Active Stocks
Fri Jul 05 2024 15:58:02
  1. Tata Steel share price
  2. 174.75 -0.85%
  1. HDFC Bank share price
  2. 1,648.10 -4.55%
  1. State Bank Of India share price
  2. 860.05 2.48%
  1. Tata Motors share price
  2. 993.70 -0.54%
  1. Power Grid Corporation Of India share price
  2. 339.40 1.21%
Business News/ Opinion / Online-views/  Naga peace process: New equations
BackBack

Naga peace process: New equations

Several indicators inextricably tie the Naga negotiations to Manipur

A file photo of Naga tribesmen during a festival at Kohima, Nagaland. Several tribal groups; church organizations; the Church-inspired Forum for Naga Reconciliation; and several citizens’ groups are now pushing to maintain the peace. Photo: AFPPremium
A file photo of Naga tribesmen during a festival at Kohima, Nagaland. Several tribal groups; church organizations; the Church-inspired Forum for Naga Reconciliation; and several citizens’ groups are now pushing to maintain the peace. Photo: AFP

Something is about to give in the Naga peace process. There are several indicators, even seemingly puzzling ones, that inextricably tie the Naga peace process to Manipur.

There was the spectacular pulling out of the peace process late last month by the rebel faction, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim led by S.S. Khaplang. Commonly known as NSCN-K, it is headquartered in contiguous Naga areas in the jungles of north-west Myanmar. NSCN-K leaders and cadres emptied out of their designated ceasefire camps in the state of Nagaland—home since a ceasefire in 2001—and engaged in sporadic attacks on security forces before exiting India.

It is seen as acceptance by the Myanmar-born Khaplang, who fired two key pro-ceasefire, pro-peace talk negotiators before the pull-out, that at this time he sees little benefit from a weakening hold over his slice of Naga nationalism bankrolled by citizens and businesses in Nagaland. He would rather nurture his turf in Myanmar, where he signed a ceasefire deal with the junta three years ago in exchange for being left alone—as much as being left alone works in the grey zones of such conflicts ruled equally by notions of country and cash.

Khaplang would also, evidently, continue to provide sanctuary for a consideration to several rebel groups battling India. These include the Paresh Baruah-led faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom that has evolved into major weapons-runners; the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland; and six rebel groups influential in the Imphal valley areas of Manipur that collectively use the moniker Coordination Committee, or CorCom.

It’s a formidable alliance sealed with an expedient mix of funds, weapons and narcotics that can be cracked only if the Myanmar government and its all-powerful army agree to flush out anti-India rebels as have recent administrations in Bhutan and Bangladesh. India’s quid pro quo with Myanmar hasn’t yet reached that tipping point.

That leaves the negotiating future to NSCN-K’s arch rival and pre-eminent Naga rebel group, NSCN-IM, led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah—the M in the acronym, and by far the more aggressive partner. IM, unlike K, has invested a future within the territory of India, even as it takes issue with the idea of India imposed on Naga people. This territorial range includes Nagaland as well as Naga areas in Manipur—mostly in the hill areas that comprise nearly 90% of that state.

Several tribal groups; church organizations; the umbrella, Church-inspired Forum for Naga Reconciliation that actively seeks reconciliation among Naga rebel groups as a necessary first step to a meaningful future for Nagas; and several citizens’ groups are now pushing to maintain the peace. If the government of India is to have any hope to formally settle the Naga conflict (IM has been in a ceasefire with the government of India since 1997, with occasional skirmishing), it will need to honourably carve out an integrated future not only for rebel leaders, but also cadres. Any settlement will also need to include smaller rebel factions like NSCN-KK, a breakaway from K, led by Khole Konyak and Kitovi Zhimomi.

Additional complications stem from ethnicity and related territoriality. Like Muivah, much of the key leadership and the bulk of the cadres of the IM faction are from Naga areas in present-day Manipur. The tribal dynamics of the Nagas suggest that a more amenable future may emerge if such folks find an honourable alternative in their tribal homelands, mostly in the northern hill districts of Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong, the Naga-majority districts in Manipur.

As if in concert, the United Naga Council (UNC), the apex body of Naga tribes in Manipur, has since last year raised its demand for what it formally calls Alternative Arrangement to fever pitch. The UNC alleges that the Manipur government, heavy with implicit discrimination by the state’s Meitei ethnic majority, mostly from the plains areas, has no future in the hills. The UNC wants direct administrative interaction with Delhi.

A Naga settlement cannot come about without adjustments in this pocket borough of NSCN-IM. I’m given to understand that one such adjustment involves giving the Alternative Arrangement flight with control over finance, administration and development, but allow the government of Manipur to retain control over police. There will naturally be several balancing acts for this complicated deal to go through.

No deal can, of course, come about without making grand gestures to assuage the valleys of Manipur, its resident Meiteis, and other key ethnicities—of the Kuki, Zomi and Hmar tribes. More on this next week.

Sudeep Chakravarti’s latest book is Clear.Hold.Build: Hard Lessons of Business and Human Rights in India. His earlier books include Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country and Highway 39: Journeys through a Fractured Land. This column, which focuses on conflict situations in South Asia that directly affect business, runs on Fridays.

Respond to this column at rootcause@livemint.com

3.6 Crore Indians visited in a single day choosing us as India's undisputed platform for General Election Results. Explore the latest updates here!

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Published: 03 Apr 2015, 12:14 AM IST
Next Story footLogo
Recommended For You