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By Oken Jeet Sandham
Exactly after one month of the NDPP-BJP-led PDA Government in Nagaland, the Government of India has come out with a statement that the territorial integrity of the NE States would not be compromised while settling the longstanding Naga political issue. Addressing a press conference at Guwahati on April 7, Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju said NSCN (IM) had already dropped their demand of sovereignty and other serious issues from their charter of demands.
In fact, one of the contentious issues is the “Naga Integration” and for which the neighboring States have been vehemently opposing to. The neighboring States particularly Assam and Manipur had even passed resolutions in their respective Assemblies that they would oppose tooth and nail to the idea of “Naga Integration” for resolving the chronic Naga issue. They, however, appreciated a peaceful resolution to the issue. So they would surely welcome Rijiju’s statement.
He said, “We are progressing with the peace process with absolute clarity. The neighboring States need not have to worry as there would be no adverse impact. Not even an inch of territories in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh will be affected.” At the same time, these States are ruled by the BJP, besides they are second largest in the PDA Government in Nagaland. Present Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur had already visited Nagaland during the Hornbill Festival but also attended the historic installation of the NDPP-BJP-led PDA Government at the Kohima Local Ground on March 8, 2018.
If the BJP-led Government at the Center is serious about resolving the Naga issue, they can’t have more opportune time than now.
Rijiju also disclosed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement of resolving the Naga issue during his present tenure, and for which the Center would come out with the final version of the Naga Framework Agreement, signed between it and NSCN (IM) in August 2015, to solve the Naga imbroglio within the tenure of the Government.
Interlocutor RN Ravi is yet to state about the nature of resolving the issue, though he hinted early settlement of it on the eve of the last General Elections in Nagaland.
Before the General Elections in Nagaland, BJP National Secretary in-charge of NE and J&K, Ram Madhav at a “felicitation program” for the intending candidates at Dimapur, announced that there should be “Election for Solution” to the Naga issue.
His statement drew flaks from various quarters particularly the civil societies that had been fighting for the “Solution” before the Elections to the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly.
With the slogan – “Solution before Election,” the civil societies under the banner of Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organizations (CCNTHCO) had been holding a series of meetings with the representatives of all political parties in the State. It culminated to the signing of a “Joint Declaration” on January 29 by the Representatives of eleven political parties in Nagaland agreeing to the call of civil societies that they would not issue party tickets to candidates and also would not file nomination papers for the General Elections to the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly.
Surprisingly, the BJP representative who signed the “Joint Declaration” was suspended by the party saying that he was not assigned to sign any document except for attending the meeting called by the CCNTHCO.
As Prime Minister said he would resolve the Naga issue during his present tenure, the solution should come about before the elections to the 17th Lok Sabha due early 2019. At the same time, there cannot be two settlements or three settlements. It should be “one settlement” involving all the stakeholders.
The Government of India has already started political negotiations with six Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs). The only groups that are not part of the current peace process are NNC led by Adino Phizo and NSCN (K). The State Government and many civil societies have been urging the Government of India to bring the two groups to the peace process.
Of late, NSCN (K) has expressed positive sign that they were not adverse to the talks. In fact, they had walked away from the ceasefire with the Government of India in 2015 after maintaining it for 14 long years.
Interestingly, the Government of India failed to highlight the reason why the group had to walk away from the ceasefire after maintaining it for such a long period with them.
If one closely studies the way Delhi dealt with the group during their long ceasefire, it is nothing but a sort of humiliation for the fact that they had never tried to give them even a minimum opportunity for opening up dialogue, whereas they were fully engaged in dialogues with NSCN (IM). They (NSCN-K) became the butt of a joke in the eyes of the world, compelling them to leave the costly ceasefire.
However, sensing that there could never be a permanent solution to the longstanding Naga issue, the TR Zeliang Government had passed “Resolutions” requesting the leaderships of NSCN (K) to return to the ceasefire with the Government of India. They even sent leaders of Naga Hoho and Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization (ENPO) to Myanmar to meet the leaderships of the outfit to convey the resolutions of the State Government and the desire of the Naga people that they should come back to the ceasefire for resumption of peace process with the Government of India. All these measures are essential as no permanent solution to the Naga issue would come about by leaving other groups.
When all these measures and initiatives were taking place, NIA stepped up arresting so many officers in Nagaland and even summoning Zeliang to cooperate with the probe into alleged extortion activities of “banned NSCN (K).” He wondered whether all the initiatives taken by his Government would be misconstrued as “negative” by his political adversaries. He did not rule out his political adversaries’ nefarious games to weaken his political standing as could be seen from the series of summons issued to him and his previous CMO staffs by NIA for alleged payment to NSCN (K).
Ravi often announced stand of the Government of India that it would not attempt for a piecemeal solution to the issue as they had experienced from the past accords. He said any solution should be inclusive, and in that case, NSCN (K) and NNC (Adino) should be participants in the negotiation.
Although Rijiju disclosed Prime Minister’s commitment to settle the issue during his tenure, it is still not clear how many agreements needed to reach a logical conclusion or in what modalities they are going to strike the final deal.