One step down and one step up!;
Territorial Council model
One step down from the Lim proposal and one step up from the present arrangement. This is what may be read into the Territorial Council model so confidently announced by president of United Naga Council, Kho John during the rally held at Ukhrul district headquarters on December 17. Territorial Council for the Nagas of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, the likely model to be inked after the peace process is finalised, is what the UNC leader conveyed and while it remains to be seen how well such a model would go down with the Naga people, a likely outcome has been publicly announced and this is what is significant. It is also important to question how well such an arrangement will go down with the people of Manipur, who have for long been asserting that no agreement would be acceptable if it bypasses the understanding of Manipur as a distinct geo-political reality. Too early to say how things will develop in the coming days, but this is a model which is most likely to come about, given that the Centre has already brushed aside the demand for a separate flag and a separate Constitution for the Nagas. The interesting point to note is the fact that district councils are already in existence in Manipur and the natural question that follows is, how different will the proposed Territorial Council be from the existing district councils. For one it could mean a model that is already followed in neighbouring Assam, where there are nine autonomous district councils and of which three fall under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India. The question is how many such Territorial Councils will be worked out as part of the agreement to be inked with the NSCN (IM) ?
The autonomy that can be inferred from the neighbouring States in the North East may mean legislative, executive and financial powers over some policy areas. It however remains to be seen over how many policy areas would such an arrangement extend to after the final pact is inked with the NSCN (IM). And more importantly would such a model, wherein some areas are granted autonomy, be acceptable to the people of Manipur ? This question is critically important for remember the stand of Manipur has been that no model can be acceptable if it by passes the State Government in any manner. And definitely autonomy to any part of the State would mean by passing the State Government. On the other hand it also remains that something will have to be given to the NSCN (IM) to make the 22 years long political negotiations meaningful. It is also important to question whether an arrangement such as a Territorial Council will find backings amongst the Nagas of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. What if such a model is not agreeable to some sections of the Naga people ? These are all questions at the moment, but important for ultimately any agreement inked should be acceptable to the people. To many of the Nagas the Shillong Accord must still be fresh in their minds and no one would like to see a repeat of 1975.