From Discord to Accord

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♦ Three, the Centre would recognise the unique culture of the Nagas; and

♦ Four, the Centre would be amenable to considering more autonomy to the Naga-inhabited areas outside Nagaland.

An understanding is in sight for the NSCN(I-M) cadres to give up arms although how the arms stockpiles held by them will be decommissioned is still to be worked out.

RS Pandey, who was the interlocutor for the Naga peace talks between February 2010 and December 2013, tells Tehelka that the reference to “Indian political system and governance” is a euphemism for working within the framework of the Constitution. Pandey draws a reasonable inference based on the speeches delivered after the signing of the agreement and the body language of the two parties that the NSCN (I-M) would have conceded to the Centre’s demand that the unity and integrity of India is non-negotiable and agreed to work towards a resolution within the ambit of the Constitution. The Centre, in turn, would have agreed to consider autonomy for the Naga-inhabited areas in the adjoining states and strengthen certain provisions of the Article 371 (A) which confers a special status on Nagaland. “The accord can be expected to send out a positive message for peace in the region [and] for development in consonance with the genius of the Naga people. It could create a salutary environment for other groups,” says Pandey, a special invitee to the BJP national executive who served as Union petroleum secretary and chief secretary of Nagaland and is fluent in the Nagamese language.

K Padmanabhaiah, who served as the interlocutor for the Naga peace talks before Pandey, tells Tehelka that in his last report to the government in 2009 he had dwelled upon the issue of autonomy and the possible transfer of some subjects from the Concurrent to the State list to meet the aspirations of the Naga society at large. Padmanabhaiah says he found Muivah as an intelligent and obstinate personality; “a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist” and a “difficult but pleasant man”. He attributes the signing of the accord in no small measure to the decisiveness and boldness of the Modi Government, a sentiment shared by Pandey, too. Pandey, who has had a nearly two-decade-long association with Nagaland, feels that the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government could have settled the Naga issue by 2012 but it failed to do so.

The genesis of the latest agreement goes back to 2011-12 when the NSCN (I-M) agreed to abide by the Indian Constitution although at the time they were insistent on the transfer of Naga dominated areas in the districts of Tamenlong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel in Manipur. It is widely anticipated that the latest accord will bring about reconciliation with the Naga insurgents but the other factions such as NSCN (Khaplang), which claimed responsibility for the 4 June ambush that killed 18 soldiers of the Indian Army’s Dogra Regiment; NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) and NSCN (Reformation) or the Naga National Council (NNC) have not reacted so far as they await for more details to emerge from the accord. Political reactions have been circumspect with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi giving a qualified welcome to the accord. Gogoi felt that keeping such an important document under wraps raises doubts that the peace deal might affect the interests of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. A sitting Member of Parliament from Nagaland and a former chief minister of the state, Neiphiu Rio, was reported as saying that there is still no clarity as to whether the nscn (I-M)’s demand for a Greater Nagaland has been “dropped”. However, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) President Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhaw, a former militant-turned politician, told Northeast Today, a local monthly magazine, he was of the view that the accord would encourage other insurgent groups to initiate peace talks with the Centre.

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