It may have taken 68 years for New Delhi to overcome the geographical barriers which separated it from Kohima but now is perhaps as good a time as any to build on the 3 August 2015 framework agreement it signed with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) by focussing on the psychological integration of all sections of the Naga people. Otherwise, somewhere in India, an Awang Newmei could become another casualty of ignorance and prejudice.
Awang, who hails from Jalukie town of Nagaland’s Peren district, was criminally assaulted in Gurgaon, Haryana, in October 2014. After beating Awang to a pulp, he was let off with the warning: “We want to send a message to all of you in the Northeast. If you guys from Manipur or Nagaland come here, we will kill you.” The bigotry and the mindless violence of it wrankle to this day.
The New Delhi Accord, which potentially has consequences and implications for India’s external environment, could still unravel if other Naga insurgent groups, notably an NSCN faction led by SS Khaplang from the Hemi Naga tribe in Myanmar, do not give peace a chance or forces inimical to India’s interests choose to invest more than ever in the future of the United National Liberation Front of West South-East Asia (UNLFWSEA), which includes a faction of United Liberation Front of Assam headed by Paresh Barua, among others. Incidentally, the accord comes exactly 40 years after the signing of the 1975 Shillong Accord which was rejected by Muivah and Swu, who went on to form the NSCN (I-M) in 1980.
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As any person familiar with the Naga way of life in general and the NSCN (I-M) in particular will tell you, the nature of the Naga people is such that if you explain your position logically and with no arrogance, then they will appreciate it and reciprocate likewise. Which is why it was heartening to note the use of words employed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party swears by cultural homogenity, and Thuingaleng Muivah alike.
In Modi’s words, “Today’s agreement is a shining example of what we can achieve when we deal with each other in a spirit of equality and respect, trust and confidence; when we seek to understand concerns and try to address aspirations; when we leave the path of dispute and take the high road of dialogue…. Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem but the beginning of a new future. We will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems, but also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige.”