Dialogue  April - June, 2004 , Volume 5  No. 4

Editorial Perspective


On-going Naga Peace Talks:

Listen Mr. Prime Minister!


    The ongoing Naga Peace talks do not generate hope. It causes worry and there are valid reasons for the same. We are worried, because, Naga affair has been mishandled from the very beginning and it may be mishandled even now. The ad-hoc measures, taken in haste, have created complications elsewhere, especially in the North-East and there is no guarantee that Delhi may not indulge in ad-hoc-ism even now. Nagaland has been replicated in many ways in the region. As for example, there was cent percent replication of Nagaland in Mizoram. Of course, the Mizoram accord was a success whereas all the accords with the Nagas have registered failures. Cessationism, State demands, insurgency and terrorism, all these problems, have their roots in the mishandled Naga problem. The North-East, a stable region, when the freedom dawned, have been destabilized and the Government of India has refused to learn any lesson. It is essential that the Central Government should sincerely endeavour to solve the problem once forever without creating further complications; and if it is not possible then she should learn to live with the problem.

    Creation of Nagaland State was a blunder. The statehood was granted in a hurry. Even the conscientious Naga opinion agrees to the same.   

    The earlier mistake of conceding full statehood, without obtaining widest consensus among the Nagas, is likely to be repeated if we are not careful. NSCN(IM) strategy is to keep mounting pressure on Government of India for a greater Nagaland and be the main arbiter of the final settlement. They hope to tireout govt. of India in conceding this. They have the added advantage of having a state government. which is sympathetic to them. Naga Hoho which was trying to build up a consensus and act as “facilitators” have been thrown out by the NSCN(IM). The facilitators were termed “traitors” and “agents”. The work of healing is not tolerated. NSCN(IM) wants to monoopolise the final settlement in its own name.

Th. Muivah is arrogant and dictatorial. He does not believe in consensus and there is ideological reason (and that of ideological purity) behind it. The two visits of Muivah to the Communist China militated against grass root Naga democracy more than any other factor. Thus, any settlement with the NSCN(IM) will meet the same fate as creation of statehood (1964) with the NNO; and that of the Shillong accord (1974) with the NNC. Others will not accept it as final. In this battle of nerves the NSCN(IM) almost succeeded when the govt. of India unwittingly agreed to extend the cease fire (2002) to all the “claimed” Naga inhabited areas, but retrieved in time. It reflected a mind-set among the negotiators which the NSCN(IM) is trying to exploit. Any concession on greater Nagaland will open a Pandora’s box which will be difficult to contain and control. Infact in due course the Government of India will have to reexamine and revisit its current evaluation that continued ceasefire will build-up a constituency and counterweight for peace in Nagaland and that if NSCN(IM) is kept under restraint through a dialogue, it will have a beneficial impact on other militant movements in the North-East. Beyond a point both may prove to be counter-productive.

NSCN(IM) has acquired a definite clout in the State after the last elections by coercion and is engaged in silencing any opposition to it. Extortion and coercion are in creasing and are likely to distort to democratic process at self in the state. It is going to get emboldened and more demanding in its demands. It plans to turn the history of the region on its head through its demands and keep the regional tensions alive as a tactics.        

      Passing of the national boundaries through ethnic regions dividing the communities between the nations is a global phenomena. This happened due to European colonialism. Any attempt to bring change shall lead to wars at global level between the nations and the world community will not allow the same. This fact cannot be ignored when we talk about the merger of the Naga inhabited areas of India and Myanmar.

       Nagas got statehood in two jumps and yet they want more. A large number of them talk about “final settlement of the Naga political problem”. Unfortunately, practically none specifies it in concrete terms. Many vaguely think of some thing higher than the Statehood. But crossing the thresholds of the present parameters of the statehood shall lead to similar demands from many other corners and is, therefore, difficult to concede. Conceding more will, again, be counter-productive; they will progress inch by inch and the struggle will not cease. The Nagas have long memory; they are excellent at documentation and in picking up things from here and there and use them. Their brinkmanship and strong element of mind helps in the same. After all Gandhi did not talk only about the ‘freedom of the Nagas’. His statement needed linking with the ‘freedom of the Bhangi Colony’ also, which they ignore. Again was Governor Akbar Hyadri? competent enough to sign an agreement with the Nagas, as he did? Was much talked about plebiscite properly conducted? The Nagas themselves are not unaware of the impossibility of their demands.

Some Nagas have obsession about their history. They forget that the Naga identity is of recent origin and an artificial construct; many tribes were not using this term even 50 years ago and the term was loosely used even for the Adis. It is the case of the larger identity formation, which must be welcomed by all. But, the convergence of thousand republics should not end up in the reverse process. Govt. of India should make it clear that a state is the apex in the Indian constitutional arrangement. Its boundaries can only change with the concurrence of affected states as happened in the case of Chhatisgarh, Uttaranchal and Jharkhand. The govt. of India successfully resisted the demands by force of arms in Punjab in the eighties and Nagas should have no illusion about it.

