Nagaland CM’s friendly gesture
REGARDLESS of mixed reactions generation from different quarters, Nagaland chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu’s first visit to Imphal on Tuesday gives a hint that change in government or more particularly rule by like-minded political parties could pave the way for improving inter-state relations. Expression by Liezietsu that only when there is peace, there can be development in the entire North East region, where the problems are almost the same, also suggests that harmonious co-existence of the people is most vital for settling all differences, if any. Only time will tell whether or not there is any substance in his claim that ‘some leaders’ in the past had exploited the situation for their selfish ends and created inimical feelings among different communities. But such comments from a responsible leader could not be dismissed as political rhetoric for it is a fact that there is discord between the states of Nagaland and Manipur since the past many decades. Another remark of his that with the change in government there is no tension between the two states, however, seems to be premature at the juncture as the decades of ill-will against one another might take some more time to dissipate. Many incidents where Manipuris were subjected to abuse or assault while passing through Nagaland section of the National Highways-2 are living testimonies that the neighbouring state has not been friendly or safe zone.
In-spite of his assurance to work for improving the inter-state relationships, there are various unsettled issues that could surface afresh and undermine efforts of the two governments for regional harmony and common development. For instance, the framework agreement signed between the NSCN-IM and the Centre remains in troubled water on account of objections being raised by some NE states that in finding an amicable solution to the Naga political issue that mainly centred on integration of all contagious Naga-inhabited areas in the north-east region, there should be no compromise on the territorial integrity of the neighbouring states. Though the peace pact raised hopes of improving the conflict situation in the region, the fact remains that Nagaland’s neighbours are wary of the Naga outfit’s ‘expansionist designs’. Referred to as Greater Nagaland or Nagalim, its map includes five hill districts of Manipur, two of Arunachal Pradesh and large swathes of Assam bordering Nagaland. The said agenda had already witnessed violent protests in Manipur when agitators targeted and torched government institutions and political offices in 2001 after the centre agreed to extend the ambit of the 1997 ceasefire with the NSCN-IM to areas beyond Nagaland. Moreover, settling tensions prevalent in Manipur-Nagaland border villagers would decisive in ensuring harmonious co-existence of the people. To name a few, the border conflicts of April 2012 and June 2016 that broke out between villagers of Jessami in Ukhrul with Meluri and Matikhru in Phek district, as well as some local organisations of Nagaland prohibiting entry of people from Mao in 2015, should serve as a good lesson that mere assurances at the government level would not suffice in healing wounds of the affected villagers. Notwithstanding the border bickering and divergent political ambitions, the Nagaland CM’s visit drives home the message that time has come to act and live as friendly neighbours.