for a meeting between the collective leadership of NSCN (IM) with a delegation of 13 members of Indian civil society on September 27, 2019 at Camp Hebron in Nagaland

Comments

TRENDING

August 22 to be observed as Apostasy Day: International coalition of ex-Muslim groups

By Our Representative
In a unique move, an international coalition of ex-Muslim organisations has decided to observe August 22, 2020 as the Apostasy Day. To be observed for “the abandonment or renunciation of religion”, the coalition, calling upon people to join the call, said, the decision to observe the Apostasy Day has been taken because of apostasy is “punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, UAE, and Yemen.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.