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Emerging contours of the Naga settlement

Bharat Bhushan | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST
The settlement
  • A Pan Naga Hoho to be formed cutting across states
  • Regional Autonmous Distirct Councils for Nagas outside Nagaland
  • A Special Naga Law to be incorporated in Constitution
  • Nagas to own all resources in Naga areas
More in the story
  • What are the finer points of the agreement
  • What are the hurdles ahead

After the government signed a "framework agreement" with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) [NSCN (IM)] on 3 August last year, it was clear that the devil lay in the details. They were left to be negotiated later.

It is the detailed arrangement that is expected to help end India's longest running armed insurgency.

The framework agreement set three crucial parameters for the detailed settlement.

It recognised that the Naga "history and situation" was unique - implying that the solution to the Naga issue, therefore, would also have to be unique. It, therefore, cannot be based on or be similar to the Centre's relationship with any other existing state of the Union.

It also proposed that sovereign powers would be shared between the Centre and the Nagas through a division of competencies -i.e. through renegotiating the Union, State and Concurrent Lists of competencies of the Indian Constitution in view of the Naga demands.

And, that the two sides would strive for a mutually acceptable and peaceful settlement, recognising the complexities and difficulties of each other. This meant that just as the Indian government was trying to understand the Nagas, so would the Nagas try to appreciate the political difficulties of the government in trying to meet their aspirations.

It was within this framework that the two sides agreed to work out the details of a permanent arrangement.

The broad contours of the detailed negotiations are now becoming clearer.

According to Naga sources close to the negotiations, four points of agreement have been reached:

One, a Pan Naga Hoho (essentially, a supreme Naga Council cutting across Naga-inhabited states) will be created as a statutory apex body with legislative, budgetary and negotiating powers. This will be an elected body and govern the Nagas eventually.

On integration, the govt is believed to have told the Nagas that it cannot put a deadline

Two, pending the integration of the Naga areas outside Nagaland into a single administrative unit, Regional Autonomous District Councils (RADCs) will be created for the Naga-inhabited districts of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. These will come under the Pan Naga Hoho.

Three, the Indian Parliament will enact a Special Naga Law which will be incorporated in the Indian Constitution. The Special Naga Law will contain the division of competencies -- subjects in the State, Union and Concurrent Lists of the Indian Constitution -- between the Centre and the Nagas. In this way, what the NSCN (IM) calls the Naga Constitution will become an integral part of the Indian Constitution.

Four, all natural resources found in the Naga areas -below the ground and on the surface - will belong to the Nagas. They will have the full right to exploit them except in cases where they feel that they need to partner with the central government and its entities. In such cases, joint venture agreements will be signed for exploration and exploitation of resources.

However, there are many hurdles that still need to be crossed.

The foremost among them are -the integration of Naga areas; and the issue of the Pan Naga Hoho's legislative powers when there is already an elected government in Nagaland mandated to exercise such powers.

On the issue of integration, the government is believed to have told the Nagas that it cannot put a deadline as state boundaries can only be changed through democratic processes. That means taking into account the views of the inhabitants of the states which stand to lose territory to the Nagas - Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.The NSCN (IM) has been told that they should appreciate that the government cannot create a situation which leads to further chaos in the North-eastern states. Although there are tentative suggestions for setting up a mechanism like the State Re-organisation Commission, the integration of Naga areas, while on the negotiating table, is unlikely to happen any time soon.
NSCN (IM) sources claim that they are happy with the way the negotiations are progressing

Until there is integration of Naga areas, there cannot be two governments for the Nagas - the elected government of Nagaland and the Pan Naga Hoho. Therefore, sources suggest, that in the interim period - for which no limit has been set or can be set - there will be only one government that would enjoy legislative power. And that would be the elected-government of Nagaland state. The residual powers of the Pan Naga Hoho, including its finances, in the interim period would then have to be defined.

NSCN (IM) sources claim that they are happy with the way the negotiations are progressing and the readiness of the government of India to appreciate their position. They say that they also understand the difficulties involved in the integration of the Naga areas, something they cannot give up, but also realise that they cannot be seen to be triggering other secessionist movements in the region.

They were upset, however, with the role they alleged former Chief Minister and current Odisha Governor SC Jamir was playing.

"He is meeting delegations of Nagas and turning them against the settlement. For example, he is encouraging other groups which have signed failed agreements with New Delhi in the past to reactivate themselves. Jamir wants the defunct Naga National Council to become a player in the Naga peace negotiations once again. The idea, of course, is to scuttle any settlement," a senior NSCN (IM) functionary claimed.

The NSCN (IM) is also apprehensive that the current Chief Minister of Nagaland, T R Zeliang, although currently a leader of the Naga Peoples' Front, is under the influence of Jamir. He had served as a minister under Jamir and is a former Congressman. They would like to see a state government in Kohima which fully supports the peace process with New Delhi.

First published: 12 April 2016, 10:26 IST
Bharat Bhushan @Bharatitis

Editor of Catch News, Bharat has been a hack for 25 years. He has been the founding Editor of Mail Today, Executive Editor of the Hindustan Times, Editor of The Telegraph in Delhi, Editor of the Express News Service, Washington Correspondent of the Indian Express and an Assistant Editor with The Times of India.