The Framework Agreement - A ticking time bomb?

Samarjit Kambam *

Govt of India-NSCN (IM) sign peace accord on Framework Agreement on Aug 3 2015
Govt of India-NSCN (IM) sign peace accord on Framework Agreement on Aug 3 2015 :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao/PIB

It's true. Manipur, the small daughter state of India has been decapitated bit by bit, just like an animal in a slaughterhouse. Firstly, the first Prime Minister of India Pt Jawaharlal Nehru gave away the naturally resourceful Kabaw Valley to Burma including the Ningthi Turel, a bountiful river in terms of precious elements such as gold, other metals and varieties of precious stones as a way of negotiating a truce of peaceful-co-existence as a neighbouring country with Indian Union as well as flaunting that India has embraced democracy since its independence from British Colonial Rule.

Like an on and off affair or an illegitimate relationship, the valley remained a bone of contention between Manipur and Burma. As per historical facts Kabaw valley, no doubt was a part of Manipur during the 18th century when Manipur was a princely state. The Burmese had already seen a soft corner in the great Indian democracy.

Little did they know that the softness lies only at the outside whereas internally it is a kind of democracy abound with draconian laws such as AFSPA(Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958). Tactfully, Indian democracy is being portrayed by its leaders as a liberal and generous entity with Manipur always being the loser.

Another issue is the Djuko Valley, a valley well known for its natural beauty, seasonal flowers, overall flora and fauna also known as "Valley of Flowers" that once belonged to Manipur but now, a greater portion of which has become an integral part of Nagaland and the irony is that encroachment by Nagaland is still going on. "Never forgive and injury, never forget an insult" is what the neighbouring states or countries of Manipur are and "Forgive and Forget", that is what we the Manipuris are, an inherent inborn trait.

The issue of Djuko Valley has already been forgotten, kept inside the cold storage for forever and a day and the incongruous and inconsiderate leaders forgiven. After that, it's Holenphai village or Choro village's turn to be cut and thrown to Myanmar. Presently, what the state is facing is the ominous issue of Greater Nagaland or Nagalim where almost 80% of the topographical area of Manipur is included in the proposed Nagalim as southern part of Greater Nagaland.

While the world is yearning for Univeralism, Multiversalism, Manipur is heading towards the Stone Age. With the impact of globalisation, the world is gradually becoming a global village and with time little significance will be given to religion, caste, creed, gender and the likes. In the mad race for advancement in almost every fields throughout world, the North-Eastern part of India and particularly Manipur seems to remain stagnant, taking a U-turn towards the 2nd World War era's of grasping land, bone of contention, jealousy and caught in the web of selfish "our own" mindset.

The announcement by NSCN(IM) supremo Thuingaleng Muivah at Camp Hebron on 23rd March that the Framework Agreement stands for the territorial integrity of Naga inhabited areas rang alarm bells in the state of Manipur and the periphery states of the proposed Nagalim. Assam has expressed its firm stand against the formation of greater Nagaland and the incumbent CM of Assam had stated that the territorial integrity of Assam will never be compromised at any cost.

Same goes with the other fringe states too. Mr Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India had stated that the Framework Agreement will not impinge upon the territorial break-up of the concerned states and particularly of Manipur. The announcement by Muivah at Camp Hebron, therefore, runs contradictory to what the leaders at the Centre had promised. The people are at the crossroads, wondering which one to believe.

The scenario is like a dog barking as well as wagging its tail at the same time. If the promises made by Modi that the territorial integrity of Manipur will not be compromised by the Framework Agreement holds true, then has Muivah gone through some kind of delusion? Or is it for fear of losing his supremacy from the NSCN(IM) podium or could it be psychosis of the "over-faith" of various Naga groups building up on him? Or could he be buying time before going for retirement? Many questions galore sans any answer. Now it's a time of great uncertainty, great doubt. Nevertheless, such a tall claim by Muivah cannot be made just out of thin air. That has made the Framework Agreement even more doubtful and cynical.

