Corruption, ‘veiled communism’ and Northeast
NEW DELHI, MARCH 23: Post breakup of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin was not popular among Russians for a number of reasons, including the poorly performing economy. His team gave a spin for a while that the best way to beat rivals was to shape himself as ‘anti-communist’.
This small episode has some lessons for the Northeast where some ‘revolutionary’ ideas were encouraged but strong influences of Christianity did not allow leftist ideologies to thrive. But the biggest ‘unspoken’ vice of communist politics ~ the Corruption ~ has thrived.
Some of it came out before the media ~ paradoxically during the stint of Indrajit Gupta, India’s only communist Home Minister in the 1990s. In December 1996, one data revealed by the Union Home Ministry said in the ‘last 25 years’ ~ that is between 1971 and 1996 ~ the Centre has spent a whopping Rs 30,000 crore in Nagaland. In a population of 12 lakh, thus the data revealed that on an average Rs 25 lakh was supposed to have been spent per person.
Bravo Congress leaders of the time and also regional parties and all Chief Ministers ~ where did the money vanish?
One easy argument is that the huge shares of the money went to corrupt Babus and unscrupulous Netas. The then Home Minister Gupta later said these figures had a gory tale for all. The United Front Government under HD Deve Gowda was still spirited and wanted to pour in more money. The ‘IAS’ ~ our famous ‘I am Sorry Club’ knew how to smile around.
So did the business community atGuwahati, Dimapur and of course in Delhi.
The army bosses transferred during that time include one Lt Gen SS Grewal with whom I interacted a lot on more than one occasion. His diagnosis of various issues was also unique. Of course, a strong case was made out that the ‘political problem’ such as the one facing Nagaland could hardly have an essentially a military solution. The peace talks were still far off.
Lt Gen Grewal, who later in 1998, became Adjutant General in the Army Headquarters in 1998 had also said that pouring in money too was no solution to the problems faced by Nagas.
During my interaction with a few IB officials serving and having retired at Kohima then, I was informed of a diary noting wherein Dimapur was described as a ‘town of unfinished buildings and new buildings’. Today, in 2023, we need not elaborate much on that. One retired IB official later used to pen columns for Nagaland newspapers as well.
Once he told me, “No one wants to live on charity. Everyone is very proud. But there is an unwritten policy. Condemn New Delhi’s funding policy and yet grab them when the opportunity comes”. This is also an episode one need not speak much.
Well, if we thought Congress leaders had failed, so did regional leaders across the region. Moreover in many cases even Congress leaders virtually ran ‘one-man shows’ in their respective States following almost a communist pattern. For decades, and elections after elections, Gegong Apang in Arunachal Pradesh was the undisputed Congress leader. In Mizoram, another Congress veteran Lalthanhawla did not allow any second rung leaders to come up.
About him the joke circulated by a journalist friend of mine was that Lalthanhawla was the ‘only Indian Chief Minister who visits Mizoram frequently’.
In Nagaland, of course it took years for leaders like Hokishe Sema, SC Jamir, JB Jasokie, IK Sema, KL Chishi, Chingwang Konyak and Shikiho Sema to fight it out amongst themselves. Of course no leader’s ‘monopoly’ was allowed till 1995.
The powerful AGP leaders in Assam could not show any stewardship or sincerity to pull out the State from backwardness. Thus, insurgency in Nagaland or even the rise of ULFA in Assam had many facets and the causes were multiple, including historical, geographical, political, economic and even a strong sense of tribal identity. Many years back, there was another problem ~ the fear of the unknown. Shillong’s parochial violence had other tales to tell.
In 2023 yet again, these need not be retold again. The Centre too is by now well informed.
But in the context of Nagaland, as some of us are waiting patiently for a final peace pact and ‘some others’ are quite busy to delay it, if not sabotage it ~ there are some lessons to be learnt from the past.
At one point, at a meeting of regional leaders of all Northeastern States at Itanagar, Late Vamuzo had highlighted one crucial fact. He had said that in some ways, the North East India was already ‘dotted with graves of half-baked and failed accords’.
A flamboyant leader that he was, Vamuzo had pointed out the 16-Point Agreement (1960) and the Shillong Accord (1975) of Nagas, the Assam Accord (1985), the Mizoram Accord (1986), the Tripura Accord of 1988 and the Bodo Accord of 1994. In the last two and half decades since the Itanagar meeting, a few more such accords have come to pass.
But have we achieved what we really desired? To this query too, I am too keen to share what another former Nagaland Chief Minister Late JB Jasokie used to say. “My Naga people are suffering from Typhoid, New Delhi has sent medicines and a team of expert doctors for Malaria.”
Finally, Ho Chi Minh had raised a guerrilla army in Vietnam, promising them a Utopian communist future. But what transpired was a nation ruled by corrupt party officials, with no rights or civil liberty. The theory peddled by Ho Chi Minh was far removed from what he promised. Indian democracy in Delhi has been left-leaning, and yes, I rest my argument here.