TODAY -

Go For Peace

By Robert Lanky *



The peculiarity of militancy in India's northeastern state's hinterland is a reflection of confusion that prevails among the advocates of separatism as also on the criminal transformation of insurgency into an industry of 'Warlords' and 'Taxations'. It does not take much for a group of misguided youths from a civilized community to disclaim the "Imposed' Indian nationality and assert the right to 'Freedom & Sovereignty'. Any one can pick a gun and claim to be a people's savior and land warrior, feels free to debate on themes as complicated as 'sovereignty'.

People of the state: Now debate whether the 'catch 22 situation' with 30 points proposal from the non state actors (one of the faction) and 29 points proposal by Government of India be accepted? People are asking question: has the very society for whom the 'freedom fighters' has chosen a non state mode of existence given them any authority for deciding the fate and future of the people?

Militarization of society worries everybody including the state actors. It must be mentioned that the military deployment has aimed at neutralizing the strike power of the insurgents and force them to the table, rather than seeking their complete destruction. So the rebel groups have also not been forced to launch an all out, do-or-die situation, as LTTE was compelled to do but neutralized in Sri Lanka. The space for accommodation, resource transfer and power sharing that the Indian state offered to rebel groups has helped India to control the insurgencies and often co-opt their leadership to join the mainstream. That's where the debate goes to a point of no resolution.

Interestingly over the years, insurgencies not have been contained but have only multiplied in North East India. Whenever a rebel group has signed an accord with the Indian government in a particular state, the gap has been immediately filled by other groups, reviving the familiar allegations of betrayal, neglect and alienation.

In the year 2006, South Asian Terrorist Portal (SATP) estimated 109 rebel groups in North East India only the state of Arunachal Pradesh was found to be without one, though Naga rebel group were and still active in the state. Surprisingly only a few of these are officially banned. Out of 40 rebel groups in Manipur, only six to eight were banned. Many of these groups are described as 'inactive' but some such groups have been revived from time to time. So insurgencies never peter out in the Northeast, even though insurgents do.

Phizo faded away to make way for a Muivah in the Nagaland but, soon there was a Khaplang to challenge Muivah. In Tripura when Hrangkhawl called it a day after ten years of bloodletting there was a Ranjit Deb Barma and a Bishwamohan Deb Barma, ready to take his place. Even in Mizoram, we have no Mizo rebel leader took to the Jungles after the 1986 accord but smaller ethnic groups like the Brus and the Hmars have taken to armed struggle in the last two decades, looking for their own share in the state. Throughout the last six decades, the same drama has been repeated, state after state. As every successive Indian government tried to nationalize the political space in the northeast by pushing ahead with mainstreaming efforts.

Peace process in Nagaland began in 1997. When a ceasefire agreement was signed with NSCN (IM) and in 2001 with NSCN (K). Formal talks began in 2001. Since then Government of India and leaders of Naga rebel groups have been engaged by different governments at New Delhi. But, no reasonable solution have been found by either of them. Government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and after Nov 2008 with Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram has expressed its sincere concern to resolve the Naga issues in the time frame of one to two years provided, rebel groups to unite as one and come forward for talk. The two sides have been talking for over a decade now, but a settlement to the Naga issue has proved illusive. Hopefully, this on going talk between the centre and rebel group will break the deadlock and take concrete steps towards resolving the issues.

A breakthrough isn't easy considering the history of the Naga insurgency. At this juncture when a common man, FNR, Churches and other organizations are hopeful and extending their support for a solution with GOI, the rival faction of NSCN, (Khaplang group) is talking in a different voice. Sunday 21st March at Khehoi, Ato Kilonser Mr Kitovi Zhimomi stated that, "possibility of resumption of more bloodshed amongst the Nagas exists if a solution less than sovereignty is reached between India and other Naga group". It seems that, GPRN/NSCN who were earlier having soft approach for solution without sovereignty and Greater Nagalim have become more of a hurdle than the facilitators.

Mr Kitovi Zhimomi of GPRN/ NSCN on the 30th Republic Day at Khehoi has also addressed the gathering and said, "If the public gives support for solution to only one group, they will also be responsible for any bloodshed". To prove his point, Khitovi cited events happened in the past when 16 point agreement resulted in distrust amongst Nagas followed by bloodshed. He further said that, "Any accord is signed with India, bloodshed in the state has followed. Do we need another accord to start another round of bloodshed?

The statement as quoted above had been the talking points among the people. There is a utter confusion among the people about the peace talk and the possible outcome. Common man is also scared of another possibility of Inter factional clashes/ killings in Nagaland. It's all because either of the factions have not come together on a single platform despite having the FNR which is playing an important role in decreasing the factional killings.

A final settlement to the Naga issue tends to founder on two issues: the question of Naga sovereignty and the demand for a Greater Nagalim. Both issues are tied to the Naga leadership's larger concerns about their community's political and cultural rights. Paradoxically, demand for Greater Nagalim and Sovereignty is more for personal rehabilitation of top leaders of factions, rather than for benefits of Nagas.

It is known fact that Muivah is pressurizing for Greater Nagalim to include his native in the demand. Naga sovereignty is being demanded by Khaplang to extend his boundaries with India. But, should absolute sovereignty from the Indian nation state be seen as a necessary condition for preserving their rights? The experience of independent India reveals, that most linguistic and ethnic sub nationalities have successfully addressed this question with in the framework of Indian constitution which provides sufficient guarantees for the rights of cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities.

The NSCN should be more flexible on sovereignty issue and negotiate for political autonomy. The federal principle enshrined in the Indian constitution allow a great deal of flexibility on this front. Similarly NSCN & GPRN/ NSCN must revisit their demands for a greater Nagalim. The region is like a 'salad plate' of different ethnic and linguistic nationalities. Any redrawing of boundaries will definitely trigger unrest in the neighborhood including in Myanmar where many Naga tribes live.

People of the state are as it is troubled and economically harassed by taxes imposed on everything by the entire UGs group in the state. Another fear is also cropping up is Inter factional clashes and killings which has been relatively gone as Zero in the year 2009 and state has seen the peace.

An end to Naga insurgency will have enormous impact on the northeastern societies. The Naga rebellion has inspired and influenced numerous insurgencies in the region. Thousands of lives have been lost as a result. Peace in Nagaland will trigger development and trade in the region, unlocking the potential of its people. We must end the cycle of bloodletting and corruption which has crippled the region's prospects. That will also seal Muivah's and other Naga leader's place in history provided government and Naga rebels work out a deal and 'Go For Peace'.


* Robert Lanky ( freelancer based in North East ) contributes regularly to e-pao.net. The writer can be reached at robertlanky(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on April 11th, 2010.



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