Dialogue  January - March, 2006 , Volume 7  No. 3

Editorial Perspective

Challenges before the Indian Civil Society

A random perusal of any day’s any newspaper makes it very clear that the Indian Civil Society is facing numerous insurmountable challenges needing immediate confrontations and tackling. We are face to face with multi-dimensional complex problems. There is growing problem of mis-governance, fiscal mis-management, corruption and pilferage of development funds. The law and order situation is so bad that a State offers rehabitation deal even to the criminals. The pending court cases run in crores. Lack of vision and fragmented polity hampers development. 
    The politics is devoid of values; political parties have bid good-by to the ideology. The parties propose some thing while in power, oppose the same while out of power. Politics of convenience is the accepted norm; those who loose the elections manage and find place in Rajya Sabha. The politics has become power-centric, rather than people-centric.The politics of opportunism, intrigue is robbing Indian politics of its democratic legitimacy. It is shocking to see members of the highest forum of the country receiving bribes for performing their duty.  
    There was the Rajdhani Express accident in Rafiganj in Gaya, in which more than 100 passengers were killed. It was the handiwork of the Naxalites under a “conspiracy” hatched to defame the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar. Rather than properly investigating or accepting the Railway version, the then Bihar Government displayed unholy haste to blame the Railway Ministry for the mishap. This incident and many more clearly illustrate that our politicians are emotionally cut off from the common man; their sensitivity is blunted. They do not loose any opportunity to take political advantage even when hundreds die or are killed.  
    The successful visit of President Bush to India is just over. 
    The agreement provided India access to nuclear fuel and plants from the US. At the same time it enabled it to keep its nuclear weapons programme intact; guaranteed it perpetual fuel supply and put an end to international nuclear isolation. Bush was magnanimous, he did not play big brother. The Indian scientists think the achievements to be big and fair. But the visit of President Bush has also exposed some of our weaknesses. There are elements in this country who openly work for the promotion of the interests of other country at the cost of India. They miss no opportunity to politicize, communalize or oppose any move beneficial to India. They miss no opportunity to confuse Indian Civil society whenever a visiting head of the state, as of America or France visit New Delhi. Any agreement with US or any other country is viewed in Anti-Chinese or anti-Russian parameter, as if India’s destiny is to remain a satellite state. Again, we understand when Bush strike call paralyses Pakistan; but not when anti-Bush rally turns violent, takes communal turn resulting into riots in Lucknow. The concern of those for India’s atomic arsenal at this juncture by the opponents of Pokharan is unexplainable and creates suspicion.  
    Terrorism of all kinds – ethnic, religious and ideological – is spreading day by day. Many secessionist outfits, such as NSCN and ULFA, follow Communist ideology: Hijam Irawat Singh of Manipur was also a Communist. NSCN has also the ethnic and communal agenda. The networking of all sorts of militant outfits have made the problem, especially in the North-East, complex and difficult. The common man is the worst sufferer of terror and extortion. Jammu & Kashmir is suffering the most due to religious terrorism. Nearly fifty thousand persons were killed only in Jehadi terrorism during last decade and half.
    What surprises us is the myopia, opportunism and sense of complacency of our national political parties leading to their communal politics of vote-bank, It will be suicidal to ignore the growth of Islamic fundamentalist organisations backed by the notorious Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and trained by al-Qaeda in Bangladesh in the North-East and the rest of the country. After all Indian Civil Society can not ignore the fact that the threads of recent bomb-blasts in India link us to Bangladesh. Bangladesh, in a Talibanic mould, poses the greatest danger for the integrity and security of this country and wants to grab the North-East by merely sending its ever-growing population to this side of the border. Unfortunately, some of our political parties and a section of minorities are successful uptil now in saving the aliens by their protective mechanism. The secessionist militant outfits of the region, with all sorts of unprincipled networking, even with the criminals and extortionists, operate from Bangladesh, flourishing on a closely guarded nexus with ISI and fundamentalist organizations of that country.  
    Alienation in the North-East is partly due to prevailing mischievous myths, such as that of exploitation, neglect, historic isolation, racial differences, which were never countered. Baseless propaganda continued unabated. Many in the North-East talk about unemployment linked alienation. But none talks about the impossibility of providing white-collar jobs to all the college and university degree holders and the State Government’s responsibility of bringing change in the prevailing colonial education system. It is obvious that many Human Rights organizations are sympathetic towards the secessionist terrorist outfits. They never raise accusing fingers towards them for their crime against innocent men, women and children. At times, they act as pressure groups to get the terrorists released. The civil rights/human rights groups seldom pressurize the state governments to perform their duty and protect civilians from the violence, terror, extortion and exploitation by the terrorist. The common man is extremely afraid of the terrorist outfits and never airs his grievances against them. The human right groups have miserably failed to work for the protection of common man from the suffering caused by the terrorist outfits. The States in the North-East, J&K and elsewhere should ensure public safety, and the Human Rights Groups should help in the endeavour, to make the use of so-called draconian laws and that of the army and para-military forces unnecessary.
    Our Civil Society lacks Thought leaders. Its active involvement in solving our problems has become less and less. This allows our political elite to adopt casual, ad-hoc and mechanical approach towards our national problems. The lack of intellectual input is the root cause of the prevailing confusion in the country. We suffer more due to poverty of ideas, rather than the resource crunch. The active involvement of the civil society, capable of grasping our problems in its totality, is a must for a strong and prosperous India. It may be necessary to force the Government(s) to retrace the wrong steps taken in the North-East, J&K or elsewhere. The civil society should prepare itself to do it democratically through the electoral route.