 The problem which the country is facing in Nagaland and the North-East is a difficult and complex one. The efforts to solve it should continue. It needs proper understanding of the problem and multiple approaches. Those who brought statehood, it is rightly alleged, filled up their pockets. They do not want any talk about corruption. Central funding is not enough. It should bring results in Nagaland and in other NE staste. Its benefits should percolate to the grassroot level. More than half a dozen Central Universities and IITs should bring change in the system of education and develop into centres of excellence. Delhi can not act in mechanical way and allow the situation to worsen.


Kashmir: Are we getting anywhere?

Despite the best efforts, and even the commitment of the UPA govt. in New Delhi, the internal dialogue process in Jammu & Kashmir does not seem to be getting anywhere. Change in the govt. at the centre was bound to result in reassessment and some delay. But the issue is getting complex with the secessionist militants and Pakistan intervening directly and indirectly. After two rounds of dialogue with the APHC (Ansari), the third round was expected to acquire some substance. However, the failure of Ansari group to rope in other elements in the dialogue process and strong resistance from the Gillani faction of APHC and pro-Pak militants has jeopardized the course and content of future negotiations. Murder of Maulvi Mustaq (uncle of Mir Waiz Maulvi Farooq) and attack on the residence of Mirwaiz has sent the right message to those who will talk to India. Road to New Delhi is strewn with dead bodies. 

Now this message through bullets is being reinforced by the diplomatic moves of Riaz Khokar, Foreign Secretary, Pakistan, who came to Delhi for Foreign Secretaries meet on June 27/28, invited S.A.S. Gillani and leaders of his group for a meeting. Other separatist leaders like Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah were also invited to meet the Pak Foreign Secretary, and they accepted the invitation. As an afterthought, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is in Delhi, had also been invited and through him the Ansari faction of the APHC. He was consulting Maulvi Abbas, the APHC President. Pakistan had earlier made it clear that it recognised the Gillani faction of APHC and not the Ansari faction. Pakistan reinforced the point by getting Gillani invited to the OIC meet. In this development noteworthy points are:

(a)    Ansari faction of APHC had not been invited at first to meet the Pak Foreign Secretary and invitation through Maulvi Farooq is meant to divide the APHC (Ansari);

(b)   These meetings are meant to re-assure pro-Pak secessionists that Pakistan in its dialogue with India will not ignore their interests and that they need not compromise; and

(c)    It is also meant as a snub to India that those who are not willing to talk to you are talking to Pak unconditionally.

In this regard the Pakistani message to Kashmiri secessionists is clear. To discourage those who want to talk to India and that Pak support will favour those opposing India’s stand in Kashmir and peace moves. Implicit in this is that India cannot reach an agreement with the Kashmiris without Pak nod, and that road for peace in Kashmir passes through Islamabad. Also it is meant to demonstrate to the world that Kashmiri separatist leaders are with Pakistan and will not even talk to India.

Therefore, this gesture of Pak Foreign Secretary is on par with the Pak snub in July 2001, when Pak President separately received an APHC delegation on the eve of Agra Summit. The present development is even worse as it runs contrary to the prevailing spirit of accommodation and peace between the two nations. It is a deliberate discourtesy to the host nation. If we allow it to pass unchallenged, it will encourage others in Kashmir to boycott any proposed dialogue with New Delhi. Government had many options to express its reactions, but as in July 2001, it has chosen to ignore this provocative gesture. We are fairly adept at masking our weakness under the guise of a free society where anybody can meet and talk to anybody. But in this case it is not this freedom which is the issue. It is the intent and message of Pakistan. Its immediate outcome will be a major setback to India’s dialogue process in Kashmir. Infact it lies in tatters for the time–being and will have to be salvaged with perseverence in due course.   

In the light of above the Pak strategy in Kashmir does not seem to have altered in substance. In such an environment gratuitous suggestions of the internal Confidence Building Measures (CBM’s) in J&K to win support of the people by way of unilateral ceasefire, reduction in strength and deployment of armed forces and release of political prisoners will be a futile exercise. On their own merit these are desirable actions and goals; and should be resorted to ease the situation. But these should be in the support of the elected state govt. to strengthen it, rather than appeasing the secessionist elements who will do what suits Pakistan and not us. And those who do not fall in line will meet the fate of A.G. Lone and Maulvi Mustaq. Under the circumstances only a brave person in Kashmir will come forward for a dialogue with New Delhi.  

We are caught in a bind where the dynamics of violence, which suits Pakistan; has upper hand, irrespective of popular desire for peace. Its tragic, but prospects of peace and normalcy in J&K will have to wait a while. As regards the dialogue process, the Govt. of India must reconsider the desirability and practicality of carrying on dialogue with Pakistan and internally in J&K simultaneously. The latter will always be a hostage to the former. 


