A final settlement to the Naga issue is long overdue. The political dialogue, also given the sobriquet peace process, has already traversed a long and anxious journey. The latest media reports suggest that New Delhi is keen to ink a final deal with ‘the Naga stakeholders’ by August 15, the Independence Day of India. As of now, it is very hard to say whether these reports are authentic enough for neither New Delhi nor NSCN-IM leadership have bothered to come out with any official statement so far. At the same time, it would be too rash and self-assuring to dismiss these reports outright. Assuming that these reports are authentic to some extent, if not completely, people of Manipur have all the right to be anxious and inquisitive about what is happening behind the scene at New Delhi. The reports say ‘Naga stakeholders’ as if other communities have no stake in the political dialogue and its final settlement. From the very beginning, Manipur has always been one contentious issue of the political dialogue and nobody will find it hard to understand why it is so if one looks at the NSCN-IM’s fundamental and persistent demand which is integration of Naga inhabited areas. Of course, sovereignty or complete independence was the primary demand of the NSCN-IM but over the years it has scaled down its demands to integration of Naga inhabited areas, separate flag and separate constitution. It is up to the wisdom of Indian leaders to grant separate flag and constitution to the Nagas and no one in Manipur would even raise an eyebrow when they do so. However, if New Delhi commits the blunder of acceding to the demand for integration of Naga inhabited areas, the reaction will be massive, spontaneous and the best euphemism for such a reaction would be stiffest opposition. The final round of dialogue, as the media reports said, would be attended by representatives of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The Government of Manipur ought to come out with a clarification whether any of its representatives is a party to the so called final round of peace talk or not. If yes, they should table a report on what transpired at the negotiating table. If not, the Government of India should not harbour even the slightest idea of bulldozing its way without consulting the stakeholders of Manipur.
Before the idea of integration of Naga inhabited areas of Manipur with the present State of Nagaland is given a thought, New Delhi needs to have a comprehensive understanding of Manipur and its long history. The modern political history of Manipur underwent drastic changes twice. First, it was the Anglo-Manipur war of 1891 which brought Manipur under British occupation. The second one was the Merger Agreement of 1949 which brought Manipur within the Indian Union. Even though these two historical events brought about drastic changes to the geo-political and socio-economic landscape of Manipur, Manipur did survive as a geo-political entity. But people now fear that a final solution to the Naga issue may further shift the course of Manipur’s history to such a degree that Manipur ceases to exist as a geo-political entity. We wonder whether New Delhi has any comprehensive understanding of the historical facts and the contemporary political realities of Manipur. The people’s primary concern at the moment is not economic development. It is the political future of Manipur. People’s deep rooted fear and pervasive apprehension can be understood only by those who have a comprehensive understanding of Manipur, its history and political realities and we hope, the Prime Minister is one among them. Everybody who cherishes the idea of united Manipur hailed the Prime Minister when he assured that there would be no one-sided solution. At the same time, New Delhi must take into account the historical circumstances under which Manipur was merged into the Indian Union while working out a solution to the Naga issue. The State Assembly’s resolution that the Article 3 of the Indian Constitution should be amended by inserting a provision/clause that prior consent of the State legislatures of the affected State(s) shall be mandatory while forming new States, alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing States was driven by a strong collective spirit and it was based on a very solid historical premise.