After more than 2 decades of talks Vision : Call of the hour
Framework Agreement of 2015. Agreed Position of 2017. Two frameworks according to which the final pact with the NSCN (IM) and the NNPGs is believed to be inked. The stumbling block towards a final pact however seems to be the separate Flag and Constitution demand put forth by the NSCN (IM). Not surprisingly the Government of India has stood firm in rejecting the demand of the NSCN (IM) and the interesting question is whether the Flag and Constitution can be used as a bargaining chip for something else. Also equally interesting is the question of whether the separate Flag and Constitution demand concerns only the State of Nagaland or whether it would be applicable to all areas which the NSCN (IM) has identified or is understood to have identified as Naga areas in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. This is a point which should register in the minds of all those who have stood by the idea of Manipur as a distinct political reality. As a bargaining chip with the Government of India is another aspect that needs to be studied minutely and with an eye on where Manipur would stand say 20/30/40 or even 50 years down the line. In Thuingaleng Muivah, the NSCN (IM) has a far sighted leader which has been demonstrated more than once or twice and there is no reason why the second rung leaders of the outfit would not have developed the ability to see things beyond the immediate and the obvious. Is the Government at Imphal ready to look beyond the next five years vis-a-vis the ongoing peace process between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India ? Nothing can be said with certainty on the direction in which the peace talk between New Delhi and the NSCN (IM) will proceed, but the sense of urgency to ink the final pact can be felt and herein lies the importance of the series of meetings underway between the Government of India and a team of the NSCN (IM) led by VS Atem at New Delhi. Convenor of the NNPGs, Kitovi Zhimomi along with his men are also reported to be camping at New Delhi and certainly it would do good for the Government of Manipur to keep its eyes and ears open for any eventuality.
Keeping one’s eyes and ears open should then mean that the Government of Manipur and all those who have been batting for a unified Manipur will need to look beyond the demand for a separate Flag and Constitution of the NSCN (IM). The possibilities are many and what if Naga rebel group takes a step or two down from the Flag and Constitution demand and agree to settle for something like greater autonomy for the Naga dominated districts such as Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong ? Will the people of Manipur accept such an arrangement ? After more than 20 years of political negotiation, something will obviously have to be given to the NSCN (IM) and what if that something is taken along the line of ‘Take 50 paise now so that Re one can be demanded later ?’ As stated earlier, these are only speculations but the need to read between the lines and look beyond the immediate cannot be overemphasised. As stated in this column on more than one occasion, the idea or the seeds of a Greater Lim were sown a long time back, much before the ceasefire pact came into force in 1997. This can be easily discerned from the refusal of Naga students of Manipur to be part of anything associated with Manipur. None of them were and are members of Manipur student organisations, preferring to align themselves with student organisations which are federating units of the Nagaland based Naga Students’ Federation. For that matter, how many Naga students are members of student organisations which have a pan Manipur identity ? The answer should be clear to all and this is where far sightedness and the willingness to look down the decades is called for. Does Manipur have such a personality ?