Light at the end of peace process: From 1997 to 2019

22 years is a long time by any stretch of the imagination and a child born back in 1997 would now be a strapping young man of 22 or a beautiful damsel of 22. This is how long the peace process has been on between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India since the ceasefire agreement was signed on August 1, 1997. And yes the history of Manipur would never be complete without referring to June 18, 2001, the June 14, 2001 Bangkok agreement which inserted the words ‘without territorial limits’ in the peace pact, the death of 18 persons in the protest that erupted on June 18, 2001 and the days of protest that followed. It is against this backdrop that the statement of outgoing Governor of Nagaland PB Acharya should be understood and appreciated. It was during a farewell programme accorded to him at Kohima that PB Acharya said, “A political solution to the Naga issue has to be achieved within a year, for Nagaland needs a permanent peace for progress and development.” As noted, 22 years is obviously a long, long time and a final pact is what the people of Nagaland now want. A point which occupied centre stage when Nagaland went to polls in 2018, under the slogan ’solution before elections.’ The outgoing Governor of Nagaland was also bang on target when he stated, “And for this we have Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has the will and guts to resolve the issue.” Falls perfectly in line with the stupendous performance of the BJP in the just held Lok Sabha elections winning 303 seats alone sans its NDA allies. That the Prime Minister is intent on thrashing out a solution became obvious when the Framework Agreement was signed with the NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015, just a little over one year after the BJP assumed power in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Contentious issues there have been and these issues must surely be slowing down the progress of the peace talk and at the top will obviously be the demand for a Greater Lim, which the NSCN (IM) had pursued with so much interest and which has been opposed so strongly by Manipur,  Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Will the NSCN (IM) water down its Lim demand and settle for something else ? Will the new demand be acceptable to Manipur and the other two neighbouring States ? These are questions which the Centre must be studying deeply and this could be one reason why it has taken more than 20 years to come to a final settlement. Most importantly will the Centre think it fit enough to take Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh into confidence before the final pact is signed ? These are all questions at the moment, but so sensitive is the matter that the Centre has deemed it fit to keep the Framework Agreement under such a tight lid with no one actually knowing what the contents are or what would be fitted into the Framework Agreement. Despite all this, outgoing Governor PB Acharya must have received some inkling to go ahead and announce that the final pact should be signed within a year. This is what makes the farewell speech of the outgoing Governor all that more significant.