Sunday, March 26, 2023

Naga Solution: It’s time for 60 MLAs led by CM to act positively

S C Jamir, Former CM & Governor 

 “No one can stop an idea whose time has come” so had proudly proclaimed Voltaire years ago. A new idea, when floated by an individual or a handful few, is scorned in the beginning; but when the ‘Time’ really comes, none can stop it. We are at such a crossroads as a human race. At present Nagaland is a classic case yearning for a new idea to resolve the seven-decade old Naga problem. Leaders cutting across party lines have been fighting for a final political settlement since long, but it has eluded Nagaland. Some reasons are known to us; some of these are also factors created by the Government of India and of course a few by us ~ the Naga people. Let me take the debate a step further and say that ‘we, the Nagas of Nagaland’ are also responsible. For me, it seems as if we have been through ages. But then, what is this new idea all about that was doing the rounds in the Naga political circle? The Chief Minister, Mr Neiphiu Rio and perhaps some of his colleagues in their political wisdom propounded the idea of an All-Party Government or now popularly known as ‘opposition-less’ government with the declared objective of fulfilling the passionate desire of the people of Nagaland for the earliest political settlement. But this experiment though looks outlandish is an expression of the total commitments of the 60 elected members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly to do everything possible under their command to resolve the Naga political problem by all means. The electorate of Nagaland State firmly believe that their elected representatives shall steadfastly adhere to the sanctity of their solemn resolution. It is evident that such a monumental decision was made after fully analyzing the various dimensions of the whole Naga Political Problem. Seven decades of Naga political struggle has given reputation to the leaders transformed some novice underground members into heroes, allowed corruption to spread its dreaded tentacles and created scope for poor law and order situation. But sadly the common Nagas are languishing under the shadow of these hosts of problems. The stakeholders in this political quagmire are the Government of India, the Nagaland State Government, obviously the underground and more importantly and the ignored factors ~ the faceless Naga people. This opposition-less or party-less government was necessitated on account of the prevailing situation in the State, they argued. Besides factions, rifts and divisions, there is no unity among the Nagas themselves. In the past many experiments have been tried at different points of time to find an honorable settlement but to no avail. What the problem like cancer does to human being continued into the Naga political-social-moral fabric. Such continued turmoil has made the Nagas wary of politics and politicians; and people in general feel cheated and betrayed. Since the early 1960s, people have been promised the moon and the star, yet nothing concrete has materialized.

When the NDA, led by Shri Narendra Modi, took over the reign of administration of the country, he promised to settle the Naga Political problem within a timeframe. Accordingly various positive measures were taken to fructify the promise. The collective leadership of the NSCN (IM) who insisted to carry on the talks in different parts of foreign countries were persuaded to recognize and acknowledge the political realities and persuaded to continue the talks in India. Thereafter serious political talks were held in New Delhi. More than twenty years they were fully engaged in the political dialogue with the Government of India to find an honorable solution to the Naga problem. It is presumed that all issues ~ sovereignty, integration, constitution and flag ~ were discussed, debated and argued during these more than 20 years of political parleys. It is known to one and all that it was the NSCN (IM) that initiated for ceasefire in 1997 with HD Deve Gowa and IK Gujral, they were prompted by the then prevailing situations both internal and external to opt for peaceful means to pursue political negotiations. It was at the bidding of the NSCN (IM) that the time, dates and venues were decided in different parts of foreign countries for political negotiations. The representative of the GoI obediently followed their dictates all along. The Naga people confidently ‘presumed’ that the parties involved in the negotiations had thoroughly dissected every word and phrase of the political issues before them during more than two decades of political talks in foreign countries. Recognizing the political imperatives and its realities that the Naga political problem has to be settled with the GoI, in the soil of the Nagas , the collective leadership of the NSCN (IM) had decided to continue the political talks in India which was a positive step, I must say. After a series of talks both within and outside the country, both the leadership of the NSCN (IM) and the Interlocutor of the GoI mutually agreed to draw up in writing a Political Agreement known as the Framework Agreement of 3rd August, 2015. This pact was inked in full media glare. As Isak Chishi Swu was in ICU, Thuingaleng Muivah stole the media limelight along with his senior comrades and several of them from Nagas areas of Manipur. It, of course, encompassed all issues that were mutually agreed upon by the parties involved. This was signed by Isaac Swu, the President of the NSCN (IM), Th. Muivah, the General Secretary of the NSCN (IM) and RN Ravi, the Interlocutor representing the Government of India. The significance of this agreement is that it was signed in the presence of PM Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and also in the presence of all top leaders of the NSCN (IM). The Prime Minister stated that it was a historic agreement because for the first time the leaders of the underground had agreed to join the mainstream of Indian national life. There were handshakes between Central and Naga leaders; applause by clapping their hands and most importantly, no other extraneous issues were raised. It was an explicit and formal expression of finally putting a ‘seal’ on the sacred document of final political settlement. It was signed by both the parties at their own volitions. Under the contemporary political environment in the country and the world, it was given out that ‘we cannot expect better than the Framework Agreement’.

Who signed FA, who should own it?

Now, comes the vital part. The leadership of the NSCN (IM) should not now hesitate to tell the people the ‘achievements’ they have secured for the people. The Naga people are not novice in politics and as such they will wholeheartedly welcome the agreement already made by both the
underground groups. What people passionately desire is for peace and normalcy. They want a stable, peaceful and prosperous future for their children and grandchildren.

