The constraints and possibilities of a settlement

Tali Longkumer (IAS rtd)

Much has been either speculated or discussed about the likely Political Settlement even before the event of Christmas 2017. The Slogan on ‘Settlement before Christmas’ is now over. We are now into the New Year of 2018. The Nagaland Legislative Assembly in the best of their wisdom has also recently passed a resolution appealing to the Government of India for a Settlement first before the next State Assembly Election but so far there seemed to have no positive response from the Government of India on the matter and though much has been spoken through various forums on the issue of a settlement, none seemed to have exactly spelled out the kind of settlement that is sought after.The claims and slogans thus resembles a sound of a muffling drums echoing from a distance but not distinctly heard. This kind ofspeculations on the issue of settlement or election, to my view, will continue unrelenting as we usher into the New Year. Instead of engaging ourself on agendas that in some cases are idealistic and far-fetched, let us for a change join our heads together and honestly conduct a post-mortem on some of the issues of possibilities and constraints that lies within our boarders. On the question of sovereignty and integration, enough has been either said or written. Readers may conveniently draw personal inferences from the writings on the wall. On the other aspects of Settlement, let us honestly introspect in the areas of Constraints and possibilities. The first issue that seizes one’s mind relates to matters that are already settled. We already have a full-fledged State created by an Act of Parliament and also have a Government duly elected by the people of the State on the principle of Universal Adult Franchise. Let us also not ignore the fact that in such State elections, all of us have taken active parts. Beyond that we have a Special Provision under the Constitution of India in protecting our land and its resources, our way of life, our faith and custom. Our country also has a very lengthy Constitution that is more rigid than flexible and thus any Agreement on the issue of Settlement may have to be made only within the ambit of the Constitution and not beyond it. Mandatory provisions and obligations to the prevailing Constitutional parameters may have to be taken into consideration, apart from claims and demands, while pursuing for a Settlement. It may also be born in mind that there are more than twenty States and Union Territories in India and most of them are much bigger in sizes, larger and richer in resources and more influential. Therefore while working out for a settlement for the State of Nagaland, the Government of India may ensure that the interest, sentiments and privileges of the other States and also the issues on National Integration are duly recognized. It may also be noted that the survival of a strong Nation is determined by the healthy relationship between the States and the Centre throughthe instruments of control, checks and balances, communications etc in a Federal form of Government as we have in India and no Government nor a Party at the Centre will risk their neck in undermining those crucial arrangements simply for the sake of accommodating a peculiar demand from a State. The above factors are some of the ground realties that may be acknowledged by all the negotiating parties for a meaningful outcome.


The next concern relates to the proper representation in the Talks. Should the Talks be all inclusive as stated through various forums (the Naga National Groups, Tribal bodies, the State Government etc), the Government of Nagaland, the main stake holders of the State should invariably participate directly in the current Talks.The Sixty Nagaland Legislative Members who are directly elected by the people are the representatives of the people and by virtue of being the people’s representatives, they should play a catalyst role while negotiating with the Government of India in deciding the issue of the future of Nagaland to whom they represent. Mere resolutions shyly passed in the State Assembly in supporting the Peace Talks or recommending to the Government of India for a Settlement first before Elections is not good enough. They are not elected by the people to merely act as the night watchmen but invested with the enormous responsibilitiesto govern the State andbuilding up a brighter future for the State so much so that they should play a major role in decision making or in other areas that relates to the welfare of the State.


Amidst the hosts of unenviable performances by the current State’s political bosseswho frequently camps at Kazaringa or Hotel De oriental thus keeping the Raj Bhavan busy with swearing in ceremonies very frequently portraying a very poor image on governances, one may draw a sigh of relief in the knowledge of the fact that a number of Naga Political Groups are currently engaged in Talks with the Government of India with a sense of optimism for a settlement. This is a positive approach.The public in general who have their support for such Talks are hopeful for an early solution to a thorny political issues where people have suffered for more than sixty years.There will however be no push button formula to settle the inherent complicated issues of demands, aspirations, dreams and fancies instantaneously. For all the participants, it will require patience, farsightedness, leadership quality and one’s ability to understand and also acknowledge the ground realties for arriving at a meaningful settlement. The current Talk is therefore distained to churn out through Constraints and possibilities. It will be a tight rope walk requiring a skilful balancing act on the norms of give and take from all stake holders.


I believe both the Settlement and the Election will come in due course but in its own time so much so that both the subjects that are equally important should be viewed independently. Election is a constitutional process that will take its own course but less through demands or representation. Both issues on settlement or election are currently an ongoing phenomena that perhaps will pursue its own course of actions for which public need patience and understanding.