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Wake Up Mr PM: Kukis & Nagas Have Waited Too Long

The British Raj was undone by the Congress and the same pursuit of ‘Congress Mukth Bharat’ is being pursued by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fervently all over India and more so in North East India. The success of the later is a little doubtful as we inch closer to 2019 General Elections. It is even more doubtful for Nagaland Election 2018.

The problems afflicting NE India are complex and varied but both BJP and the subsequent Congress governments have adopted the same approach of ‘Wait and Watch’ and ‘Delay Tactics’ when it comes to solving them. This could, perhaps, be their Achilles heels in this Election.

The Governor of Nagaland, Dr Ashwani Kumar calling on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on June 20, 2014.

Let’s treat issues raised and fought for by the so-called ‘major extremist groups’ of the North Eastern differently from the Kashmir’s Azaadi issue since many have already been suspended by the Indian government.

The Nagas and Kukis have been close-knit neighbours and so, their problems and solutions are also knotted together. Solve one and ignore the other, then the neglected one may become a sore thumb in the near future. The problem needs a win-win approach, a simultaneous solution and involvement of both the stakeholders.

The problem in all seven North Eastern states is like a bottomless pit with no water. I say no water because no solution has been found to the insurgency and the gamut of problems associated with it.

Some of the problems in the North East predates the ‘midnight’ of 14 August 1947 when India won its freedom.

The conundrum of the insurgency, as well as the aspirations and existence of self-awareness and identity as a distinct group of people vis-a-vis other Indians, other communities and neighbours even in the North East, and the strive for complete integration with the rest of India had neither been an easy ride.

The lack of empathy and sitting on a problem long enough hoping it solves itself, an approach taken by the former Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao, seems to be the official policy when it comes to dealing with problems and issues concerning the North Eastern Part of India.

It is more so apparent when it comes to finding solutions and conclusions on the ceasefire agreements signed with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) and Suspension of Operation (SoO) signed with the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and United People’s Front (UPF) or KNO/UPF of the kindred Kuki groups. This approach has alienated North Eastern Indians and has not done any good to the concept of a unified India and ‘Unity in Diversity’ publicised by the government leadership.

The Ceasefire agreement with NSCN (IM) was signed by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on July 25, 1997, and it came into effect on August 1, 1997.  Talks and prolonged negotiations for an ‘honourable solution’ to a ‘unique historic’ problem continued for the last 21 years and is still going on even after our dear PM, Narendra Modi’s speech after signing the historic deal between the Centre and NSCN(IM) on August 5, 2015.

The Nagaland CM with PM Modi at the inaugural of the Hornbill Festival 2014

Three good years have gone by since the day Modi said that the agreement did not just mark the end of a problem, but the “beginning of a new future.” But, nothing has really happened in Nagaland or the proposed area for inclusion into Greater Nagalim.

Again in the context of Nagaland Elections, the U-turn by a few political parties to contest Nagaland State’ election, 2018 going against their earlier unanimous all-party decision and Naga groups calling for “Solution before Election” would be akin to rubbing salt to the wounds of the people of Nagaland.

For BJP, this move could turn their agenda of ‘Congress Mukht Bharat’ just a pipe dream. What is more at stake now is the diminishing returns for the government in its effort to win the hearts and minds of the Nagas for total national integration.

Justice delayed is justice denied. This phrase has often been used for Courts. But, in the case of Nagaland and Naga issue, it is – “Solution delayed is solution denied”. The situation and solution would be complicated and complex since it involves neighbouring states and their major tribes and communities such as the Meiteis, Kukis, Dimasas, Assamese and host of other tribes.

The 5th August deal is so shrouded in secrecy that its details are seemingly unknown to the Home Minister. Only the prime minister and Muivah, Ato Kilonser, are privy to this document.

Naturally, there is a lurking fear that it could affect the territorial integrity of neighbouring states – Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The communities such as the Kukis, Meiteis and Dimasas, who have been their neighbours for ages, fear that they could become minorities and suffer other unknown disabilities politically and otherwise if they are clubbed into the proposed Nagalim of NSCN(IM).

It is difficult to comprehend or carry out win-win negotiations with multiple groups until the final details of the deal are made public. Since the ‘deal’ is not yet made public though it had been signed by the PM and Ato Kilonser of the NSCN (IM), the less said the better. This episode is rather strange and rare in a democratic set-up where we have Right To Information.

The peace deal is poised to face hurdles from within the Naga community and the neighbours. The way forward is openness and transparency and taking all stakeholders on-board and talking to them. Emotional and social, if not political, integration of the Nagas could be attempted to placate all stakeholders.

As for KNO-UPF, the unified front for Kukis, claiming to represent the Kukis interest in their fight for statehood; they have now scaled down their demand to Territorial Council with other specific demands such as cross-border free movement of their people living in the borders and passport etc.

The KNO-UPF combined signed the tripartite suspension of operations with the Centre represented by Naveen Verma, joint secretary (North East), the ministry of home affairs, and the government of Manipur represented by DS Poonia, principal secretary (Home) on August 22, 2008, and they are in their designated camps since then.

Intermittent talks are on and the response and level of importance accorded to them are far from “honourable”; yet for the sake of peace and finding a solution, the talks are on. Whether it is for better or worse, remains to be seen.

The Kuki imbroglio started with the advent of the British and the Great Ango-Kuki war of 1917-19, there is a section of opinion within the Kuki diaspora who believe that India cannot and should not solve problems that predate ‘their midnight’ or issues created by the British since it goes beyond their jurisdiction. And they consider trifurcation of the so-named “Kuki Country” as found in colonial writings as an international issue to be tackled at United Nation’s level as it also affects their political and human rights under the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The response shown by the combined is healthy and government of India must accord the respect and honour they deserve and expedite their search for an agreeable and win-win solution to this section of Kuki political view which aspires for a settlement as the Territorial council with the sixth schedule at the earliest. The ‘wait and watch’ policy could ignite the other strand of political view and aspirations which could even have an international implication.

The nation has waited long enough and so have the Nagas and also the Kukis. It is time to stop the ‘delaying’ tactics and find a solution. Otherwise, the problems, like virus, could mutate and blow in our face.

“No solution, No Elections” might be a little on the extreme. But it reflects the frustrations of the common Nagas. Let the elections be held; however, pray that thing doesn’t go back to delay and ‘chalta hai‘ attitude. The India of our dreams will never see the light of day with policymakers and those in power playing the delay tactic.

Man up and solve the problem.

(P Chongloui is a Creative Thinker & Writer, Political, Peace and Human Rights Activist based in Guwahati)

P Chongloui

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