Naga Peace Process and the Modi Chapter

Naga Peace Process and the Modi Chapter
By Ninglun Hanghal, Columnist



Many would argue there is nothing “new” or “historic” in Prime Minister Modi’s August 3 public announcement of the “Naga Peace Accord” on National Television . Indeed there is none. The only available media statement (Press Information Bureau) said details of the ‘accord’ framework and its execution will be released in the days to come.

But there is something very unique - Modi’s way of doing things. His strategy , execution and most of all his ability to “read people’s minds” and effectively using the media ( particularly the Television) to his full advantage. He effortlessly manages to soothe the ego of the leaders of the NSCN (IM) to (almost) perfection – the photo-op, the protocol, status –quo maintained. With the whole country glued on to the screen, it was perfect. The Naga traditional shawl, which Modi consciously did not remove all through the “public show”, was a value addition.  

The grey dot in the show, though, would be the pretentious smile of Th. Muivah,  General Secretary – NSCN(IM) and a stammering on pronouncing “Narendra Modi”. And of course the absence of the outfit’s chairman Isaac Swu , who is undergoing treatment due to illness.

As usual at his best – public speaking- Modi delivered a diplomatic and impressive speech. There were pointers in between the lines. He touches upon issues that were core to the hearts and minds of the Naga People, their way of life, etc. He talked of the larger picture of socio economic development of north-east India and beyond which made his speech “acceptable” to all, particularly the non-Nagas in north-east  and the general Indian public.

Perhaps due to the long drawn exhaustive “peace process” between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland/Nagalim (IM faction) and Government of India, that has more or less led to fatigue, the Monday announcement, did not or rather could not stir much ripples, unlike other occasion when the peace talk reaches a certain point, such as in 2001, when Manipur literally burned. In-fact  , much as the ‘Naga peace talk’ had been complex and complicated (the process is more than 15 years now, and doesn’t seem to be over as yet); it would be too early to comment.

From the official speech of Th.Muivah who is the NSCN(IM) signatory to the “framework agreement” it is clear that he is not yet done , an indication that the NSCN (IM) shouldn’t  be written off so soon. Not directly facing the camera, Muivah repeated a very similar sentence that has been used since past years in the process that an honorable peaceful political solution is yet to be worked out. An attempt to convey a message that “ this is not the end”.    

Though there is disquiet or no major knee jerk re-actions in the aftermath of the “public announcement of a peace accord be it in Naga Areas or other parts of north-east India, no doubt there were curiosity, jittery, anxiety and hush and hush affairs. The process leading up to the announcement was done in utmost secrecy where many even within the NSCN(IM) , the Civil Society in Nagaland and other NE states were taken by  surprise.

While the frame work agreement - as in terms of taking to a new level - deserves an applause, it is pertinent to also keep in mind the larger public, specially the Naga public, who has the right to be informed of/about the “agreements” that is going to affect them. If at all they are kept in the dark it would be a grave mistake on the part of the “Naga Leadership” and the Government.

Certainly there would be negotiations and compromise on various “points” as in many other peace agreements and accords across the world. All said and done, peace is not given or taken. It is not something that can be achieved by signing a document or an agreement. It comes from the genuine desire of the people, the key stakeholder, the civil society and the government. As many had mentioned and re-called the 1986 Mizo Peace accord - in an attempt to draw parallels and comparisons, it is important to also remember that it was not the accord perse that brought peace to Mizoram, but the aftermath of the signing of the accord, wherein the people, the collective leadership, the civil bodies and government  themselves practice “peace” in spirit and deed.   

The August 3 “historic” announcement of the Naga peace accord, the official term used by the government of the day, there is no doubt that “some progress” had been made. The secrecy could well be yet another tactic and strategy by Prime Minister Modi himself, who is reportedly monitoring the process ever since he came to power.  

A nationalist Prime Minister, Modi’s readiness to solve the issue does not call for any doubt. His larger vision of India as an emerging leader in south east Asia region vis a vis north-east India cannot be missed. And it is hoped that all this were done in an attempt to make progress and development which the north-east region desperately needed. Modi’s understanding of the general picture of north-east India at large and the Naga psyche is visibly note-worthy.

Nevertheless, for better or for worst his tactics and handling of the Naga conflict and the north-east region will be tested in days to come.

As of now, the “Naga Peace accord” is an open ended matter.  We can only hope for better days, not only for the Nagas but for all the people in north-east India who are either direct or indirect stakeholders of the “peace process”

Much has watered down the history of the Nagas and north-east India. Many Prime Ministers have come and gone; many interlocutors have been part of the peace process as well. Now that Narendra Modi has added a new chapter, he will prominently figure as one of the most important personae in the history of the Nagas and north-east India.