The Naga Political issue has dominated the political discourse of the Nagas, as well as the political agenda or election manifestoes of political parties in Nagaland during the last six decade or so.
It has also been the innermost desire of the Nagas for the last six decades. If any Naga is asked today what he wants to see happening in Nagaland, the overwhelming majority would most probably say- “I would like to see the final and peaceful resolution of the Naga issue”.
With the signing of the “framework agreement”, popularly known as the Naga Peace Accord on 3rd August, 2015, between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) I believe that the Naga political dialogue has entered a crucial phase, and is closer towards its final resolution than ever before. As I am not privy to the contents of the “Framework Agreement”, I cannot make any comments on its contents now. However, I feel strongly that all Nagas need to support it as a first major step towards the final solution of the Naga political issue. I also believe that the solution should be honourable and acceptable to the Naga people as whole. I also believe that once a formula for resolution of the Naga political issue is thrashed out by the Government of India and the NSCN (IM), it should form the basis for broad based consultations amongst the Naga nationalist groups, and amongst the Naga people, before it is accepted or turned down. In my view, the most important thing now is to bring on board all the other Naga nationalist groups.In this delicate task, the Interlocutor and the NSCN (IM) may take the lead, but it will require the solid back-up and cooperation from the Nagaland Legislator’s Forum, leaders of mass based Naga organisation and the church, including the Forum for Naga Reconciliation which, I feel, will need to be reactivated in order to bring about Reconciliation among our various Naga Political Groups.
The DAN Government in Nagaland has always been giving the highest priority to the Naga political issue. Since the formations of DAN I in 2003, we have taken several initiatives to facilitate the peaceful resolution of the Naga Political issue. Soon after taking over the reigns of the Government, the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of DAN was formed. This PAC met the various Naga nationalist groups and had useful and wide-ranging consultations with them on the Naga Political issue.
The latest rounds of ceasefire and peace talks between the NSCN(IM) and the Government of India have also been going on for the last 17 years, since the year 1997. The State Government, Members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly, the church and various NGOs have also been trying their best to facilitate the peaceful resolution of this protracted Naga political issue. Let me try to briefly summarise some of the significant events in the current peace process:
5.1. Resolutions of the Joint sitting of Nagaland Legislative Assembly on Naga Political Issue, made on the 26th November, 2009, resolved to appeal to the negotiating parties to expedite the peace process, and also to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Naga Political Issue, comprising of members across political affiliations, to carry the voice of House on the Naga political issue to all concerned, including the Government of India and the Naga nationalist groups.
5.2. Resolutions of Joint Legislature Forum on Naga Political Issue, made on 15th September, 2011, had given appreciation to the Naga Concordant, 2011, and also appealed to all Naga nationalist groups to participate in the process of reconciliation.
5.3. Resolutions of the Joint Legislature Forum on Naga Political Issue, made on 19th July, 2012, gave appreciation to the constructive roles played by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, the Church, and the civil society towards unification of the Naga nationalist groups. It also appealed to the Government of India and the Naga nationalist groups to expedite the peace process, while reiterating the commitment of all the legislators to pave the way by stepping aside from their own positions for any alternative arrangement that may come about consequent upon peaceful settlement of the Naga political issue.
5.4. In the month of August, 2012, a team of the Nagaland Joint Legislature Forum met Dr Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India and various national leaders at Delhi, including the then Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, the Chairman of UPA, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and the veteran BJP leader, Shri L.K.Advani, and urged them to expedite solution to Naga Political problem. It also met the leaders of the Naga Nationalist Organisations.
5.5 All the 60 legislators of the Twelfth Nagaland Legislative Assembly, in the meeting held on 25th May, 2015, decided to constitute Nagaland Legislators’ Forum on Naga Political Issue, that would carry the voice of the House to all sections, including the Government of India and the Naga nationalist groups. The Forum also resolved to constitute Nagaland Parliamentary Working Committee on Naga Political Issue consisting of representative of all political parties.
