After twenty years and five prime ministers, there could be an end to the world’s oldest running insurgency. The framework agreement signed between the Union government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM) on August 3, 2015, is moving towards a final settlement.
The Nagas had been demanding to be separate even before India’s independence, claiming that they had not been part of British India. Pandit Nehru rejected the demand, but he kept Naga matters under a director in the ministry of external affairs. Indira Gandhi offered them “anything but independence”, but transferred the issue to the home ministry, further angering the Nagas.
The first olive branch was waved by P.V. Narasimha Rao. His government’s secret talks with the NSCN(IM) was followed by similar interactions by the H.D. Deve Gowda government, leading to a ceasefire agreement concluded by the I.K. Gujral government. Atal Bihari Vajpayee recognised the “unique history and the situation of the Nagas” and created a ceasefire monitoring group in 2001. Manmohan Singh offered a “non-paper proposal’’ to the NSCN(IM). And, Narendra Modi got a framework agreement signed. D.K. Pathak, a 1979 batch IPS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, is monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire ground rules.
The Modi government and the Naga leadership will have a tough time selling the deal to their own people. The BJP’s ultra-nationalistic constituency may feel hurt about the dilution of national sovereignty. The Nagas could question how Muivah had agreed to the dilution of the Nagas’ demand for full sovereignty.
The Union government aims to offer an accord and give Muivah time, maybe six months, to build consensus among the Nagas. The hope is that Muivah, 83, wants to ink the deal in his lifetime. With elections due in Nagaland early next year, the process is likely to gain pace by the end of this year.
The final accord will spell out permanent resident status for the Nagas, like in Jammu and Kashmir. Only permanent residents will have the right to vote and acquire land in Naga territory.
The exploration and exploitation of oil, natural gas, coal, minerals, forest and other natural resources will be in the state’s domain. Some subjects may shift from the concurrent list to the state list.
The Union government will clarify about the deployment of its armed forces keeping in mind the fact that law and order is a state subject.
The Union government will create an autonomous district council with financial autonomy on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council for the four hill districts of Manipur (Senapati, Tamenglong, Chandel and Ukhrul). Whether it will be done under 6th schedule of the Constitution or a state act is yet to be discussed.
A Naga regional council will be set up, which would look after the religious, cultural, traditional and social interests of all Nagas. NSCN(IM) general secretary T. Muivah may be made its chairman.
A separate flag for the council is under negotiation.
A formula for the rehabilitation and absorption of the 15,000-strong Naga army is under negotiation. Its soldiers will surrender their arms and may be inducted into newly-formed battalions of the Border Security Force and Rashtriya Rifles.
Whether the Nagas would be allowed to have a new nationality called “Indian Naga” in their passports is being explored.