Finding Solutions for Naga Issues: Possible Way Forward

 By Vaibhav Kullashri
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On April 13, 2022, the Nagaland legislatures and CM Neiphiu Rio called on the prime minister in New Delhi to solve the long-pending Naga Peace Talk.[1] Naga peace process is one of the crucial steps for fostering peace and development in northeastern states and developing it as a bridge to southeast Asian nations. The framework agreement signed between the Union government and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim–Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) in 2015[2] was assumed to be a significant leap in achieving the final solution but proved to be a significant hurdle [3] in finding the way forward. The interpretation of the framework agreement by the signing party is now the new bone of contention;[4] the NSCN (IM) is of the idea that “Sharing sovereign power” and “co-existence of two identities” mentioned in the agreement means that the Naga people to have their own national flag and constitution. However, after abrogating Article 370 which gave special status to J and K, the center finds it challenging to stand by the demand as it can lead to a domino effect, causing other states to demand the same. Now NSCN (IM) is unwilling to negotiate anything less than the agreed-on framework agreement and wants it to be the basis for Naga solutions.[5] Moreover, the center argues that such demand was never considered in the framework agreement.

Apart from this, the NSCN(IM) is also pushing for greater Nagalim, which stretches outside Nagaland territories to the state of Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and even Myanmar. Nagaland is already having a land border dispute with Assam and various efforts to resolve the conflict are yet to bear the desired fruit. Meanwhile, the center has signed an agreement called ‘Agreed Position’[6] with other groups under the banner of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), which include NSCN (Khaplang), NSCN (Reformist), and others. NSCN (K), which is another key Naga group, asserted that “Solution to Naga issues is possible if all the Naga Political Groups (NPGs) come together with ‘common draft’ for all Nagas.” [7]

The crucial challenge in dealing with the Naga issue or while dealing with many northeastern problems is finding the shared goal for different ethnic groups. In Nagaland there are more than 19 Naga tribes[8] with different customs, traditional values, and aspirations. It is important to note that uniformity concerning their shared goal for the state among the political groups in Nagaland is also challenging because of their different tribal affiliations. Therefore, searching for the solution to the Naga issue begins with the unification of the Naga tribe itself. The percolation of ideas and knowledge of the Naga Peace Accord (NPA) is minimal at the village level.[9] The people are hardly aware of the NPA; therefore, educating the people must be the government’s aim to foster confidence among the people to find a concrete solution to the issue. The leaders more often utilize the rivalry within the tribe to satisfy their vested interest and gain easy money. The percolation of shared goals among the different tribes can reduce the friction between political groups, especially between NSCN (IM) and NNPGs. Therefore, the government’s aim must be to use a bottom-up approach to deal with the issue while considering all the stakeholders. This approach includes using the reach of various NGOs, Church groups, Gaou Buras and women’s associations among the people to bring the shared goal of different ethnic groups together within the purview of the Indian constitution.

Another challenge in solving the Naga issue is that political groups are reluctant to shed the notion of having a unique solution to their problem and this thought is also brewing among the young student leaders of various student unions across Nagaland. A unique solution generally indicates a separate flag and constitution for the state; however, this notion must be altered by reaching out to the young population and providing an incentive to the Naga people. These incentives could be building various infrastructure projects like Medical and engineering colleges, providing special reservations in central universities and government institutions, recognizing the history and culture of the Naga people across the country, guaranteeing protection of their cultural rights and privileges, complete removal of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from the state and building a dedicated museum depicting Nagaland history, can also be done for other northeastern states, in the national capital showcasing their rich culture and tradition.

Further, extortion and corruption are pretty prevalent in Nagaland and various political groups are part of it, running a parallel government in the state. This practice of extortion by different political outfits is a way of earning easy money rather than working for the genuine cause of the Naga people. Such practice keeps the political group motivated to maintain the status quo for their vested interest. At the same time, the condition of non-tribal people and people living in remote villages remain deplorable due to continuous nagging and extortion by various groups.[10] Therefore, the government needs to crack down heavily on such practices while infusing people-centric development in remote villages. The government must improve the Public Distribution System and initiate schemes that directly provide monetary help to the people living in remote areas. This also requires improvement of the banking system in Nagaland, which is currently abysmal.

Thus, the government’s aim must be to reach out to the people of Nagaland and convey its position on the Naga issue by providing incentives and recognition. This will surely help to build trust and bring about a peaceful solution to the Naga issue.

Endnotes

  1. Bikash Singh, “Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio meets PM Modi”, The Economic Times, 13 April 2022. Available at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/nagaland-chief-minister-neiphiu-rio-meets-pm-modi/articleshow/90829277.cms, accessed on 20 April 2022.
  2. Lix Mathew, Deeptiman Tiwari, “Framework Agreement the Key Hurdle in the way of Naga Peace Accord, The Indian Express, 29 November 2021. Available at “https://indianexpress.com/article/india/framework-agreement-the-key-hurdle-in-way-of-naga-peace-accord-7646484/”, accessed on 20 April 2022.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Rouhin Dev, Adyasa Ananya Das, “A Tumultuous Journey of the NAGA Peace Process”, Cornell Policy Review. Available at https://www.cornellpolicyreview.com/a-tumultuous-journey-of-the-naga-peace-process/?pdf=5994, accessed on 21 April 2022.
  5. PTI, “Framework agreement only acceptable basis for solution to Naga issue: Nscn(im)”, The Print, 21 March 2022. Available at https://theprint.in/india/framework-agreement-only-acceptable-basis-for-solution-to-naga-issue-nscnim/882362/ , accessed on 21 April 2022.
  6. Alice Yhoshu, “Nagaland govt urges Centre to conclude Naga peace talks by August 15”, The Hindustan Times, 20 April 2022. Available at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/nagaland-govt-urges-centre-to-conclude-naga-peace-talks-by-august-15-101650470015489.html, accessed on 22 April 2022.
  7. Nagaland Post, “All NPGs should come together for solution: Niki”, Nagaland Post, 10 April 2022. Available at https://www.nagalandpost.com/index.php/all-npgs-should-come-together-for-solution-niki/, accessed on 22 April 2022.
  8. No 4.
  9. Author interaction with villagers during his field visit to Northeastern states including Nagaland.
  10. No 4.