The framework agreement between GOI and the NSCN (IM) has been in the news, social media and the talk of dinner conversations ever since the signing. There is scepticism mixed with hope. If a final solution that is acceptable to all does come about, then it would be a game changer. It could result in opportunities and a chance for Naga society to focus on improving our quality of life without the distraction that a volatile situation brings. It could result in the public being able to focus on bringing corruption down. It might also allow the police to actually stand up and do their job without fear of reprisal from the groups. At the same time, there is also a possibility that the accord fails to bring peace and bloodshed and more factions emerge.
The Naga National Movement and the Final Settlement
I was born and brought up during the wave of the Naga National Movement. I have always wondered if I would ever see the matter being resolved. We Nagas have travelled thus far, and even after successive agreements and accords starting with the Nine Point Agreement in 1949 with India. Whenever these agreements are discussed Nagaland experiences a rollercoaster of emotions of both hope and despair. The latest “Peace Accord” signed on 3rd August 2015 is a small step after 18 years of negotiation. One will hope that the final agreement will not take another 15 years. The fact that the Indian Prime Minister did not sign the Framework of Peace Agreement may have the bearing that the final settlement is yet to evolve. It is going to take some more time. While time and tide will not wait for the Nagas, we see that the world will keep changing and developing. Yet, with this sensational step, can we begin to hope that this is the right time for a final solution?
India and the Nagas have not been able to see eye to eye for many years. Even now, the majority of mainland India continue to treat Nagas as foreigners and are even ignorant about our states location. For many of them, the Naga National issue is not a serious matter. A nation with a history of maharajas, kshatriyas and sudras, where the majority are from a different religion will not be able to understand the aspiration of the Nagas without enough dialogue. Nagas often quote Mahatma Gandhi’s statement “I want you to feel that India is yours. I feel that the Naga Hills are mine just as they are yours … I believe in the brotherhood of man. I do not believe in forced union”. But India had only one Mahatma Gandhi and many did not feel the same or think along similar lines. Successive Indian Prime Ministers in the past have failed in solving the Naga National question. However, the fault for being unable to resolve the issue cannot be solely placed on India’s Prime Ministers and interlocutors. Our own Naga leaders might not have been experienced enough in diplomacy and lacked the guidance and knowledge to bring about a negotiated settlement that could meet the expectations of our difficult-to-please Naga society. We Nagas were in our own comfortable world and have looked at it from a Naga centric view. But for negotiations to work, it always requires some give and take, and we probably need to have a different perspective and put ourselves in the shoes of the other camp. With the signing of the Peace Agreement, the mood of Indians and Nagas are again hopeful and fearful in resolving this long standing conflict. This time there seems to be less opposition from our neighbours Assam, Manipur and Arunachal. Our fates are tied together and a Naga solution would be beneficial for all. There will be challenges in industrialising and making the region economically independent as long as there is armed conflict in the region. It is in the best interest of all to avoid promoting political and emotional slogans such as territorial integrity and hard-line opinions but rather view things with an open mind and look at an option that is mutually beneficial for all. The leaders have to lead the way in by promoting brotherhood and peaceful coexistence. We and our neighbours must be reconciliatory and accept the fact that we each have weaknesses. Can we hope for better days?
The present ongoing consultation called by the NSCN (IM) is noteworthy. Stakeholders from all sections of society now need to step up and sensitise the masses. It is time we now realistically asked ourselves where we want Nagaland to be in the next five years and take concrete decisions to achieve that. Are we capable of creating our own world and taking advantage of the opportunities that being part of the global village provides or are we going to let things remain the same? There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The reality of a final solution is now at our door steps but it needs to be done right.
There is a relationship of interdependence in the world today. Something that happens in China affects the economy of many countries and indirectly Nagaland as well. The core features in the Framework of Peace Agreement such as “shared sovereignty” and the “Pan Naga Hoho” between the two entity of India and Nagaland must consider the ground reality, and fulfil the aspiration of the Naga people. Nagas cannot remain inconclusive or indecisive but accept the ground reality. We cannot be too sensitive and self-centered and bogged down with a rigid one track mind. As professed publicly the final settlement must be honourable by recognizing the “unique history of the Nagas.” The Nagas at the same time should respect the unique history and culture of the Indians. Building peaceful co-existence and friendship must be rooted with the impending final settlement. What must be agreed on is the deadline for the final agreement to be signed and accomplished. We should not have to wait another 18 long years. We can only pray and hope that good sense will prevail and our leaders egos take a back seat, so that we can soon witness a final settlement of the Naga National Movement.