India’s Naga Militancy:
Perpetuating the Status Quo
The Naga militancy in India is the oldest in the country going back to the 1950’s with both sides the Indian government and the Nagas opting for a status quo there is unlikely to be any resolution in the near future. No government in Delhi would survive if it agrees to Naga demands, the Naga leadership is pragmatic enough to know the same and are bargaining to remain outside state control while enjoying all the benefits from this unusual bargain.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN IM) with its two groups the Isaac Muivah or the IM and the K or the Khaplang are the principal interlocutors on the Naga side each claiming to be the sole reprsetnative of the community. NSCN IM leader Thuingaleng Muivah met the Prime Minister and the Home Minister in Delhi recently. There was hope after the meeting which was said to have been held in a cordial manner however it is evident that not much is likely to have been gained as the issues in focus remain as intractable as ever, these being Naga unity, demand for sovereignty and integration of traditional Naga areas some of which also are in Myanmar.
The Nagas know that New Delhi will never accept these demands and would only offer maximum autonomy what ever that means. At the same time it does not want to give up the large infra structure established in Nagaland which is operating from the so called cease fire locations and is outside the ambit of state control. Giving up this and the plush facilities the top leadership enjoys abroad would not be a viable option for the likes of NSCN IM chief duo Isac Swu and Muivah. Thus both sides seem to be playing for maximizing the status quo rather than attaining a lasting solution.
Therefore it was not surprising that the Naga insurgent group NSCN (IM) insisted that the outfit would stick to its original demand of sovereignty for Nagaland during these talks. NSCN (IM) general secretary T Muivah said, "We have been talking to the government for a long time and it is high time that the government took the matter seriously. In more than 10 years, they could not solve the problem so they are responsible for it." "It is the people who should decide their fate and that cannot be withdrawn," Muivah said about sovereignty. Union home secretary, G. K. Pillai on the other hand insisted that “New Delhi will not discuss any matter related with demand of sovereignty and integration in the talks with the NSCN (I-M) but the talk will be an open one.”
Meanwhile the tussle between the two NSCN factions continued with the NSCN IM blaming the K and vice versa for not engaging in serious negotiations with the government. The NSCN K has also said that NSCN-IM leader Th. Muivah can only take up social issues and problems of Ukhrul district but not Naga issues. On the other hand, NSCN IM said, "Regarding the ongoing reconciliation and unity process, it has been made amply clear that the same is a domestic problem and it is an internal issue of the Nagas. Reconciliation and unity process under no circumstances can condition the political dialogue between the GOI and the Nagas lead by NSCN."
"In their write-ups the Kehoi campers (NSCN-K) mentioned the name of Th. Muivah several times which clearly shows their immature political mindset with vested interest, biased and hatred towards a particular leader and tribe. They should keep in mind that Th. Muivah is not talking with India for him or for his tribe. But he has been shouldering the rare noble responsibility on behalf of all the Nagas. The GoI through its notorious agencies and some Naga idiots who have no political vision can never undo the NSCN work. The NSCN is firm and determined for the righteous and sacred cause of all the Nagas," the NSCN-IM statement said.
The rift in the Naga groups has reduced expectations of a breakthrough in talks with NSCN IM as the familiar refrain of who is a true representative of the Naga people has arisen despite unity talks held in Changmai in Thailand during 2009. At the strategic level there are three issues which have been flagged. The first one is an internal one that of Naga unity. The second issue is of sovereignty which has been emphasized, thus there are maximum demands rather than attempts to resolve the same within the Indian rubric. Finally there is the issue of integrating Naga homeland which is now split between India and Myanmar and also within India in various states. While the government would be facing the dilemma of attempting to resolve the Naga problem by talking with only one group, the feasibility of success is very much in doubt.
Hopefully the Government will also take up continued extortion and kidnapping activities of the Naga groups which has now been traced upwards and tasking of the National Investigation Agency to investigate the cases may sully the atmosphere even further. That would be a small gain for the people of Nagaland as well as other states in the North East, even as the political game of militancy between the government and the rebel outfits continues.
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Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
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