After 25 years of negotiations Close to a final deal ?
It must be music to the ears of the Naga people, especially the Nagas of Manipur, whose loyalty to which group needs no elaboration. Peace process between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India back on track on one side and ‘NSCN (IM) and NNPGs resolve to work together’ on the other side and the script seems ready for the final pact to be inked anytime in the near future. Significant to note that the New India Express had also reported, ‘The NSCN (IM) leadership was reportedly ready to issue a press release on Tuesday (September 13, 2022), announcing the agreement, but deferred it for the time being’. Qualifying this report is the story that the Centre and the NSCN (IM) leadership have thrashed out nearly all the issues that could pave the way for lasting peace in the North East, again as reported in the New Indian Express. How the major issues have been thrashed out is not yet clear, but significant to note that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet have explored all possible avenues to ink the final pact by agreeing that the demanded Naga Constitution will be incorporated in the Constitution of India. Not yet clear how this will be done but be sure that the major points which the NSCN (IM) would like to be included in the ‘Naga Constitution’ will find a place in the said document. Not a separate Constitution but the same to be incorporated in the existing Constitution of India and with 303 seats, the BJP is well poised to carry out what it has promised. This is where it would be interesting and significant to observe how Manipur will respond as and when the contents and detailed points of the ‘Naga Constitution’ are spelt out for public consumption. As the Centre had repeatedly assured and judging by reports coming from New Delhi, integration of Naga inhabited areas under one administrative unit has been ruled out, but what is the alternative arrangement that may be offered to the NSCN (IM) ? Will the ‘Naga Constitution’ address the Nagas of Manipur ? If so how and what form it may take ? Civil society organisations of Manipur, which have been at the forefront batting for the idea of Manipur as a geo-political reality, must have already deliberated on the likely points that the ‘Naga Constitution’ may have and it is from the understanding thus drawn up that one may see how Manipur will respond.
What are the points that Manipur may agree to and what are the points that may be opposed ? The BJP led Government at Imphal too must have started studying the likely development and the service of legal experts may have been roped in to interpret and understand the points that may be included in the ‘Naga Constitution’. It is but natural that after more than 25 years of the peace process, something will have to be given to the NSCN (IM) and it is unlikely that Thuingaleng Muivah, a son of Somdal in Ukhrul district, would leave the Nagas of Manipur abruptly. Significant to note too that many of the top leaders of the NSCN (IM) are drawn from the Tangkhul tribe of Manipur and their very presence in the hierarchy of the outfit will go a long way in addressing the Nagas of Manipur in the ‘Naga Constitution’. This is the reality and how the different CSOs here respond to this reality is something which only time can tell. Twenty five years of negotiation is a quarter of a century and the patience demonstrated by both New Delhi and the leadership of the NSCN (IM) should be acknowledged. It is also clear that in Thuingaleng Muivah the NSCN (IM) is led by a tough negotiator who knows how and what to bargain for and the 25 years of political negotiation should underline this point. The coming days will surely be significant and interesting as well and one just have to wait to see how things unfold. The BJP led Government at Imphal on the other hand should present the case of Manipur strongly before New Delhi, for today the call of the people has transcended territorial integrity to one of ‘no diluting the idea of Manipur’.