Unity wall blocking Naga unification process
THE NSCN-K’s ambush on 6 Dogra Regiment in Chandel district in 2015 and the latest incident of attacking a patrol party of the Assam Rifles in Mon district of Nagaland are not expected to pose any hurdle to the Naga peace talks, but the demands of the NSCN-IM for integration of all contagious Naga areas, remain tricky as ever. Renewed pledge taken during Monday’s observance of the 17th anniversary of the June 18, 2001 public movement for protecting the territorial integrity of Manipur leaves no doubt that the civil society organisations, which are fiercely opposed to the idea of breaking up Manipur to settle the decades old Naga issue, will never relent from their stand. The massive and violent public reactions in Manipur against the then Central government extending the ceasefire to all Naga areas ‘without territorial limits’ had demonstrated that the people of Manipur will not accept any move or policy to distort its geographical boundary. Thus, to the Centre and the NSCN-IM, it is Manipur that remains a primary roadblock before an acceptable solution could be arrived at, regardless of the Naga rebel group’s insistence that the inclusion of Naga areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh is essential for reaching a solution. Considering the prevailing circumstances, it is getting clear that the Naga peace process, India’s most anticipated political show, is getting complicated with each passing day, especially over the issue of amalgamation of Naga inhabited areas. Speculations were rife that a final agreement would be sealed before the Nagaland assembly election, which was eventually conducted as scheduled in February this year. And as such, the huge expectations remained a pipe dream as the polls were accorded priority by the Central authorities than fulfilling the yearning for peace.
That the democratic process was preferred over possible solution to the Naga political issue also testified that the latter exercise is filled with uncertainties. The Central government involving six other Naga armed organisations, that too after over a decade of negotiations with the NSCN-IM leaderships alone, could also be construed as realisation of the Centre that if there are any roadblocks, then the peace parleys would be redundant, or continue to elude solution without the consensus of all ethnic groups and regional governments. In fact, there seems to a sense of urgency on the part of the Centre to expedite the talk as was evident from RN Ravi, the Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace process and signatory to the framework agreement, holding extensive discussions not just with the armed groups but also engaging leaders of Naga as well as non-Naga civil society organisations. This constant pushing of the envelope to make the framework inclusive and comprehensive is something that has not been tried in the past, thus giving the impression that the Central leaders are convinced about the necessity for greater involvement of all concerned stakeholders in the Naga peace process. The peace process; which is turning out to be a complex and tortuous journey, now commonly referred to a Naga framework agreement, is also shrouded in mystery and criticised for the secrecy that surrounds it. As it is now apparent that the Union government is facing some constraints over revealing all the details and the progress made in the talks, it is imperative for the government to take the political leadership cutting across the spectrum into confidence before committing itself to any particular organisation or settling the issue with any ethnic group.