Lieut. General (Rtd) Shokin Chauhan, Chairman of Ceasefire Monitoring Group(CFMG) stated in the recent interview that Nagaland has come through complete peace for a year now. His assessment on the prevailing situation in Nagaland was based on the report of no physical conflict between the Indian armed forces and the Naga armed groups during the said period of time. The other reason for the Chairman, CFMG to confidently claim that peace has come to Nagaland is that he has not received complaint from any quarter against illegal taxation. The Chairman, CFMG may be right in claiming that there has been peace in Nagaland since there has been no such intergroup physical conflict for quite some time. The Chairman may be believing that how will peace be wanted in Nagaland in absence of arm conflicts.
Whereas, what has been absent in Nagaland for decades is peace, the genuine peace. To me, the ingredients of genuine peace are the inner peace in the mind of people as a whole by which people enjoy genuine freedom: the unhindered freedom to pursue one’s trade, profession and avocation including the freedom of speech and association. The other major attributes to genuine peace are administration of justice by those in authority under whose rule people have sense of pride, equality, security and rationality. Under such governance, the citizens enjoy the progress in developments and improvements in their economic conditions. Under such governance, there is transparency and accountability to public whereby its citizens trust and respect the leaders. Under such dynamic administration, the rates of essential commodities are monitored and streamlined by which the citizens enjoy cheap and reasonable cost of living. Whether the so-called peace in Nagaland has the above mentioned ingredients or not is the question. What kind of peace I desire is not pseudo peace but holistic peace which is wanted in Nagaland.
Do the people of Nagaland have freedom to pursue trade and business? No. No trader is spared from taxation. Anyone who defies the order for paying tax is subjected to physical and mental harassment. The taxation has immense adverse impact on the nascent traders in particular. The taxation had frightened and discouraged hundreds of young entrepreneurs. The aftershock result is the swell in the number of educated unemployed youth in Nagaland and the strangulation of the overall progress in our economy.
Are the Govt. Departments free from the menace of taxation? No. All the Govt. Departments are pestered with the demand for tax. No Department is exempted. Taxation on Govt. Departments has dual adverse impacts. Firstly, physical developments under most of the Departments cannot be achieved due to heavy deduction of funds earmarked for drawn schemes. Secondly, many of the Departmental authorities used to take undue advantage and there have been misuse of funds in the name of obliging to taxation pressures either in connivance or otherwise. Ultimately, most of the Departments exist in the mere interest of its employed staff but hardly serve the people of the State. When so, those Departments are virtually privatised as it failed to give benefit to any beyond its Directorate.
Are the public enjoying peace? People will become happier when the consumer goods are made available to them at cheaper rates. When LPG is adequate at reasonable rate, when the rates for essential commodities as rice, Dal, sugar, tea, milk, etc., and when the building materials like iron rod, sand, cement, etc. are available at cheaper rates, then people will have the sense of peace. How will people enjoy peace when cement is @ of Rs.420/- per bag in Dimapur and @ Rs.550/- per bag at Pfütsero as against Rs.385/- per bag in Guwahati just for instance. Whereas, in my belief, the traders are not paying tax from their pocket to those who are levying, rather the whole tax on any item, be it major or minor, is slapped on the consumers by means of adding it to the rates of the goods. The traders may not necessarily bother about the rates of taxation since the tax burden is ultimately born by the consumers. This vicious cycle of taxation remains unabated which is called ‘voluntary donation’ in the word of the Chairman, CFMG.
Therefore, the atmosphere remaining peaceful without gun fights does not necessarily generate peace for the public. I rather consider peace in Nagaland at this rate to be illusory. In fact, our environments are laced with tensions of irritation, suppression, intimidation and inconveniences underneath. The selfish and ego-centric undercurrent clashing with peace is relentless and thus peace is never allowed to rule in Nagaland.
What trend is the antithesis to peace? The Naga political movement is for Naga sovereignty as had pledged by our forefathers in the Plebiscite of 1951. As for Naga political aspiration, there is no argument on whether we stand for sovereignty or not. The aspiration remains, and the GOI has officially recognised this historical right of ours. Yet, the practical question is how to become sovereign? The sovereignty is never achieved out of theoretical bragging or by mere slogan taking cue from histories. The sovereignty cannot be achieved by anyone who brags for sovereignty from time to time and yet never has gut to venture beyond the comfort zones. It is simple and easy for anyone to artistically act as the champion for sovereignty in any platform by giving bombastically patriotic speeches and yet when such are of mere theory what does such matter when it is bereft of the physical contribution. Whereas, whoever is capable in delivering theatrical message laced with tons of Naga patriotism in any platform is rated to be a better Naga leader no matter how theoretical it may be. Whereas, these pseudo patriots are mostly megalomaniacs who tend to rate themselves above others similar to those of the Pharisees of Roman world. Whereas, it is observed that these pseudo nationalists have overshadowed the genuine patriots who are few in number today. Whereas, the belief of the pseudo nationalists is that the greatest service and sacrifice for Naga nation for one to contribute is to brag about Naga sovereignty and that whoever talks about practical politics is a disservice to the Nagas. The pseudo patriots, in their cosy domains, do claim that Naga nationalism is sustained because of their integrity and their steadfast support for Plebiscite of 1951. And when most of the Naga political and social platforms are dominated by pseudo patriotic and pseudo nationalist actors, eventually our adopted resolutions remained superficial and farcical. And when our society has allowed those Utopians to remain in the social, religious and political lime light, naturally our Naga world is transformed into utopian. Whereas, the Nagas are found to be contented with utopianism as though the pioneers of Naga National Movement had aspired for it.
