Rumbling overframework agreement
THOUGH the contents of the framework agreement have not yet been put in the public domain, which is eventually leading to differing perceptions amongst the various stakeholders, the pact between the Government of India and the NSCN-IM signed on August 3, 2015 had brought glimmers of hope amongst the Naga populace. Non-disclosure on what condition or understanding the agreement was reached has been a bone of contention in Manipur, as is evident from the issue dominating election campaigns of almost all the political parties which are in the race for the 60-seat state assembly. While political leaders have been making in a point to refer to the agreement in their speeches, Manipur has been witnessing protest demonstrations and signature campaigns launched by various civil society and student’s organisations with the demand that details of the agreement should be made public. Seriousness of the issue in the context of Manipur could be assuaged from the fact that barely hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during an election rally that the Naga peace accord will not affect the territory of Manipur, chief minister Ibobi Singh insisted that if the agreement was not inimical to Manipur's interests then nothing should prevent the Centre from disclosing its contents. Not to be outdone, BJP's Manipur in-charge and Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar was categorical in stating that the Prime Minister's assurance on the issue was enough. Growing suspicion on contents of the said agreement could also be comprehended from some civil society organisations asking candidates of all political parties to take pledge for exerting pressure upon the Centre to extract contents of the deal.
Amid growing confusion and anxiety arising out of the issue, the run-up to the assembly polls has seen the agreement emerging as a vital electoral tool for the ruling Congress to corner the BJP, which too is leaving no stone unturned to make inroads into Congress bastion. Given that the people in the valley districts, where 40 out of 60 assembly seats are scattered, are vehemently protective about the territorial boundary of Manipur, the contents of the agreement have become even more important. Contrary to the Naga population banking on the latest agreement to pave the way for an amicable solution to the vexed Naga political issue, those settling in the valley pockets have been constantly reminding the Centre that in trying to solve the Naga issue the emotional and territorial integrity of Manipur should not be compromised. For the record, in 2001, protesters had burnt down the state assembly building apart from the agitators targeting government institutions and offices of national political parties located in the state capital when the then NDA government had extended the ceasefire agreement with NSCN-IM to Manipur. Regardless of the valley settlers clearly indicating that they would oppose tooth and nail any attempt to redraw the map of Manipur, there is no doubt that NSCN-IM has been able to galvanise broad consensus amongst the Naga political and social entities with respect to its on-going negotiations with the Centre. Prominent Naga social bodies are known to be amenable to the NSCN-IM’s idea for bringing the Nagas under a single administrative unit. In view of the sharp divisions and suspicion over the framework agreement as well as on-going Naga peace parleys between the Nagas and non-Nagas, it remains to be seen as to how the Centre and the NSCN-IM work towards resolving these extant impediments.