Meeting NSCN(IM)’s Brinkmanship

    Thuingaleng Muivah, General Secretary, National Socialist Council of Nagalim, (Issaac-Muivah)/NSCN(IM), a couple of months before the brief extension of 31 January 2006 ceasefire, threatened to end the peace talks “if New Delhi fails to reach a final political settlement of the Naga problem within that ceasefire period”. Muivah said that he was giving only a few months to decide on his proposals for reaching a final political settlement, or else, the talks would break down and his fighters would return to the jungle. Some of the proposals of the NSCN (IM) included ‘federal relations’ with India, integration of all Naga inhabited areas, joint defence forces, acceptance of Indian currency and separate flag for Nagalim’.  
    Muivah further said “we have made some concrete proposals and then we have revised them after taking into account the limitations of the Indian government”. 
    “We have come down quite a bit from our demand for absolute sovereignty but if the Indians think they can just keep us on the conference table to buy time, we are not game.” he said.  
    Needless to say that the NSCN (IM) is making impossible demands; some of the demands, such as for ‘joint defence forces’ is laughable. But its arrogant demands may persist after Assam elections, even if, there are insurmountable difficulties in meeting them..Here, it needs mention that our handling (or mishandling) of the Naga problem especially, and that of the North-East generally, does not assure us. We are not sure that Government. of India shall not fall in the trap of NSCN (IM) and create further problem for the nation as a whole.
    Muivah’s demand for Nagalim (Greater Nagaland) includes merger of the two hill districts of Assam into it where hardly two percent Nagas reside. The Naga population in the twin districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills (then United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district), even after taking into consideration only the tribal population (as shown in the table below as per 1961 census), was less than four percent.

Tribe                        Population                     Percentage
            All Scheduled Tribes  211,331                        100.00
            Karbi/Mikir               116,887                          55.31
            Dimasa Kachari           67,284                          31.84
            Naga                            8,338                             3.95
            Kuki                             7,150                            3.38
            Hmar                            4,131                            1.95
            Khasi and Jaintia           3,931                            1.86
            Garo                            3,326                             1.57
            Mizo/Lushai                    284                             0.13