To add another finding, some of those claimed champions for Naga Plebiscite are allergic to NNC. This category of champions do not agree to keep the legacy of NNC in the history of the Nagas, and they oppose to give credit to NNC. Nevertheless, who mooted the idea of Naga Plebiscite of 1951? The Naga Plebiscite did not emerge out of the blue. It was NNC under the leadership of AZ Phizo, the then President of NNC, that the Plebiscite was undertaken by the Nagas on 16th May, 1951 with great success. It is not legal for anyone to have Plebiscite as the historically political basis by discarding NNC. To discard NNC is discarding Plebiscite of 1951. Had there not been NNC, Plebiscite would never had been conducted.
Whereas, these Utopians have one common slogan as ‘political solution without sovereignty is meaningless, and therefore not acceptable’. ‘Our Naga aspiration is sovereignty based on Plebiscite of 1951 and anything (solution) short of it is not what we want’ are their assertions. I do not argue with them as that assertion is the historical basis of our political right set by the pioneers. The only questions to these so called nationalists are: (a) What is/are the practical strategy/strategies to achieve sovereignty? (b) What are they doing to unite the NNPGs without which Nagas cannot achieve sovereignty? (The Naga disunity has repelled Naga sovereignty. It is self denial.) (c) Do they believe in political negotiation? Let us learn from what AZ Phizo, the father of Naga Nation had planned to do for the Nagas. Quoting from his Interview by M J Akbar which was published by Sunday Magazine on 20th November, 1977 “But whether it is Mrs. Gandhi or anyone else, a settlement will have to be made and that is possible only when both parties sit down together and go into the matter deeply”. Unquote. From the book ‘Phizo and Media, the 2nd Edition by Zapuvisie Lhousa at page 18. Or do they believe that Naga sovereignty will rain down from heaven like Manna?
How to bring peace into Nagaland? The peace I am talking about is the oxygen for progress and prosperity. Till we get the real peace, the economic growth will remain slow. Rather its growth will remain redundant or will be retrogressing. To me, there are no alternative options available with the Nagas to have genuine peace either here in Nagaland or elsewhere. The only option is political solution to ongoing political negotiations. Reiterating that the adverse impacts on peace in Nagaland can be greatly mitigated only by reducing the number of governments. When, by any means, we reduce 10 governments to a single government, the tax burden on the common man will be definitely lifted which will consequently have positive ramifications on the living condition of the people. The orders and directives for most of the issues from multiple authorities will be drastically reduced to minimum confusion resulting to clarity. I strongly believe that by that solution there can be immense transformation from the position of uncertainties to a future of hope and reassurance. I am confident that the very solution can bridge the existing chasms of mistrust and egocentrics by which the Nagas can make the erstwhile Naga solidarity revisit. The genuine peace can therefore be born by solution alone.
The NSCN (IM) entered into political negotiation with GOI 21 years ago with pre-conditions that the dialogue would be at the highest political level, that the dialogue would be in the third country and that the GOI would not engage any other NNPG for simultaneous dialogue till their negotiation is finalised. I believed that NSCN (IM) had determination to bring its negotiation to a logical conclusion on time for the purpose of which its entered into the dialogue. However, I am to question why NSCN (IM) has adopted this strategy of indefinite process of negotiation? Whatever justifications the NSCN (IM) has, the 2 decades negotiation cannot be convincing no matter how intricate the issues may be. I am made to believe now that NSCN (IM) is apprehensive about solution out of its negotiation. In other words, I tend to observe that NSCN (IM) is not willing to have solution. Is NSCN (IM) satisfied with negotiation only? Does NSCN (IM) accept negotiation to be the logical conclusion? If not, what is not resolvable when the Framework was signed in 2015 under the Constitution of India? The way the chief negotiator of NSCN (IM) manoeuvres the negotiation tilts more towards opening of Pandora’s box which is not pragmatic. Secondly, what I talk about those utopians are using negative parlance against solution. These utopians never identify themselves to be pro-NSCN (IM), and yet what justifications they uphold and the delaying strategy of NSCN (IM) are of the two sides of a coin.
The Working Committee comprising 7 NNPGs are reported to have resolved all the contentious issues and are now ready for signing the solution under the Constitution of India. Thus, both the Naga negotiating groups have agreed to have solution within the ambit of Indian Constitution. It is now for GOI to work out a solution out of two negotiations as intended.
The formation of the new Govt. in Delhi after 23.5.2019 is imperative. If NDA retains power, perhaps the Interlocutor RN Ravi, being an old hand in handling the issues, may remain as I believe. If not, I do not know what would be the new arrangement under the new dispensation. Nevertheless, I believe, no Govt. in Delhi can afford to ignore the ongoing political negotiations. It is left to the Nagas as to whether we want to have peace or continue with the status quo. I still uphold the philosophy of something better is better than the status quo and definitely better than nothing.