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Lift veil of secrecy

NAGA FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT
Last Updated : 30 July 2018, 19:16 IST
Last Updated : 30 July 2018, 19:16 IST

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During his recent visit to New Delhi, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh expressed his apprehensions in no uncertain terms that the Naga agreement could spell trouble for the Centre if it chose to disturb the territorial integrity of his state: to begin with, he and his cabinet would resign, he said.

The Nagas have so far been pushing for Nagalim, or Greater Nagaland, to include the adjoining districts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur that have significant Naga populations.

The chief ministers of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam have in the past emphatically said that they will not cede even an inch of their territories to appease the Nagas. These apprehensions have been expressed by the leaders of the three north-eastern states despite the assurances given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

A statement reportedly made by an RSS leader in January that Dima Hasao district of Assam would be merged with the proposed Greater Nagalim led to a violent agitation in the district resulting in the death of two protesters who were attempting to set a train on fire. This was soon followed by a stern remonstrance to the government by 11 political parties of Nagaland to boycott the assembly elections of February until after the finalisation of the Naga Agreement.

The Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hoho and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO), a conglomerate of all tribal organisations and the insurgent outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah) (NSCN-IM) demanded a “Solution before Election”. Their plea to the Election Commission to defer the election was ignored.

The BJP suspended two of its local representatives who attended the meeting of 11 political parties and various tribal groups and who joined in the declaration of not participating in the election process. By a quaint manipulation, the BJP withdrew from the “no election” call of the Naga conglomerate and joined hands with the newly-formed National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), led by former chief minister Neiphiu Rio, a former Congress man.

For political gains, the BJP deftly shed its 15-year-long alliance with the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF), which had decided to boycott the elections until a solution to the Naga tangle was finalised. With BJP going ahead with the elections, the NPF and the Congress, too, jumped into the fray, lest the BJP-NDPP combine
formed government unopposed. Elections to the 60-member Assembly were held in February this year. Though NPF with 27 seats emerged as the largest party, the BJP with its 12 seats tagged along with the NDPP’s 16 to form the government, leaving the NPF dumbfounded.

The stubborn and pertinacious demand of the NSCN (IM) for Greater Nagaland, comprising of Naga-inhabited neighbouring districts in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and even parts of Myanmar has for long been the main bone of contention. Although the demand for including parts of Myanmar in Nagalim can be dismissed as absurd and mere wishful thinking, the persistence of demands for the territories of the three North East states portends a disturbed future for the region.

This, in fact, has been the hindering factor in arriving at an amicable solution for the six-decades-old Naga problem though the Modi government and even the President have assured the people of the North East that the Naga Agreement is in its final stage and will soon see the light of day. Months and years have gone by, but there is not a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Break the silence

The shroud of secrecy around the Framework Agreement for the last three years has led to scepticism not just in the three adjoining states, but also in Nagaland. The mystery around the Agreement has resulted in conjectures and false statements.

The reticence displayed by the Centre is indeed intriguing as people are wondering as to what clause in the Agreement prevents them from divulging its contents. The fact that talks with earlier governments for over 18 years had hit roadblocks was largely due to the demand of the NSCN (IM) for Greater Nagaland. But leaders of the present government have been assuring the three states that their territories will not be disturbed in any way.

The Framework Agreement has been dumped into the deep freezer for too long. It is time that the shroud of mystery is lifted and the people of the country, more so the people of the North East, are apprised of the clauses that have compelled the NDA government to remain silent about it for so long. The Agreement was drafted in haste in deference to ailing founder-leader of NSCN (IM) Isaac Swu’s wish. He passed away on June 28, 2016. Better it would have been to include the leaders of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur in the talks if these states were even remotely associated in any clause of the Agreement.

Why this secrecy and how long can it keep it that way are moot questions. Once the broad outlines have been worked out and both the government and the NSCN (IM) have agreed to the contents, as the government has claimed, why should it remain secret unless there is some clause that could impact other states and end up creating turmoil.

While the government may have sound reasons to exercise restraint in disclosing the contents, the fact that the signatories to the Agreement on behalf of the NSCN (IM), too, have preferred to be tight-lipped is mind-boggling. The people of the four states of Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam have the right to know the contents of the Framework Agreement. The earlier the better, lest things can get out of hand. The citizens of the North East cannot be betrayed.

(The writer is retired IGP, CRPF)

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Published 30 July 2018, 18:47 IST

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