Politics of peace talk
Pressure of push and pull
The politics of peace talk. Dicey and not exactly clear which way the politics of push and pull will take the peace talks between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) on the one hand and the NNPGs on the other. It is however clear that all those involved in the peace process have at one point of time or the other played the politics of peace with devastating effect. It was the politics of peace and the days ahead of the ceasefire pact that saw the hill-valley divide emerge in all its ugliness in Manipur. No finger pointing here, for all those who took part in the politics of peace contributed their mite in muddying the water further. Maybe not connected with the ceasefire pact, but the politics that went into building up a pan Naga identity went a long way in pitching one set of people into the other and it came out in all its ugliness when the words ‘without territorial limits’ were inserted in the ceasefire pact on June 14, 2001. The insertion of these three words sowed the seeds for the June 18, 2001 uprising the saw 14 people killed on that singular day and the rest in the days that followed. More than 19 years back, it was, but the seeds of suspicion sown by the very act of inserting these three words bloomed in different avatars, giving birth to lines such as ‘communal Government of Manipur’ with the then Government doing nothing positive to neutralise it. Ironic it is but if today, Interlocutor to the ceasefire pact and Governor of Nagaland RN Ravi is being painted as a two faced personality, it was earlier the Government of Manipur which was seen and portrayed to stand on the way to a final solution. This view was seen in the serpentine queues in front of all the petrol pumps in Imphal during one of the marathonesque economic blockades imposed by different hill based organisations; it could be seen in the steep hike of essential commodities, with a kilogram of onion back then shooting up to nearly Rs 100 a kilo. This was before the BJP led Government came to power in Imphal in 2017, but it is doubtful if those days would have been forgotten. It also stands that majority of the people of Manipur refused to look beyond the slogan ‘Ching-Tam Amatani’ and sincerely study why the call for a Greater Lim was raised and backed by so many here in the first place.
All these happened when the politics of peace seemed to flow smoothly and the irony was, while the politics of peace flowed smoothly, the hill-valley divide ran deep, very deep. So deep was the divide that the very idea of a geo-political reality called Manipur came under sharp scrutiny. Situation had come to such a pass that other than the Meitei community, no other community identified itself with the idea of Manipur and this idea dates back to the days before the ceasefire came into force. More than indicative of a far sighted mind at work here. A look back at the membership profile of student unions not only in Manipur but also in different parts of the country will testify this. The interesting question now is, which way forward will the peace process proceed. As things stand, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) comprising 7 different armed groups, have made it known that they are ready to sign the final pact and central to this is their stand ‘that Nagaland is at the heart of the solution.’ Nagaland it is and not any idea such as a pan-Naga body or integration of Naga inhabited areas from the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The question however stands whether the Government of India can actually say that the Naga issue has been resolved by signing a pact with the NNPGs without taking the NSCN (IM) along. The bottomline is, it is the NSCN (IM) and not the NNPGs which has managed to take the issue to the centre stage. This cannot be overlooked.