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Naga peace accord: If it's historic, why the secrecy?

Last updated on: August 11, 2015 10:44 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks after the signing of the Naga peace accord

 

'To expect that these past decades of grief, inter-group killings, anxiety and fear will be brushed aside because of the Naga peace accord is being unrealistic. Memories are built on old wounds and they heal slowly. So, it is important to be cautiously optimistic,' says Sanjoy Hazarika.

First of all, let us hail the peacemakers in their effort to establish a durable agreement between the Nagas and the Indian State.

There are a bunch of questions and fascinating facets to the 'historic accord' between the Government of India's representative and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isaac-Muivah), a week ago. I would refer readers to the statements, one by the prime minister of India, and the other by the general secretary of the NSCN (I-M) who is also known as the Ato Kilonser (prime minister) of the Government of the Peoples Republic of Nagalim.

GPRN, which is largely floating non-territorial organisation that exists through its supporters and leaders in different places. It has numerous camps including ceasefire camps where the cadres are supposed to live with their weapons, but there is also Camp Hebron, the political and military headquarters set up formally after the ceasefire with India began in 1997 and a short distance from Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland.

And just to confuse people there are two GRPNs, one headed by Muivah and the other by his bete noire S S Khaplang of the other large armed group. Since the path-breaking 1997 ceasefire, the NSCN has insisted that the talks should be at the prime ministerial level or through his designated representative. This is the pattern that the discussions have followed over 80 rounds in 18 years.

Both Modi and Thuingaleng Muivah, the Ato Kilonser of the NSCN (I-M), said positive things but their content and approach were different:

The prime minister declared that that the 'talents, tradition and efforts' of the 'people of Nagaland' would 'make the nation stronger.' Muivah on the other hand also made no reference to any details, but did say that the current effort would lead to a better understanding between 'the Nagas and India' -- underlining the separate identities as far as he was concerned, even if it was for public consumption. He praised Modi, saying that under his leadership 'We have come close to understanding each other and have worked out a new relation.'

But this landmark effort also raised a number of issues and questions:

Some of these issues may be clarified at two events this week: The first is Muivah's scheduled address to his supporters and the Naga people on August 14 at Camp Hebron where the Nagas will celebrate their 'Independence Day.' This is to mark the day a telegram went from the Naga National Council in Kohima to the UN announcing Naga independence. Here's another point: how will a future agreement accommodate two such national days?

Other details, whether general or otherwise, are likely to emerge from the prime minister's August 15 speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. So let us watch these two events, one in the Intanki forest of Nagaland and the other in the heart of historic Old Delhi, to get a sense of where things are heading.

We can wish the peacemakers and their discussions well as we do the Naga people and their civil society groups, that they emerge from the nightmare of stress, violence, bloodshed, intimidation and extortion that has become such a normal life statement.

The armed groups and the government have a lot to answer for. The demand by the Nagaland assembly for the repeal of the AFSPA cannot be brushed off, even though successive governments since 2006 have refused to handle this challenge since the Justice Reddy committee submitted its report.

To expect that these past decades of grief, inter-group killings, anxiety and fear will be brushed aside is being unrealistic. Memories are built on old wounds and they heal slowly. So, it is important to be cautiously optimistic.

Sanjoy Hazarika is a columnist, author, filmmaker, director at the Centre for NorthEast Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, and managing trustee, C-NES.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks after the signing of the Naga peace accord, August 3.

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Sanjoy Hazarika