First, the Framework Agreement. Now a new term called Peace Agreement apart from Peace Accord/Final Accord. Beautifully crafted, of course. The details of the Framework Agreement are not disclosed to the public and when the public asked why, it has been cleverly blended as an agreement with NSCN(IM) and Centre as not a full-fledged palpable and conclusive agreement but a Framework for ‘Framework’ refers to an outline or structure. Nice word which is exactly suitable to culminate into an excuse for not making the contents of the agreement public.
Now that many ethnic communities of Manipur and state governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are also hammer and tongs against compromising their respective state territories, the Peace Agreement which cascaded from Framework Agreement and supposed to be delivered as a gift before Christmas has added trepidation to many and people of the periphery states of proposed Greater Nagalim are on their toes due to heighten anxiety and hazy thoughts as a result of non availability of a clear picture on the agreement.
When the Centre refers the word ‘Peace’ we sure hope that the very word is not a double standard word and doesn’t turn up as a synonym of ‘War’. On the other hand, the Prime Minister as well as Mr Rajnath Singh had assured that the Peace Agreement will not interfere with the territorial integrity of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh while the Nagas are filled with great fervor and high hopes of Greater Nagalim. We are in a situation like standing in front of a dog that is barking as well as wagging its own tail..
In this mad race for advancement in almost every fields throughout world, the North-Eastern part of India and Manipur in particular seems to remain stagnant, taking a U-turn towards the 2nd World War era’s of grasping land, bone of contention, jealousy and caught in the web of selfish “our own” mindset.
Now is a time of great hope for the Nagas and a time of great uncertainty for other ethnic groups. Now is the time for the Nagas with high aspirations for Greater Nagalim while the Central Government had assured that territories of neighbouring states will not be compromised. Nevertheless, such a tall claim cannot be made just out of thin air. That made the Peace Agreement even more doubtful.
Successive governments at the Centre failed to crack the ice on the Naga issue. The Modi government, however, had the nerves to draw the ‘almost’ finishing line on the issue, an issue which had remained a headache to the successive governments for so long. Modi had on a number of occasions and during visits to the Northeast region articulated his vision of transforming the Northeast and has attached priority to peace, security, connectivity and economic development in the region. This has also been at the heart of the Government’s foreign policy, especially ‘Act East Policy’. The Peace Accord has with great finesse been termed by the Government of India as Framework Agreement signed between NSCN(IM) and Government of India which was hatched with the firm belief of the Centre to end the oldest insurgency group in the country and to restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the North East, a step that’s bound to herald into a life of dignity, integrity and equity for the Nagas based on the uniqueness of the Naga people, their culture and traditions. However, one thing to remember is that the “Act East Policy” will never materialise if there is no peace in the region.
Many, however, doubt whether peace will really prevail in the North East Region once the Framework Agreement which culminates into Peace Agreement gets it’s finishing touch. The vagueness of the peace accord and the undisclosed content is lack of transparency and defies the very fundamental right of the citizens of India to Right to Information which is enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
“Framework” has remained the buzzword in the region all the way since August 3rd of 2015. What if Greater Nagaland or Nagalim based on sovereignty of Naga inhabited areas was infused in the framework? If that so happened, then the Final Accord will transcend into redrawing of Maps of the states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Then what? I don’t think everybody will be contented saying “All’s well that ends well”. Listening to the people’s hearts should be the call of duty for Modi & Co., especially the people of states neighbouring Nagaland in the prevailing tense scenario. Otherwise, like a latent spark into a blaze, the volcanic eruption of discontentment among various ethnic groups of the Manipur may take ugly turns.
The Naga HoHo, United Naga Council and other Naga groups are political wings of the NSCN(IM) for greater Nagaland. The Naga HoHo, the oldest political wing for the integration of Nagas under one roof has been such a great force that the Indian government almost succumbed to the demands of Greater Nagaland or Nagalim if not for the Great June Uprising in Manipur for the cause of a unified and intact Manipur. In fact, the state of Manipur has become the hotbed for demand of separate homelands by many ethnic groups other than Nagas. The Kukis are also going for a separate Kuki homeland. Likewise, many smaller ethnic groups are demanding their own homelands. Imagine, if homelands are created as per demands of whatever ethnic groups prevailing in Manipur, then there will be more than 40 homelands in Manipur. If things have escalated to that stage, we can gauge the scenario of Manipur – total chaos, anarchy, under-development, killings and bloodbaths at the slightest pretext of dissatisfaction and territorial pissing. Something that’s tantamount to reverting to the Stone Age. Now, a few elements, for their own selfish ends have gloomed Manipur and the state is totally eclipsed with the shadow of narrow mindedness created by those few. The creation of Greater Nagalim will rip apart the peaceful co-existence and the bond of brotherhood amongst the various ethnic groups will crumble resulting in unwanted and ugly scenarios and untoward consequences.
The government of India needs to give thorough attention to the issue of Greater Nagalim otherwise an ethnic cleansing or civil war scenario may arise in the state and there is no doubt that the ethnic Manipuris particularly those inhabiting in the valley areas will shed blood and give away their lives to protect the territorial integrity of Manipur. The June 18th incident of 2001 which remains and will always remain vivid and brimming in our minds was an incident that inspires us to take our stand against all odds for an intact Manipur bearing testimony to the fact that we will never get bogged down and stand firm against creation of a Greater Nagalim as long as blood flows in our veins.
Let special status be given to the Nagas, let they have a separate flag, let extraordinary funds be poured upon them, let separate Acts be enacted for them for better development of the Nagas, let greater autonomy be given to them but please don’t even think of compromising the sovereignty of Manipur for we will never compromise on the territorial integrity of our motherland. Let’s hope that the Peace Agreement doesn’t turn into an agreement that lets loose a volley of inter-group clashes resulting into a situation tantamount to a civil war. Remember the civil war scenario uprising in 2001 for the controversial clause “Ceasefire without territorial limit” during NDA’s rule when Atul Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. Creation of a Greater Nagalim will have far worse repercussions.
The state of Manipur has remained a sacrificial lamb all the way since its annexation into the Indian mainland. Now, we won’t be able to sacrifice any more. With the Kabaw valley in the hands of the Burmese and the Djuko valley in the hands of Nagaland government, we, the people of Manipur have sacrificed enough. Now, the time has come where we can’t tolerate to lose an inch of Manipur’s land anymore for we have had enough of being the sacrificial lamb all these years. Manipur consists of more than 32 ethnic groups. When Manipur was a princely state, all these ethnic groups were living together with relative peace and harmony. However, some narrow minded leaders of some ethnic groups under the influence of bigger elements of Indian union has turned Manipur into a state of turmoil. Before drawing the finishing line on the Naga issue the Modi government needs to thoroughly retrospect the sensitivity of the situation and bring out means and measures so that the beginning of a chapter of one’s peace do not herald into the dawn of a chapter of war for others.
Christmas is around the corner. The Union Home Minister’s announcement of a final solution on the Naga issue before Christmas as a Christmas gift adds flavor, great fervor and escalated warm hopes to the Nagas of Manipur, hopes for materialisation of a Greater Nagalim. I hope that the Peace Agreement culminates into a Final Accord which doesn’t hurt the interest of all the other ethnic groups of Manipur.
Hoping for the best and wishing all a merry Christmas
(The writer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)