Successive governments at the Centre failed to crack the ice on the Naga issue. The Modi government, however, had the nerves to draw the 'almost' finishing line on the issue, an issue which had remained a headache to the successive governments for so long. Mr Modi had on a number of occasions and during visits to the Northeast region articulated his vision for transforming the Northeast and has attached priority to peace, security, connectivity and economic development in the region.

This has also been at the heart of the Government's foreign policy, especially 'Act East Policy'. The Peace Accord has with great finesse been termed by the Government of India as Framework Agreement signed between NSCN(IM) and Government of India which was hatched with the firm belief of the Centre to end the oldest insurgency in the country and to restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the North East, a step that's bound to herald into a life of dignity, integrity and equity for the Nagas based on the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions.

Many, however, doubt whether peace will really prevail in the North East Region once the Framework Agreement culminates into the "finishing touch" accord. The haziness of the peace accord and the undisclosed content of the agreement has been keeping many states of the North East on their toes. "Framework" has remained the buzzword in the region all the way since August 3rd of 2015.

What if Greater Nagaland or Nagalim based on sovereignty of Naga inhabited areas was infused in the framework? If that so happened, then the final accord will transcend into redrawing of Maps of the states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Then what? I don't think everybody will be contented saying "All's well that ends well".

Listening to the people's hearts should be the call of duty of the Modi government especially the people of fringe states of Nagaland in the prevailing tense scenario. Otherwise, like a latent spark into a blaze, the volcanic eruption of discontentment from various angles may take ugly turns.

The Naga HoHo, United Naga Council and other Naga groups are political wings of the NSCN(IM) for greater Nagaland. The Naga HoHo, the oldest political wing for the integration of Nagas under one roof had been such a great force that the Indian government almost succumbed to the demands of Greater Nagaland or Nagalim if not for the Great June Uprising in Manipur where eighteen brave souls of Manipur sacrificed their lives for the cause of a unified and intact Manipur.

In fact, the state of Manipur has become the hotbed for demand of separate homelands by many ethnic groups other than Nagas. The Kukis are also going for a separate Kuki homeland. Likewise, many smaller ethnic groups are demanding their own homelands. Imagine, if homelands are created as per demands of whatever ethnic groups prevailing in Manipur, then there will be more than 40 homelands in Manipur.

If that stage arrives, we can gauge the scenario of Manipur - total chaos, anarchy, under-development, killings and bloodbaths at the slightest pretext of dissatisfaction and territorial pissing. Something that might have taken place during the Stone Age. Now, a few elements, for their own selfish ends have gloomed Manipur and the state is totally eclipsed with the shadow of narrow mindedness created by those few. The creation of Nagalim will rip apart the peaceful co-existence and the bond of brotherhood amongst the various ethnic groups will crumble resulting in unwanted and ugly scenarios and untoward consequences.

The government of India needs to give thorough attention to this issue of Nagalim otherwise an ethnic cleansing or civil war scenario may arise in the state and there is no doubt that the Manipuris particularly those inhabiting in the valleys will shed blood and give away their lives to protect the territorial integrity of Manipur.

The June 18th incident of 2001 which remains and will always remain vivid and brimming in our minds was an incident that inspires us to take our stand against all odds for an intact Manipur bearing testimony to the fact that we will never get bogged down to the creation of a Greater Nagaland as long as blood flows in our veins.

The state of Manipur has remained a sacrificial lamb all the way. Now, we won't be able to sacrifice any more. With the Kabaw valley in the hands of the Burmese and the Djuko valley in the hands of Nagaland government, we, the people of Manipur have sacrificed enough. Now, the time has come where we can't tolerate to lose an inch of Manipur's land anymore for we have had enough being the sacrificial lamb all these years. Manipur consists of more than 39 ethnic groups.

When Manipur was a princely state, all these ethnic groups were living together with relative peace and harmony. However, due to some narrow minded leaders of some ethnic groups under the influence of bigger elements of Indian union has turned Manipur into a state of turmoil. Before drawing the finishing line on the Naga issue the Modi government needs to thoroughly retrospect the sensitivity of the situation and bring out means and measures so that the beginning of a chapter of one's peace do not lead to the dawn of a chapter of war for others.

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 02, 2017.

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