Public assurance from Chief Minister
Awaiting final pact
The co-incidence is interesting. Just one day after Chief Minister N Biren announced at Tamenglong district headquarters that he would extend all possible co-operation when an amicable solution to the vexed Naga issue is worked out, president of the United Naga Council, Kho John prayed that the UNC sponsored rally in the Naga dominated hill district headquarters on December 17 would be the last on the Naga political issue. The significance of the Chief Minister’s assurance lies in the fact that this is perhaps the first time that a Chief Minister of Manipur has gone on record to publicly promise full co-operation to an amicable solution to the ongoing political talks between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India and again this is perhaps the first time that a president of the influential UNC has asserted that the rally of December 17 may be the last on the said issue. The two observations or announcements are significant and they all indicate that the ongoing political negotiation at its final leg. The Hornbill Festival has come and gone and so too the talks that did the round that a final deal between the NSCN (IM) and New Delhi and the NNPGs may be announced during the said festival. This however should not be taken to mean that a final deal is still a long way off. It could come anytime, sooner rather than later, and this is a point which the people must be watching closely, with as much anticipation as with trepidation. With the Centre still keeping the August 3, 2015 Framework Agreement inked with the NSCN (IM) a closely guarded secret, no one knows for sure how the final deal will turn out to be, but if earlier reports are anything to go by, then a separate Constitution and a separate flag for the Nagas have been ruled out.
The Centre has time and again assured that no final pact will compromise with the territory of Manipur but the stand of the people of Manipur has gone beyond territory and today it is also about not by passing the State Government in any way. In short a no to any arrangement that seeks to give autonomy to anyone on the basis of tribe or community affiliation. This is the stand of Manipur but yet at the same time it should also stand that something will have to be given after more than 22 years of political negotiations. This is where the ‘co-operation’ that the Chief Minister announced gains in importance. Here is an example of the first among equals in Manipur offering all the possible co-operation and one only hopes that this does not give room for any wrong interpretation to both New Delhi and the leadership of the NSCN (IM) and both should strive to ensure that no one is hurt while striking a final deal. A peace pact should not end up pitching one set of people against the other and this is where New Delhi would need to walk the extra mile to gain the trust and confidence of everyone. Consulting all stakeholders before the final pact is signed is a line repeated many times by New Delhi and one only hopes that the consultation is not reduced to an exercise of placing a worked out agreement and asking Manipur to agree to it. This is a point which should not blow over the heads of anyone.