Oct 04, 2006

India's hidden wars in the North East Nagas float federal model

NSCN (IM) leaders as well as the Naga Ho Ho leadership are said to have proposed a solution wherein "Nagaland becomes a part of India and India a part of Nagaland."
Camp Hebron, October 03: For 9 years the NSCN (IM) and Government of India (GoI) negotiations have carried on with both sides maintaining a studied silence.

But senior NSCN (IM) leaders as well as the Naga Ho Ho leadership have exclusively disclosed to CNN IBN Special Investigation Team that they have proposed to the GOI interlocutors that they are ready for a solution wherein "Nagaland becomes a part of India and India a part of Nagaland." They have a proposed "a special federal arrangement" which enables the Nagas to govern themselves.

The proposal clearly underlines the NSCN (IM) readiness to arrive at a constitutional arrangement wherein certain federal functions like 'Foreign Affair', 'Defence' and 'Currency' remain with the Union Government in New Delhi.

The NSCN (IM) has submitted a peace proposal to the Government asking India to democratise its federal set up.

"We have even proposed to the GoI that let us arrive at a sort of an agreement that these two Nations India and Nagaland remain inseparable entities.

Two Nations bound together with that special agreement but with respective identities," said the Special Emissary of the Collective NSCN (IM) Leadership, General VS Atem "We have given our assurance to the GoI that Nagas are willing to come as close as possible with India.

Coming up to the toilets, as our General Secretary used to tell Mr Padmanabhaiah, coming up to your toilets is not a solution," said Atem.

This 'New Federation' proposal of the NSCN (IM) is a significant development, coming as it does, just 10 days before the peace talks resume in Amsterdam.

While mainstream media focus is on Jammu and Kashmir, on Terrorism, and Pakistan, the conflict in the North East is being forgotten.

Now a CNN-IBN Special Investigation has come back with an olive branch that the Government may find hard to ignore.

The NSCN (IM) leadership in Nagaland revealed to the CNN IBN Special Investigation Team, for the first time ever, their vision of a final peace settlement.

General VS Atem who is the special emissary of the collective leadership of NSCN (IM) disclosed to CNN IBN Special Investigation Team the concept of a special federal status for Nagaland wherein foreign affairs, defence and currency will remain with the Union Government and internal law and order and all other governance and administrative functions are transferred to an autonomous Nagaland State, bound to the Indian Union under a special agreement.

The NSCN (IM) leaders spelt out their vision to a CNN-IBN Special Investigation team at its Camp Hebron, a few kilometres away from Dimapur.

Even the Naga Ho Ho has come forward to back this proposal.

"The Nagas have proposed for a federal structure and a federal relationship.

A new dimension has to come up where it makes Nagas a part of India and India a part of Nagaland.

Where both become inseparable sovereign instead of being a one Nation State and quarrel over it," said Keviletus Kiewhuo, President Naga Hoho.

"Even in foreign affairs-ok, primarily you run the affairs but then whenever there is an issue affecting the Nagas, there the Nagas must represent themselves," Atem said.

He added, "We don't hesitate to tell Indian leaders.


We have confidence in the Indian currency." Meanwhile, the Chairman Ceasefire Cell NSCN (IM), Brigadier Phungthing said categorically that they want their separate Army.

"Our leadership has made it very specifically clear that there will be a Naga Army because the people of Naga land are the right people to defend their land," Phunthing said.

The NSCN (IM) peace recipe is:
• India and Nagaland will remain inseparable entities
• A special constitutional arrangement will cement this federal arrangement
• The Nagas will manage their own law and order, and local economy
• While Foreign Affairs, Currency, Banking and Defence will remain with India

The startling disclosures to CNN IBN Special Investigation Team by NSCN (IM) leadership also has a clear enunciation of their understanding of India's National Security concerns.

The Naga insurgency's military links with China and Pakistan in the past, and with the US Christian missionary agencies for funding have always aroused suspicion in India, which the Nagas are now keen to set right.

"India has a genuine fear, concern because Naga country is strategic from military point of view.

So we should not play any kind of thing that is detrimental, therefore, we proposed for a joint defence.

For the Naga civil society the core of a final peace settlement is also the recognition of their traditional form of governance through the Naga Ho Ho, an assembly of Naga tribal leaders.

"We have a purest form of democracy where we find the best leader through consensus.

Every clan elects its own representative according to its choice and sends it to the village council.

So this system comes upto the tribal level today," said Keviletus Kiewhuo, president of Naga Hoho.

But the Khaplang faction of the NSCN, the NSCN (K), opposes the peace talks and so is expected to oppose NSCN (IM)'s dramatic revelation of its peace proposal.

The NSCN-K, largely based in the Sagaing Division, Myanmar is involved in a fratricidal war with NSCN (IM).

In the last four years, clashes between the two factions have claimed 200 lives.

"We have had no kind of struggle with them.

Why this thing has happened is because the GOI's way of looking at the Naga issue, trying to use them, thinking that by using them they would utilise us or weaken us," Brigadier Phunthing said.

But NSCN (IM) new proposal is not only dramatic and radical, but will also generate hope in Nagaland where the conflict that has gone over 50 years and may finally see some kind of an amicable settlement.

In that sense a new dawn is breaking over Nagaland and if the Nagas get behind this proposal it will be difficult for NSCN-K faction to counter it with any kind of intimidation.

However, the NSCN (IM) has not given up its demand for a Greater Nagaland and this may be the spoiler in the long run in its negotiations with the GOI, unless some creative political will on both sides break the logjam.

The NSCN (IM) want integration of Naga speaking areas in Manipur to be integrated to what it calls a 'Greater Nagaland'.

This demand has Manipur a tinderbox of ethnic wars, which might spill over into a violent civil war.

How all the intricacies of assertive ethnic identities will eventually play out continues to be a guessing game.

But at this point in time the focus is firmly centred on NSCN (IM's) proposal for a new federal arrangement with India.

Perhaps, this will give both sides enough negotiating space to settle the issue of 'Greater Nagaland' amicably.

So while the Nagas talk of a federal government, the question is is the Government of India prepared to examine the idea of federalism in an imaginative and contemporary manner? If not, then the hidden wars in Nagaland may never end.