    Here, it needs mention that even this very small Naga population is not located in a compact area contiguous to the Nagaland state. The Rengmas of Karbi-Anglong district who migrated from Naga Hills reside in a small area some 30-40 kms away from Nagaland. The Zemi population dispersed among Dimasa Kacharis and other tribes of the North Cachar Hills district lives happily with them. NSCN (IM) also claims large track of land of Assam in Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibasagar and Lakhimpur districts. Muivah forgets that Nagas never had unified state of their own. All they had were hundreds of self- governing and partly self-sustaining village republics, a large percentage of which were under Ahom, Meithei and Cachari kings and Singpho chiefs. The boundaries of the Naga villages hardly exceeded the meagre distance of couple of hours of walk, where they could safely go in the morning, cultivate the fields during the daytime and return back before dusk. Thus there is absolutely no basis of the Naga claim over the territory of Assam.  
    A very disturbing feature of the modus operandi adopted by Muivah is the forced conversion drive of the Hindus (such as the Hindu Vaishnavite Nocte Nagas) and Buddhists (such as Tangsas, Singphos) of Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. It needs mention that such tactics of arm-twisting and threat of gun by NSCN (IM) is not restricted to Arunachal Predesh only. Bertil Lintner, whose book Land of Jade is reportedly banned by the NSCN (IM), has pointed out that the NSCN (IM) had to forcibly establish themselves amongst the Naga tribes in some areas in Myanmar, as at Kesan Chanlam, and to convert them to Christianity. This was necessitated, as Muivah’s perception was not shared by all Eastern Naga tribes of Myanmar who have closer affiliations with the Kachins. This amply shows that NSCN (IM) has no moral right to claim these areas. In reality, the greatest threat for the identity of the people of these areas emanates from Muivah and his outfit. A point needs mention here that NSCN (IM)should be under no illusion that Government of India would forcibly annex parts of Myanmar into its Nagaland state. After all, there are hundreds of such cases world over where international boundaries divide the ethnic areas.  
    Ethnically, the people are united by their common ancestry, physical attributes, language, and geographical origin. The Nagas differ on all these counts. (Vide Kumar, Naga Identity, New Delhi, 2005). It is sad that there is no unanimity even on the list of the Naga tribes. Kumar Suresh Singh, Director General (Retd.), Anthropological Survey of India, in the magnum opus, The People of India (Volume1, Introduction, p. 40), remarks: “Perceptions appear to be amorphous, fluid, changing all the time. Therefore lists vary from Census to Census and no two lists are exactly comparable.” The Nagas of Tuensang were hardly aware that they were Nagas when they were merged with Naga Hills district of Assam to form NHTA. The Linguistic Survey of India classifies many tribes of Manipur, especially, the tribes of Chandel district, such as Anal, as Kuki-Chin tribes. The Naga identity, in reality, is a fluid and evolving one and Muivah, while teaching ‘real history’ to New Delhi, should know the basics of Naga history. 
    Caution is essential in reaching any agreement with any Naga group. As we know, the past agreements/understandings with the Nagas have failed to achieve any finality so far. New Delhi has thoroughly failed to face the Naga brinkmanship. As our experience shows, any agreement/understanding with NSCN (IM) on its terms is not going to solve the Naga problem. Even if the outfit is given whatever it demands, a splinter group from it or one of the existing factions (NSCN-K or NNC) may continue to ask for sovereignty and keep the insurgency alive. Meeting their unreasonable demands on the other hand, shall lead to series of similar demands from many expected and unexpected corners. After all, we cannot ignore the fact that, ethnic state demands and terrorist activities in the North-East owe their origin to the mishandled Naga problem.
    There is yet another dimension of the problem, which needs our urgent attention. The NSCN (IM) is laundering huge money through extortions, arms sale and drug trafficking, etc. The ULFA, Bodo militants and dozens of other insurgent outfits pay large sums to NSCN (IM) for training and arms supply. The NE region has become a paradise for arms-peddlers today. Different outfits paid certain percentage of the money collected from extortion, bank robbery, etc to that outfit. The NSCN manages and is benefited by the pilferage of development funds. The Naga-Kuki clashes owe their origin in the struggle for the control of the profitable drug trade through Tamu route. Many outfits, including NSCN (IM) take advantage of the ceasefire and continue the clandestine activities of extortion, recruitment, etc. The two insurgent outfits of the Karbis and Dimasas have signed ceasefire agreements, and yet, it is alleged, they played their role in killing spree in the twin hill districts of Assam. It is doubtful that any understanding with the terrorist outfits may bring end to such nefarious activities and networking. Any way, any agreement with NSCN (IM), any concession to them shall lead to violent reactions and chain of similar demands. It is advisable to avoid such misadventure. New Delhi has no alternative than to face NSCN’s brinkmanship.

                                                                                                             -         B.B. Kumar  

Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

Astha Bharati