Jamir clarifies: Together Nagas can overcome

One P. Modoli of Senapati district has responded to His Excellency SC Jamir’s opinion that Nagas should work out a political framework with the Government of India which can protect the future of the Naga people, their distinct identity and economic well-being by way of some financial package. It appears that the writer has hastened to draw his own conclusions and at the same time, put words into the mouth of His Excellency. He appears to have missed the forest for the trees when he remained silent about the “political framework” which His Excellency suggested. Basically, His Excellency’s statement implies two things: political and economic – the political being the protection of the future of the Naga people and their way of life, and the economic being the financial arrangement. The writer has clubbed the two different issues together and has jumped to conclusions. 

Whatever political arrangement is worked out may not guarantee the economic well-being of the people just as any economic arrangement may not ensure the political destiny of the people. At the same time, the two cannot be dealt with separately. Just as the slogan of the Government “Development for peace and peace for development” enunciated by the Chief Minister recently have political and economic connotations, the statement of His Excellency regarding the political framework must be viewed from political and economic angles. All these decades, Naga people have lost on the economic/development front because of the political imbroglio. We are deprived of economic benefits because of political reasons, and there is no logical reason why we should be deprived thus. And any political arrangement without economic considerations would not find much favour. 

Efforts to solve the protracted Naga political problem have been dragging on for several decades now but hitherto, no one has come up with any positive suggestion to strengthen the hands of the negotiating parties. And when it seems that the ongoing talks between the Government of India and the NSCN factions seem to have landed in a political cul-de-sac, His Excellency, by the writer’s own admission, senior Naga politician has come out not exactly with a solution, but a pointer as to how to solve the Naga problem. This should be taken as a positive suggestion and not that of and from a devil replete with horns out to destroy by one stroke everything that he has believed in and worked for all his life, which is for the betterment of the Naga people. No man is perfect, nor is anyone expected to be perfect. Likewise, Jamir may not be perfect in the eyes of everybody. But that does not mean his contribution to the Naga people can be deleted from the memory just like that because of the simple reason that history will tell otherwise. But then, when Christ Himself was condemned and crucified by His own people, one cannot expect a mere human being to be perfect and please every human being, leave alone his own people. Therefore, it is not expected that everyone will appreciate his suggestion. Likewise, a dissenting individual cannot be expected to be speaking on behalf of the majority.  Nevertheless, since the writer has raised some points pertinent to the Naga problem, the undersigned would like to elaborate on some relevant points.

It would be incorrect to imagine that the ceasefires of 1997 and 2001 are the first serious attempts to solve the Naga problem. The Nagaland Baptist Churches Council took the initiative way back in the 1960s paving the way for a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1964. The mood of the people then was, as is now, that Nagas need normalcy and peace in the land. One of the most notable features of the 1964 ceasefire agreement is that it extended to all Naga-inhabited areas. No neighboring communities resented the territorial ambit of the ceasefire at that point of time and the Government of India appeared to be agreeable to the idea of a unified administrative unit for the Naga areas. However, the sense of oneness and the desire to be territorially integrated was not as developed amongst the Nagas at that time as it is now. No one ever thought of expressing solidarity with the Nagas of Nagaland as was done in October 2003 during the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Kohima when thousands of Nagas from Manipur thronged to Kohima braving inclement weather in a show of solidarity. Many believe that the Naga leaders of Manipur in the 1960s gave a “lukewarm” response to the call for integration with the areas of Nagaland. But whatever maybe the case, it is not relevant now, or that important to discuss now since the past cannot be undone. Moreover, too much water has flown under the proverbial bridge since 1964, and the people now have to contend with the former Prime Minister’s statement that there is “no political consensus” for integration of contiguous Naga inhabited areas. This was 2003. But in 1964, though one cannot say for sure whether there was political consensus or not, there certainly was no objection to the coverage of the ceasefire areas to Naga inhabited areas of Manipur. However, the June 2001 uprising in Manipur against the coverage of the ceasefire agreement between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) is a clear indication as to what people of Manipur think about the territorial integrity of their State.

The stand of the Government of India on the issue of Sovereignty has been consistent as it was since it entered into ceasefire agreements with the NSCN factions in 1997 and 2001 – it is non-negotiable, a statement reiterated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the first week of April 2006 at Guwahati while commenting on talks with the ULFA. The same goes for the territorial integrity of the Northeastern States. The requirement of “political consensus” stated by Vajpayee in 2003 is more or less the same as the “consent of the States concerned” declared by Singh at Guwahati. The Government of India is very clear on the issues of Sovereignty and Greater Nagaland. We should be pragmatic and realize the ground realities.  We have to find a solution to the problem so that Nagas can meet the changed global realities in an environment of peace and normalcy. The common man does not know if the negotiating parties are discussing Naga sovereignty or integration. For that matter, the common man does not know whether the talks are within or beyond the Constitution of India, inside or outside the country, with or without a third party. All he wants is to live a normal, peaceful life. If some recent developments such as attempts to gauge the feelings of the grassroots people by holding mass contact meetings initiated by the NSCN (IM) are any indication, it is sincere to solving the protracted Naga problem once and for all. 

The nature of the framework would entirely depend on the sagacity of the Naga people, including those parties who are currently holding dialogues with the Government of India. In turn, the political, economic and social destiny of the Naga people would depend largely on the nature of that framework. Nagas now have to work out what exactly they want this political framework to be – we should have unanimity of opinion in this; we should be united and present the consensus voice to the Government of India. In this regard, one should not; one must not belittle the contribution or potential of any individual or group of people.

And at this juncture when the negotiating parties are working out that competencies or framework, it would be detrimental to criticize their effort. To question why they are not demanding what the Government of India has clearly stated is not possible would be throwing the proverbial spanner in the works. We simply cannot expect any group or individual to work miracles by doing the impossible or to solve the problem in a jiffy.  Also one should not jump the gun when someone gives a pointer to how the solution should be like. After all, the Naga political problem is the problem of the people and not a tribal, factional or individual problem. Collective wisdom is the need of the hour, and aspersions should not be cast on well-meaning ideas; apparitions should not be seen just about anywhere. Nagas should overcome… overcome the challenges of the 21st century. We should learn from the past and look ahead to the future.

Together Nagas can overcome.

OSD to Governor, Goa