Beyond the flag and Constitution demand Noting ‘crucial stage’
The maths is simple enough. A child born back in 1997 would today be a major, in short a 24 year old strapping young lad or a lissome lady. This is the journey of the peace talk or ceasefire agreement or peace process between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India. In between, India has seen the change of guards at New Delhi, including the post of Prime Minister many times, while on the side of the NSCN (IM), the outfit has seen the demise of its former Chairman Isak Chisi Swu not long after the Framework Agreement was signed between the said outfit and New Delhi on August 3, 2015. Six long years it has been since the Framework Agreement was signed and one point that has always accompanied the peace process is the oft repeated line ‘At crucial stage’ or ‘Important stage’ as Nagaland Chief Minister Nephiu Rio said while addressing the State on its 59th Statehood Day on December 1. At ‘important stage’. This was the line used by Rio during his address and while this is certainly welcome, one wonders whether the people of Nagaland or the Nagas who are settled elsewhere such as in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh or parts of Assam find anything new in what the Nagaland Chief Minister had to say. At a crucial stage, but the fact is not everything seems to be going smoothly. No one knows what the Framework Agreement is all about, with even New Delhi and the NSCN (IM) interpreting it differently, as shown by the ‘revelation’ made by the Naga outfit some time back, but everyone seems to stick to the line ‘at crucial or important stage’. This is where questions are bound to be raised on where the peace talk exactly stands on a scale of 1 to 10. Is its position at 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 ? In the absence of any transparency in the peace process, all that one can do is ask questions, though answers are not expected at all. If media reports are to be believed then the demand for a separate flag and Constitution raised by the NSCN (IM) seems to be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a final settlement. The other group, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), on the other hand, seems satisfied with the modalities that have been worked out so far and this is where again questions ought to be raised on the flag and Constitution demand of the NSCN (IM). Leave aside the question of Jammu and Kashmir where its special provisions, including its own Constitution, were scrapped.
The crucial question that people of Manipur ought to be raising now is whether the separate flag and Constitution demand of the NSCN (IM) concerns only the State of Nagaland or whether it encompasses areas in Manipur which have been dubbed as Naga dominated districts ? This question does not seem to figure high on the agenda of the people of Manipur, especially its numerous civil society organisations, which have been at the forefront defending the idea of Manipur as a distinct socio-political reality. How about the civil society organisations which have been at the forefront throwing their weight behind the demands raised by the NSCN (IM), such as the United Naga Council, Naga People’s Organisation, Tangkhul Naga Long etc ? Apart from defending the demand of a separate flag and Constitution, as raised by the NSCN (IM), how does this work in the interest of the people identified as Nagas of Manipur ? This is a point which needs serious deliberations and while the Government at Imphal may have already started studying this point from different perspectives, not much has come out in the public domain. This is where the people of Manipur would need to be on their toes and study between the lines. What if the NSCN (IM) settles for something else, such as greater autonomy for the Naga dominated districts of Manipur, bypassing the Government at Imphal ? The State unit of the Congress has already made its stand clear on this but how about the BJP led Government at Imphal ? These are questions at the moment, but posers which will become more and more crucial and important with each passing day. The two principal political parties, that is the BJP and the Congress, will leave nothing to chance to win the seat of power after the 2022 Assembly elections, but the crucial questions which have been raised here today will face them one day or the other, more critically if they occupy the seat of power. The need to look beyond the demand for a separate flag and Constitution as raised by the NSCN (IM), need to be taken seriously.