Bogus assurances on ambiguous agreement?
NON-disclosure of contents of the framework agreement, which the Union government signed with the NSCN-IM in August 2015, remains a headache for the Central leaders on account of posers being raised from various quarters on the rationale for keeping the details under wrap while in Manipur obscurity of the pact continues to create ripples. Though speculations were rife that either the Centre or the Naga rebel group would unravel under what understanding the agreement came about, there has been no palpable sign of keenness on the part of parties involved to make the deal public, with the exception of the NSCN-IM periodically issuing statements claiming that the Framework Agreement centres on recognition of legal rights of the Nagas, paves the way for the proclaimed ‘legitimate rights for the integration of Nagas’, transformation of Naga history, etc. The framework agreement was also one of the key issues in the recently conducted Manipur assembly elections while in neighbouring Nagaland, which has been the core zone of the Naga political movement, the pact has often resulted in public leaders voicing suspicion that the agreement could be endorsement of unilateral vision of the Naga signatory. NSCN-IM, on its part, had also gone to the extent of claiming that some individuals are trying to sabotage the peace talks between them and the Central government, thus signifying that the agreement lacks the unequivocal consensus of the Naga public.
Amid such gripping situation arising out of the ambiguous nature of the agreement, the Central Information Commission (CIC) seeking that the pact files be handed over to it, in case the Home Ministry is not willing to disclose the details under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, not only assumes significance but is bound to refuel yet another bout of heated debate, at-least in Manipur. The latest development relates to denial by the Home ministry to share relevant information in-spite of an RTI application filed by one Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an international non-governmental organisation formed to support human rights among members of commonwealth nations. It is learnt that section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act allows withholding information, the disclosure of which will prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with a foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence. Another significant outcome of the RTI application is the report about the Home Ministry claiming that it does not have any files related to the agreement and that they are in the possession of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Taking into account of the Home ministry’s confession that it could not provide the details but still stating that JIC remains under its ambit then it is questionable on what premise many Central ministers, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh, gave assurances during the assembly election campaign that there is ‘no mention of Manipur’ in the framework agreement or contains nothing detrimental to the interest of Manipur and its people.