In days to come, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his interlocutor in chief for the Naga peace accord RN Ravi will have to deal with major hurdles for long-lasting peace in the Northeast. On August 14, during the celebration of 69th Naga Independence Day at the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) council headquarters at Hebron in Nagaland, its General Secretary Th Muivah rejected “rumours” that the outfit was backtracking on integration and sovereignty, saying they were the “core issues” and there could be “no solution whatsoever” without fulfilling the two issues.
It is the question of integration, which may prove to be a major stumbling block in the negotiation process. The NSCN (IM)’s major demand has been for the creation of a “Greater Nagalim”, comprising of “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with the state of Nagaland.
According to news reports, the state of “Greater Nagalim” will include districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, as also a large tract of Myanmar. With only a framework agreement in place, the Government of India will have to walk a tight-rope in dealing with both the separatist group and various state governments. Muivah’s contentious statements do assume a serious proportion in Manipur, where four districts have been demanded to be included in the proposed Greater Nagalim.
News reports had earlier claimed that this contentious issue has been resolved in the draft treaty, with provisions made for more autonomy in the Naga Hills of Manipur. In fact, some news outlets speculated that the NSCN (I-M) had completely dropped the idea of a Greater Nagalim. Muivah’s remarks, however, have thrown a spanner in the works, although he did make constant references to the idea of a shared sovereignty for Indians and Nagas for peaceful coexistence.
The first voice of protest against Muivah’s statements came from Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh on Saturday. Nobody could transgress the territorial integrity of Manipur and the Union government should not disturb the state’s boundary, Ibobi Singh had said. Meanwhile, demanding that the Centre should make public the Naga Peace Accord, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi expressed serious concern over Muivah’s remarks. “Muivah’s statement is a matter of serious concern.
He is still insisting on greater Nagalim and said that the sovereignty issue is still open,” he said. Although one could attribute these statements to their respective political affiliations, with both state governments led by the Congress, the creation of a Greater Nagalim will entail the redrawing to state boundaries. The map of “Greater Nagalim” has about 1,20,000 <g data-gr-id="32">sq</g> km, while the state of Nagaland consists of only 16,527 <g data-gr-id="33">sq</g> km.
Earlier this month, the Government of India signed a historic peace accord with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). While the Indian government agreed to recognise the ‘uniqueness’ of the Nagas, the Naga leaders also accepted the Indian Constitution. During his address to the leaders of the NSCN (I-M), Prime Minister Modi pointed out that the peace accord was not the end of a problem but the beginning of a new future. The future has begun well. Now, it’s time to walk past potential land mines and arrive at concrete results.