Pakistan: ‘Good Chemistry’, Bad Reactions

    India’s External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh hosted a working lunch for his Pakistani counterpart Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri and had one to one meeting with him. The two ministers, in their meetings, on the sidelines of the meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in China, discussed Jammu and Kashmir, nuclear questions and other bilateral issues. According to the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, “The two ministers also agreed to remain in touch and also provide continuous political guidance to the ongoing (peace) process.” Natwar Singh, after the meeting told the reporters that “the chemistry  was pretty good”. According to Kasuri, they discussed “all the issues that are necessary for us to discuss”.  He added further “ We had a very positive frame of mind towards all issues.”

    According to another news item of the same newspaper of the same day (Hindustan Times, New Delhi, June 22, 2004), Pakistan’s Interservices Intelligence (ISI) has activated launch pads in the Samba, Hiranagar and RS Pura sectors to infiltrate terrorists into Jammu. The fencing along the Line of Control made the life difficult for the would be infiltrators and hence their mushrooming along the international border. According to another report, Pakistan circulated its map showing Junagarh and Manawadar as disputed areas during the SAARC meeting. Recently, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary met secessionist Hurrriyat Conference leaders of Kashmir. We find it difficult to understand the ‘good chemistry’ leading to such ‘bad reactions’. May be Pakistan is changing and only Natwar Singh knows about it. After all we are a matured nation and he is not supposed to misinform us.


Indian politics: Need for Detoxication

    The results of the 14th Lok Sabha elections surprised one and all. The good work of the Vajpeyi government failed to bring his party and its allies to power. The Congress could arrest its decline; it also registered marginal improvement to the level of 1996 elections. The real gainers were the Communists, RJD and the DMK. The verdict was against the BJP and its allies. At the same time, it was not for the Congress.

            BJP used to be a party with a difference. The party failed to keep that image. For many, the party became the B team of the Congress and a section of its voters either shifted their loyalties or became indifferent. The inconsistency in selection of the allies in Karnataka and Assam earlier, and in Tamil Nadu in the last election became counter-productive. BJP also indulged in Muslim appeasement during the last election. It gave a three point “E-assurance”: education, empowerment and economic uplift to the Muslims. Shahi Imam gave fatwa for voting to that party. These were non-secular steps unworthy of a party talking loudly against pseudo-secularism. Perhaps it believed too much in its “captive vote bank” and cunningly wanted to have more. Unfortunately for them, the voters see not only the party, but also its changing colour.

         In many cases, the people remain unaware about the good works done by the government and therefore, good performance of the government not necessarily bring electoral success. Religion, rather than the good work, counts in the electoral politics of vote-bank. Caste politics, mis-use of government machinery, use of money and muscle is conveniently used by different political parties for electoral success. In a large number of the constituencies of this country, the aliens influence the electoral outcome. Almost all political parties field criminals in the electoral battle. This makes the situation fluid and the outcome uncertain. Under such situation, people-centric politics is the first casualty.

       Sycophants play important role in Indian politics. They form protective wall around the person in power; he becomes cut off from the common man and ultimately suffers in the electoral battle. In the case of the electoral debacle, the sycophants become over-active and vocal in finding the scapegoats and raising the accusing finger on them. The leaders, even at the national level, find it convenient not to accept moral responsibility for the defeat.

       It is high time that effective steps are taken to remove these maladies from Indian politics. The hold of family politics should weaken. Blurring of ideological boundaries of the political parties should be prevented and it should be ensured that politics must deliver the good. Weakening of the BJP and the Congress is not healthy sign for this country. The process of the fragmentation in Indian electoral politics needs to be arrested without further delay. For all these the political culture of the country must change. The conscientious people must ensure that Indian politics ceases to poison the civil society. Our politics have got toxicated and it toxicates the society. There is need of its detoxication.

         It is unfortunate that the public image of our politicians has fallen very low. According to a survey conducted by AC Nielson, an internationally reputed research agency, in seven cities of India, namely, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad, during October 2003, as to who is most useful to society, the politicians were placed only above the blackmarketeers and pimps. In terms of their ranking of highest to lowest by respondents, the categories were teachers, doctors, defence personnel, farmers, judges, journalists, lawyers, policemen, computer engineers, social workers, businessmen, sportsmen, bureaucrats, politicians, blackmarketeers and pimps. (Outlook, October 27, 2003; cited by Madhav Godbole and E.A.S. Sarma in A Quest for Good Governance, National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune, 2004). This is sad. The image of the politician must improve for better future of the Indian democracy. This is only possible by bringing change in the political culture of the country.      


                                                                                                                                                          -B.B. Kumar


 Dialogue A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati

Astha Bharati