Dec 22, 2005

Nagalim: CM Neiphiu Rio Meets Minister Shivraj Patil to Settle Naga Issue Soon

With Naga militant outfit NSCN (IM) building pressure on the Centre to settle the vexed Naga issue quickly, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio tonight met Home Minister Shivraj Patil urging an early resolution be worked out
With Naga militant outfit NSCN (IM) building pressure on the Centre to settle the vexed Naga issue quickly, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio tonight met Home Minister Shivraj Patil urging an early resolution be worked out. "Both sides should be sincere and should try to resolve the issue soon. It should not take too long," Rio told PTI after meeting Patil at the Home Minister's residence here.

Rio said they discussed the law and order in Nagaland and "also the political situation related to the peace process." NSCN (IM) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah had recently threatened to call off peace talks with the Centre if New Delhi failed to reach a final political settlement of the vexed Naga issue within the current spell of the ceasefire.

"No one should take the Nagas for granted. This is the last tenure of ceasefire we will have with India. Unless Delhi can reach a settlement within this date, they will have to take responsibility for breakdown of the talks," Muivah had told BBC from Bangkok. The current spell of ceasefire between the Centre and NSCN (I-M) expires on January 31.

Peace talks between NSCN(IM) and the Centre had started more than seven years ago and Rio said there was "frustration" among the people because of the delay in working out a resolution.
"I think they have come much closer but discussions are stuck on some major issues. But I am hopeful," he said. Patil showed interest in resolving the issue soon, the Chief Minister said.
SF on the alert against IM Newmai News Network

The security forces seem to be on full combat-alert as the six-month duration of cease-fire between the government of India and the NSCN-IM is nearing its end. The current term ends on January 31, 2006.

While the NSCN-IM has been threatening to break its cease-fire with India if the ongoing dialogues are going to be further prolonged, the security forces, on the other hand, have signalled that they are ready for combat as indicated by GOC (Nagaland) Major General SS Kumar.

The Major General said yesterday in Nagaland that the security forces are prepared to face any eventuality while referring to the threat of NSCN-IM supremo Th Muivah that it will pull out of the current cease- fire and the cadres will go back to the jungles to restart the armed conflict.
On November 3, NSCN-IM general secretary Th Muivah in an exclusive interview with the BBC, had expressed his frustration by threatening to end the current cease-fire.

According to reports carried in today’s edition of Dimapur based dailies, the GOC also came down heavily on the NSCN factions. In an obvious reference to the two warring factions, particularly in the wake of heightened tension prevailing in parts of Nagaland due to clashes between the two factions, IGAR (North) and GOC Nagaland, Maj Gen SS Kumar yesterday warned that the security forces would not tolerate any situation that endangers the common public and that security forces would not hesitate to arrest or engage in combat against any person threatening the safety of the ordinary citizen.

“While we have exercised utmost restraint in using force against the warring factions, we will not hesitate to take action against those threatening the safety of the public by engaging in combat in public places”, the General said at a tete-a-tete after inaugurating the new building of St. Mary’s School at Kezoma in Nagaland on Saturday. He further warned the factions against frequenting or residing in civilian- populated places. Expressing his dismay over the recent clashes between the warring factions in populated areas, the Major General said, “I’ve always been restraining my jawans against engaging with them but they are trained soldiers and their patience is running out. If this goes on, we may have to confront them for the safety of the common people”.

He also insisted that the security forces in the state have been strictly adhering to the ceasefire ground rules.

Meanwhile, the Major General also hinted that the military’s intelligence network has found some leads with regard to the twin blasts in Dimapur last year. He however declined to comment further.

Virtually every Naga knows the story of their elders who went to Gandhi in July 1947, demanding independence. Gandhi apparently told that he believed that the Naga Hills belonged to India just as much as to the Nagas, but nobody could force them to accept this. When the Nagas complained to him about the veiled threat of force against them, Gandhi declared, “I will come to Kohima and ask them to shoot me before they shoot the Nagas.” As for Nehru, he is alleged to have threatened that he would plant a soldier for every tree in Nagaland to ensure that the Nagas do not get independence. However, a letter marked “secret and personal” written by Nehru to the second chief minister of Assam, Bisnuram Medhi, available in the archives, shows Nehru’s understanding of the Naga issue was far more sympathetic than popularly believed.
Nehru described the Nagas as a people who were “sensitive and proud”. He urged Medhi to recognize that these were tough people who had “internal democracy and sense of discipline.” He said that the government had to be “careful” in dealing with them “lest we produce a problem which may pursue us for long years later.”Arguing against the use of force, Nehru wrote: “I am sure that...our approach should be friendly and not coercive. The latter approach will not succeed easily and will be a tremendous burden to India.”