Let us be honest and transparent about the contents of both the agreements, the FA of 2015 and the Agreed Position of 2017 signed between GoI and the NNPG ~ an umbrella body of underground groups who generally confined their ‘roles’ within the State of Nagaland. Then comes another significant chapter of Naga history of peace talks. Whatever they have said on February 29, 2012 in a mammoth gathering at Agri-Expo, Chumukedima, in the presence of all underground leaders including Isaac Swu, Th. Muivah, Gen Kholi, Kitovi and galaxy of underground leaders, was as a matter of fact and also a crystal clear sum up story. In that gathering, Late General Khole, in a written speech, declared that according to Th Muivah, Naga independence will not be possible because of the “International situation” and also integration too would not come because of the policy of the Government of India and Myanmar respectively. It is abundantly clear that neither sovereignty nor integration figure in both the Agreements. The leaderships of both the underground groups were honest in what they have declared on 29.2.2012. Since this is the real status of the political agreements, why should it be delayed in the final implementation? For how long will the people of Nagaland be taken for a ride? For how long will they be pawns in the hands of the political people, underground and other anti-social elements? How long will the people of Nagaland remain cut off from the rest of the Nation? For how long the youth of Nagaland will rot in poverty and despair when their counterparts are leading a drastically different life in the rest of the country?

We are witnessing two diametrically different political conundrums today in the political firmament of Nagaland. The Government of India is maintaining a stoic silence over the Naga issue, on the other hand the NSCN (IM) in particular has started revisiting the old and hackneyed issues instead of explaining the significance and contents of the Framework Agreement of August 3, 2015 to the people. Even though the people are daily yearning the dawn of the new political dispensation on the basis of the two agreements, but so far no clear indication from the Government of India. The situation has become very delicate, critical, crucial and also laden with imponderable consequences. Legal and Constitutional legitimacy is required to make intervention in such a situation. At present only elected members of the Nagaland legislative Assembly fulfill those criteria. They are people’s representatives, they are constitutionally under obligation and they are in a position to do what no one else can. With the mandate of the people and without any political color, the 60 MLAs in their political wisdom decided to form a party-less government with the sole objective of resolving the political problem of Nagaland on the basis of the Agreements made with the GOI. To fortify their solemn commitment towards this end, they have passed a unanimous resolution on which reads… “The Parliamentary Committee, appeals to the negotiating parties to refer to competencies as reflected in the Framework Agreement of 3rd August 2015 signed between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) to arrive at a mutually acceptable definition of competencies to resolve this contentious issue at the earliest, and bring about a final solution that is honorable, acceptable and inclusive. Since the talks has been concluded officially on 31st October 2019, the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Hon’ble Home Minister are urged upon to invite the NSCN (IM) leaders for an early conclusion”. This resolution is most significant and articulate, truly reflecting the genuine aspirations of the entire electorate of Nagaland who are passionately waiting for an early conclusion of the Naga political problem. Furthermore, it encompasses the whole range of the Manifesto of the BJP ~ “Election for solution”. Now that all MLAs have been forged into ‘one entity’ as Naga representatives with single-mindedness and purpose, nothing will remain out of reach. This is time to demonstrate the sacred duty vested on them by adopting a unanimous resolution in the Assembly urging both the Government of India and two groups of the underground to implement the agreements within a time-frame i.e. within one month or so. The entire people of Nagaland shall rise above party and even ethnic issues and differences and will solidly support such a resolution. This will be the most significant and perhaps historic political step by the Party-less government under the leadership of Mr Neiphiu Rio, the Chief Minister of Nagaland. This will reflect a sincerity of purpose and unlock the door of the present stalemate especially with the NSCN (IM) and usher in a peaceful environment to finally resolve the long standing Naga political problem. I would like to conclude this article with a note of cautious optimism. To be optimistic is one of the great human virtues. To depend on that (optimism) in reality gives strength to fight challenges. Who needs positive thinking and optimism in their hearts more than the Nagas? However, as a senior citizen of India residing in the State of Nagaland, I also owe certain obligations to our people. As a politician, I have been witness to certain things. I have handled some information and saw some file notings and documents. Some of these will die with me as I held the prized offices under the Constitution of India under oath. My note of caution is about the 60 legislators and the State Government run by Mr Rio and in which the NDPP, the BJP and the NPF and even Independents are partners. As we stand today ~ second week of September ~ we know everyone of the stakeholders are not sincere. This is the juncture when we ought to stay away from any kind of Lip Service politics and double standards. Nagas in general and Nagas within the State of Nagaland have seen enough political shenanigans. The Rio-Chingwang Konyak led NDPP as a party has a historical role to play. The MLAs are morally obliged to step aside to ‘facilitate’ a solution ~ something they have pledged. But almost proving the old phrase, Promises are made to be broken, our legislators have not done it so far. They should do it at the earliest. This is the moment of history ~ to make sacrifices. Mr Chief Minister, are you ready for it? The recent track record gives some other indications.

Once the Chief Minister leads in announcing the same, I am sure all other legislators will be compelled to step down. The Government of India and the Naga negotiators and leaders will also come under intense pressure and Solution will be at our doorsteps. Let us be ‘good hosts’ to Peace and Solution. Time to show ~we also are a matured lot of human race; and yes, time to prove that the Naga leaders can make personal and even political sacrifices.