Kohima, November 11: Now that the Government of India and Naga rebel groups have agreed to sign a final agreement to end violence in the region, especially in Naga inhabited areas where violence has taken enough tolls in the last more than seven decades of insurgency, the impending solution with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGS) may not be the end of the Naga separatist movement as there are still outfits like Naga National Council (NNC) factions and the NSCN (Khaplang), who are not part of the current peace process.
Still there is a strong hope that semblance of peace and progress would dawn in the region as some separatist groups are likely to follow suit and abjure violence, as desired by the people. While the Union Government is trying to bring all insurgent groups onboard the peace process, the foremost responsibility of the civil society organizations and State Governments in the region should mount on damage control, and peace and reconciliation, which are the paramount to bring different ethnic communities in the region who are in loggerhead with different issues ranging from land dispute to ethnic disparity and identity crisis. This ethnicity and tribal politics is deeply rooted in the region which has complicated the issues, flaring up into insurgency movement to protect each one’s interest.
Some problems shouldn’t drag on, but there are some obstructionist forces which government has failed to rein in to resolve the pertinent issues like Naga political issue. Another problem in the Northeast of India is communities failing to neither understand other’s problem, nor willing to accept the difficulties of each other, which has compounded the problem. But in the midst of this, there are still some organizations which are on the move to bring communities and ethnic groups together to a meeting point where they could reason together and narrow down the differences.
Naga organizations like the Naga Hoho, Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), among others, have been reaching out to the neighbouring states like Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar in an effort to understanding the problems collectively. These organizations have helped narrow down difference and stiffness of Nagaland’s neighbours on some issues.
The decision of the NMA to embark on peace and reconciliation mission once again with the mothers in Manipur is a welcome step. Nothing is impossible when people sit across the table and reason together. As neighbours, Nagas will have to share their future with Meiteis, Assamese and Arunachalees. While Naga militants are talking of shared sovereignty with the Government of India, let the Nagas share their future with their neighbours.
Naga organizations would have to do more peace and reconciliation initiatives with the neighbours, particularly in Manipur where Meitei and Kuki communities are dead against solution which would have impact on them in Manipur. But going by all indications from the ongoing talks between the Union Government and the Naga groups, there would be no redrawing of state boundaries and therefore Nagaland’s neighbours should not be apprehensive of the impending solution. Granting of autonomy to Naga people living in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam would in no way affect the boundaries of those states. They will remain part and parcel of those states, as New Delhi has rejected Naga groups’ demand for sovereignty and integration. Cultural integration, which the negotiating parties have agreed to, would in no way have negative impact on the neighbouring states.
To dispel the misgivings both Central Government and State Government would have to meet cross sections of people in the neighbouring states. While alongside Naga civil organizations and the church too have to get down to work once more to bring people closer to understanding each other.
Reconciliation goes beyond conflict resolution to sustain peace and unity, which is paramount significance to usher in progress and development in the region. But over the decades, Naga community has been ripped by disunity, and as people are expecting end of violence, much works would have to been done to bring all sections together to a common platform to chalk out for their future. Naga people living outside the Nagaland State have not much fissure among themselves, unlike Nagas of Nagaland, who are so much into tribal and community politics, which has driven them further apart. And in the midst of this, a section of people has emerged asking the Nagas of outside the State not to interfere in the affairs of Nagaland. Or rather has asked outsiders not to decide the political future of Nagas of Nagaland. Such rhetoric and initiative of those has further sowed discord in the already fragile society.
While in the journey of Nagas’ fight for self-determination so much of animosity, disunity and discord have been sowed, notwithstanding some so-called mainstream Naga organisations relentlessly on the job to bring Nagas together; which was also an attempt to strengthen the Naga movement with a consensus voice to resolve the issue with the Government of India.
Solution, whether honourable and acceptable or not but it should be the starting point for the Nagas to reason together and map out their future. Reconciliation is a must for the Nagas to progress as one community and for this all stakeholder should come together across the table and sort out differences for the sake of peace and development.
The State Government, civil society organizations, church and tribal bodies should work together in this effort with pragmatism. Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) which has been brokering peace between the warring Naga insurgent factions should continue to lead in peace and reconciliation mission till all major players come to terms. Like in the past, the burden and task should also be equally carried on by Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), the influential church body in the state.
As long as Naga politicians keep on to exploit fake patriotism to fulfil their political ambitions, and as long as some people continue to manoeuvre public views by sowing chauvinism and division in their own self-centredness, there is not likely to be a real reconciliation. Reconciliation is an over-arching process which includes the search for truth, justice, forgiveness, healing and so on. At its simplest, it means finding a way to live together with former enemies – not essentially to love them, or forgive them, or forget the past in any way, but to coexist with them, to develop the degree of teamwork needed to share society together, so that they have better lives together.