The letter may have several lessons for the present Congress leadership on how to deal with the Nagas. Our present leaders seem to believe that there ought to be a uniformity of administration for all people and all states of India, and the aim should be to reduce the exceptions to the rule. This is contrary to the asymmetric federalism of our Constitution. Consider what Nehru had to say to Medhi: “...I am against any hurried attempt to absorb such areas into what is called the normal administration. Such tribes have a definite culture and way of living of their own and any attempt to break it might well lead to a rapid disintegration of the tribes”. He noted: “The British treated them as anthropological specimens to be kept for museum purposes and not interfered with. That was an extreme way of dealing with the situation which is not desirable, though it had some virtue in it. The other extreme way is to begin to treat them like any other citizen. This sounds democratic and good. But in effect it puts a tremendous burden on them because they are totally unsuited to compete with the acquisitive economy of other regions and other persons who exploit them and oppress them.”

Nehru, therefore, advocated a “middle way”. He suggested three principles for doing so: Interfere as little as possible with their natural way of living and customs; protect them from the exploitation; and open out ways of advance to them through educational and other social methods. However, he warned, “There should be no attempt to break up their social structure and adequate protection should be given to them from aggressive elements in other regions. Thus their land should be protected and such tribal democratic customs that they might have should be allowed to function. They must have a definite sensation of not being interfered with and at the same time of help being available.” “In other words”, Nehru concluded, “They should have a considerable measure of autonomy within large limits.”

When the NSCN (IM) talks of re-negotiating a federal relationship, how different is it from Nehru recommending — “autonomy within large limits”? The crucial difference is that Nehru was talking of autonomy within the Union of India. The Naga militants in negotiations with New Delhi have not come around to accepting a settlement within the Union and talk of a “close partnership between Nagaland and India.” Ultimately, the relationship could be equivalent to that of a Union but that the Nagas have not said this clearly remains a hurdle for New Delhi.

What is equally noteworthy is that Nehru was not advocating a rigid constitutional approach. New Delhi today, by contrast, wants the Nagas to settle within the Constitution, as it exists now. Nehru saw the Constitution as a citizen’s charter, which was flexible. Thus he wrote: “The present position is that Sir Akbar Hydari and (Gopinath) Bordoloi gave their assent to a nine-point agreement with the Nagas and signed it...This agreement does not wholly fit in with the Sixth Schedule. Personally, I think, this is not a very important matter. If necessary we can even make a special provision in the Constitution, provided we consider it desirable.”
He underlined the importance of commitments given and criticized attempts to wriggle out of the nine-point agreement, which he said was seen by the Nagas as a charter. He argued, “They would consider it a breach of faith on our part. It is true that the government of India never agreed to it and subsequently we passed a new Constitution. But this argument will not convince the Nagas in the slightest.” However, Nehru was clear that the Nagas could not get independence. “We are anxious to preserve as a large a measure as possible of their autonomy and their way of living and have no desire to interfere with it. Our desire is to help. But to talk of independence has no meaning and we cannot accept it.”

Nehru’s advise to Medhi, valid even today, was very clear: Do not try and absorb the Nagas too quickly into normal administration; recognize their unique situation and traditions of democracy; follow a friendly and not a coercive policy towards them; do not make them feel that an attempt is being made to submerge them in the sea of humanity that is India; honour all commitments made to the Nagas; and follow a visionary policy that thinks not “only of today’s problems but of tomorrow also and the day after”.

If the Manmohan Singh government were to follow these basic principles and the flexibility of Nehru, a settlement can be reached with the Nagas in a couple of years. The talks with the NSCN (IM) are at a critical stage. One false step can lead to the abrogation of the ceasefire and the insurgency can begin again. Yet, if the right decision is taken, a momentum would gather for a permanent resolution of the problem. Perhaps both Muivah and Manmohan Singh should re-read Nehru in the month of his birth anniversary.