There could not be anything more different between Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) save the incessant demands for their secession from India. Secessionist leadership in the two states is also a study in contrast. One is patient, willing to negotiate for long and the other inchoate, sullen and often purposeless.
The story of the differing fates of the two provinces and insurgencies lies in the different origins of the two problems. Nagaland was the first major challenge to the unity of India, J&K only a late entrant (Punjab, Mizoram and Assam had been problem states earlier). J&K’s tallest leader, Sheikh Abdullah, was not only a close colleague of Jawaharlal Nehru, but also his friend. He chose to be with India willingly. The Naga leaders, as epitomized by Angami Zapu Phizo, could only weakly relate themselves to India. Their demand for an independent Nagaland predated 1947.
Yet, 55 years after the initial uprising, the Naga problem seems closer to resolution and J&K continues to be a difficult problem. Why? There are two interlinked issues here. First is that of a coherent leadership. In Nagaland one can draw a near-constant line from Phizo to Isaac Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, the leaders of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). This allows the Union government to deal in a coherent fashion with someone. The present round of talks may or may not yield a solution, but it demonstrates that India is willing to engage.
The second issue is that of external control of secessionist forces in Indian provinces. In Nagaland, there has been plenty of support from China and Pakistan. But at no point has the Naga leadership been controlled from abroad. In J&K, the Hurriyat conference dare not go against Islamabad, even if sections of it are more than willing to come to an understanding with the Union government. It is not a mere matter of addressing political aspirations. The problem involves sustained efforts to dismember India. That is not about to happen.
Conceding autonomy to provinces that have a history of secessionism may seem a bad idea. In the case of Nagaland, at least, it is not a bad idea. A durable peace deal in Nagaland will have a multiplier effect on peace in the North-East. J&K, on the other hand, has to wait. First India has to deal with Pakistan and only then can autonomy make sense in J&K.
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