Other stakeholders must be brought together
Prasanna Mohanty | March 3, 2010
When a ceasefire was announced with the most violent and dominant Naga insurgency group, the Nationalist Social Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), in 1997, it was hailed as a big step to bring peace to the region and eventually integrate the fiercely independent Naga tribes into the national mainstream. Barring minor incidents of violence and violations of ceasefire agreements, peace has prevailed but negotiations have not moved an inch forward in the past twelve and half years. The reason is not far to seek. What is essentially a political problem is being dealt by the bureaucrats in their typical bureaucratic ways.
That is why nobody knows what precisely former home secretary K Padmanabhaiya talked in his numerous meetings with Naga leaders, sometimes in India but mostly abroad, for 10 years. (Former Mizoram Governor Swaraj Kaushal was the first interlocutor when talks began in 1998. Padmanabhaiya replaced him a year later and continued till 2009.) Even now, as it was at the beginning, the two contentious issues remain the same--demand for complete sovereignty for Nagaland and formation of a Greater Nagaland by assimilating Naga inhabited areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The baton has now passed to another bureaucrat, R S Pandey, a Nagaland cadre IAS officer and former chief secretary of the state who retired a month ago as petroleum secretary.
Pandey would begin afresh with Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of NSCN(I-M), who flew in last week for the talks. While it is understood that the sovereignty issue was a mere posturing by the Naga leaders after the talks began in 1998, the talks broke down over unification of Naga inhabited areas. On the one hand, the Naga leaders are adamant that all Naga inhabited areas be made a single geographical and political unity, on the other the states of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam have ruled out any such possibility.
Assemblies in these states have even passed resolution pledging to maintain territorial unity and integrity. When, some years ago, the central government extended ceasefire with Nagas to districts of Manipur, the state went up in flame. The only way any progress can be made on this issue, therefore, is through a political dialogue involving these states, which has not happened in all these years. While it can be safely assumed that these states are unlikely to yield ground, any alternate formula, like granting autonomy to Naga inhabited areas outside Nagaland and providing powers to Nagaland to carry out development work in these areas, can only move forward if other states are involved in the negotiations.
The other key to solving the Naga problem is to bring all the insurgent groups to the negotiation table. NSCN (I-M) may be the most prominent and powerful group, but it would be foolish to assume that any negotiated settlement can be achieved without involving the other faction, NSCN (Khaplang) and the Naga National Council. These warring groups were brought together by the local church and Naga Reconciliation Forum was set up last year to take the talks further.
But it is strange the government has invited Muivah alone for the talks.
So what happens if the impossible were to happen and Muivah’s talks with the interlocutor R S Pandey succeeded? It would have no meaning unless other Naga insurgency groups accept it and the states of Assam, Arunahcal Pradesh and Manipur endorse it. What is the point of talking to Muivah alone then?
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