Journey of common Hope: Winter of disillusionment!

Dimapur | January 5 :  The “September 18 summit” seems to have belied expectations as the following months turned out to be a winter of disillusionment for the Naga public.
Hopes were high when leaders of the three rival Naga groups, NSCN/GRPN general secretary Th. Muivah, GPRN/NSCN general secretary Kitovi Zhimomi and NNC/FGN president ‘Brig’ (Retd) S Singnya issued a joint declaration on September 18, 2010, stating that they had “reconciled” based on the “Historical and Political rights of the Nagas.”
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), which initiated the “Journey of common hope” for reconciliation and unity among the Naga political groups, had then said that the summit signaled the “beginning of a new era of bright hope for the Nagas.”
However, the groups including the rival NSCN factions continued to trade bitter charges, mainly accusing each other of “expansionism” under cover of the reconciliation process. There was also no let up in taxation imposed by various political groups, extortion and abduction for ransom by individuals taking the name of political groups. Sporadic faction-related incidents and near-showdown between the Naga armed groups in various Naga-inhabited areas during this time also raised apprehensions of breaching of the sacred “Covenant of Reconciliation” (CoR).
Top leaders of the three Naga groups - NSCN/GPRN chairman Isak Chishi Swu, GPRN/NSCN chairman SS Khaplang and FGN president S Singnya – in the CoR signed on June 13, 2009, solemnly committed themselves to “Naga Reconciliation and forgiveness,” and resolved to “continue to work together in the spirit of love, non violence, peace and respect.”  Dimapur-based newspaper The Morung Express in its New Year eve editorial described 2010 as a “Year of let down” as far as the “Journey of common hope” was concerned.
The editorial commented that “except for a few summit meetings, some joint statements and of course the usual trips to Chiangmai in Thailand,” and fragile ceasefire between the Naga political groups, there has been no “real forward movement.”
The CoR, public meetings by Joint Working Group (JWG) comprising members of the three Naga political groups in Naga areas and the September 18 summit, had raised hopes that the next and most crucial step in the reconciliation process, i.e. talks at the highest level involving the top political leaders would materialize in 2010. But the highest level meeting had not come to pass and much water has flown since then. Alongside the main Reconciliation process, related “positive” developments include the “Unconditional reconciliation and unity” agreed between the GPRN/NSCN and NNC/FGN (Singnya) on July 15, 2010, at Monyakshu in Mon district.
Further, on December 14, 2010, the two groups along with the NNC (Senka-Nagi group) issued a joint declaration, committing themselves to “unconditional unity.” The three groups in a joint statement said that the Naga political groups had committed themselves to Reconciliation, Peace and Unity by “recognizing the fact that the solution to the prolonged Indo-Naga-Burma could only be hastened by the Nagas themselves”. Accordingly, the “basis of the 14th December 2010 declaration was, therefore, unconditional unity as only through this path could the Nagas achieve a common future.”   
On the other hand, the NSCN/GPRN reacted by saying that the declaration was an attempt to undermine the Covenant of Reconciliation. “Any initiative done through the backdoor shall be considered as an attempt to override and undermine the Chiang Mai agreement. We can never be part of such unification process that comes from the backdoor,” the group said. The NSCN/GPRN, which is currently having peace talks with Delhi, also said that it was pointless to hold further reconciliation meets till the “highest level meeting” of top leaders of the Naga groups.
With things as it stand, the words of FNR convenor Rev. Dr. Wati Aier in one of the public meetings come to mind: “In the context of the Nagas, Reconciliation without a change in our broken relationships is a weak consolation. We must learn lessons from history that wanting change without reconciliation leads to witch hunts. Naga revolutionaries should recognize this today. For, until there is Reconciliation can the very circle of revenge be overcome.”
An observer of the reconciliation process stated that since Reconciliation is a process and the approach is to build and strengthen the process towards reconciliation, there can be no “quick-fix” or “assumed solutions.” “The parties themselves will have to agree on a solution that reflects the spirit and principles of reconciliation, mutual acceptance and respect for each other. The FNR process is forward looking. The observer further added that Reconciliation is not just about addressing and healing the past, more importantly it is about the future, it is about how different groups can come together to build a common and shared future. FNR has spent a lot of time on trust building, because trust is essential to make steps forward to a future. Without trust it is difficult to even take one small step.”
On Christmas Eve, the FNR convenor echoed the sentiment of the Naga public on the arduous “Journey of common hope.” “Many of us (Christians) hunger for justice, mercy, reconciliation, righteousness and peace among tribes, and peoples. But often one sees nothing special being done by those who are called by the God of hope, no division being joined, but rather the observance of divisions and competition in the community and society where we live. Our hope has become a vain hope. This vain hope joins no divisions nor makes no longer free, but lets people and dream decay underneath them. This is oppressing sin of omission that leaders have failed to realize.”
The New Year is sure to bring forth fresh challenges to both FNR and the political groups and leaders in the quest for true reconciliation based on the Covenant of Reconciliation. On the positive side, the political Naga groups have pledged to continue with the journey of hope.
The GPRN/NSCN, NNC and FGN in a joint New Year greetings, called for making 2011 a “year of solution to differences on all fronts.” Similarly, NSCN/GPRN Home minister Rh. Raising in his New Year message said: “I hope 2011 is the year of salvation for the Nagas. Let us rise and move forward together for our common future and never look back.”

(The report is part of media fellowship for the 2010-2011 cycle of Panos South Asia’s plural media and peace building in Northeast India)