5.6. The Parliamentary Working Committee of the Nagaland Legislators’ Forum on Naga Political Issue, in its meeting held on 6th July, 2015, decided to request Naga Hoho and Eastern Naga People Organisation (ENPO) to send a delegation to meet Shri Khaplang, Chairman of NSCN(K), to convey the desire and request of the Committee, as well as of the State Government and the people of Nagaland for resumption of the Cease Fire Agreement between the Government of India and the NSCN (K). It also decided to send a delegation of the Parliamentary Working Committee to Delhi to meet the Interlocutor to the Naga Peace Talks, the Union Home Minister and the Hon’ble Prime Minister to convey the need for having a peaceful atmosphere by having ceasefire with all the Naga nationalist groups, and to request them to use their good offices to settle the Naga political issue at the earliest.
6. A delegation of the Parliamentary Working Committee of the Nagaland Legislators’ Forum, consisting of 19 Legislators were in Delhi from 15th to 17th July 2015 in pursuance of the above resolutions/ decisions and we met the Hon’ble Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and the Interlocutor to Naga Political dialogue.
7. Many Prime Ministers of this country and many Chief Ministers of the State have tried to resolve the Naga political problem. Many interlocutors to the Naga peace talk have come and gone, but the problem remains unresolved. The former Prime Minister Shri Narasimha Rao had stated that “Naga issue is a political issue, and not a law and order issue”. Another former Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also said that the “Naga history and situation are unique”. However, the main problem seems to be that the Government of India have never made an offer, in the form of a formula for solution of the Naga political problem, that can form the basis for discussions and consultations amongst the Naga nationalist groups, as well as amongst various sections of the Naga society. We impressed upon the Prime Minister and the Home Minister that it is high time that the Naga people are freed from this political tangle, and be enabled to move forward on the path to peace, development and prosperity.
8. It may be recalled here that to put an end to the violent armed conflict, which marked the Naga political movement in the 1950s, the 16 Point Agreement of 1960 was signed between the Government of India and the Naga People Convention, leading to the creation of Nagaland as the 16th state of the Indian Union. However, this did not lead to the cessation of the violent movement, as the underground Naga nationalists were not taken on board. The ceasefire agreement of 1964 broke down soon, and the Shillong Accord of 1975, instead of solving the problem of insurgency, has brought about worse situations in the State. Therefore, it is important that such kind of peace meal solution should not be attempted in the present situation.
9. The Nagaland Legislative Assembly during its last Budget session held last month, had also passed a 5-Point Resolution on the Naga Political issues, which was widely reported in newspapers. This resolution was again endorsed by leaders of all mass based Naga organisations in the consultative meeting held with them by the Nagaland Legislators’ Forum, at Jotsama on 30th July 2015
10. I think, we have all accepted that the Naga political issue is no more the prerogative of the Naga nationalist groups alone. It also does not belong to any particular tribe or individual. Rather, it belongs to the Nagas as a whole. It concerns all of us, because it is about our collective future. That is why we consider it necessary to have this kind of consultation meetings with leaders of Naga society. Henceforth, while talking about this Naga political issue, let us use the word “we” instead of “I”. I believe, this will give the right message to our people and across the country. This way, we can move forward together without hurting each other. If we are united, and work together for a common goal, God will surely deliver us from this long struggling movement.
11. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, the former Indian Prime Minister, during his visit to Kohima in 2003 had said that the Naga history and situation are unique. Now, let me try to define why Naga history is unique. I think it is because we are different in:
(a) our physical appearance.
(b) our culture and tradition.
(c) our customary practices.
(d) our traditional land holding system is also different from other parts of the country
Therefore, we need to protect and uphold our own unique history and identity, so that other people will continue to respect us for what we are. If we do away with our unique culture and tradition, we are too small to be counted in this vast Indian Sub-continent. We have started with our unique history, and we should preserve this uniqueness till the end. If we stand by the principle of “one people, one vision and one goal,” who can divide us?
12. In this world, leadership comes and goes. No one can avoid death. But history will repeat our deeds and achievements after we leave this world. Therefore, let us do our best to leave behind a worthwhile legacy, for which the Naga people will remember us with gratitude for what we have done.
13. This is probably the first time that the Nagaland Legislators as a group are meeting Shri T. H. Muivah and his team. I would like to thank Shri. T. H. Muivah, the Ato Kilonser who have decided to meet the Members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly and agreed to have this interaction in this place. Let there be no doubt that we are committed to permanent peace in our land, and we will go the extra mile to achieve this. Needless to say, peace is a requisite to development, and together, we can work towards a better and more prosperous land for the Nagas.