New Delhi, June 5 (IANS) The bone of contention in the 25-year-old Naga peace talks could be elsewhere, not the formal subjects of a Flag and a separate Naga Constitution.
The Pan Naga Hoho as proposed by the NSCN-IM, reportedly says that ‘Chairman’ would be the most powerful authority who can suspend a death sentence issued by a court of law and who shall become the executive head as well the Supreme Commander of Nagalim.
It is understood, the Centre is unable to make a forward movement on this as it is difficult to stomach that in the garb of ‘Naga Constitution’ what is being proposed is that the proposed post of ‘Chairman’ of the Pan Naga Hoho would be more powerful than perhaps even the President of India.
Under the Indian Constitution, the Prime Minister is the executive head and President the Supreme Commander of the forces. Only dictatorial or a typical Presidential form of government has the same executive head and Supreme military commander.
“If things are accepted as it is, the Chairman of Pan Hoho will become as powerful as Xi Jinping in China or Russian ruler Vladimir Putin,” a source told IANS.
“One line says, ‘the Chairman will have the power and authority to summon, prorogue and dissolve the House of Pan Naga Hoho with or without the consultation of the Governor General’.”
The proponents of Pan Naga Hoho say they also want to empower the Chairman with the “power” to nominate members in the Pan Naga Hoho and this process will undermine the powers of elected Naga leaders.
It further states that all “executive, political, budgetary and negotiating authority shall be vested in the Chairman”.
“How can something like this be accepted which says the Chairman will also have the power to suspend sentence of any convicted person… Every time Naga leaders or even students and women groups meet, they say Nagas are democratic. There is absolutely nothing democratic about these proposals,” remarked a retired civil servant on the condition of anonymity.
“From my experience and very much personal and academic views, I can say the issues of Flag and Constitution have been put on the table only to put pressure to accept the Pan Naga Hoho. But it is simply dictatorial and for one-man rule.”
The Pan Naga Hoho debate is not really new in Nagaland or with regard to Nagas.
In fact, Khekiye K. Sema, a retired IAS officer, in an article to Nagaland newspapers recently wrote that with the Pan Naga Hoho there is an “intent of perpetually controlling the destiny of the Nagas of Nagaland in the post solution era”.
In another piece, he argued and sought to caution the Nagas of Nagaland that “the determined uncompromising stand on the ‘Naga Flag’ is another issue that can only be seen as an additional ploy to reinforce our brothers’ (from Manipur) plan to entrench themselves in Nagaland”.
“Mark my words, the implication can be very damning which perhaps will go to the extent of our brothers claiming their rights to even contest election in
Nagaland, with their kitchen still in Manipur, because according to NSCN-IM, Nagaland will become a ‘Naga Nation’ for all Nagas irrespective of wherever they live.”
Senior analysts in Delhi and old timers in Nagaland agree about one thing that the Naga insurgency has come a long way since the 1960s.
They say in 1966-67, China not only had backed the Naxalites upsiring in parts of West Bengal, in the same year NSCN-IM stalwart Thuingaleng Muivah and his other colleagues went to Yunnan province.
The Naga group was even initially called ‘Naga National Volunteers’.
How much of the Chinese and communists’ influence are guiding the developments in Nagaland now remains to be seen.
In fact, in the 1960s the central government agencies had reported that Nagaland was heading for a ‘bigger clash’ between communist-backed Isak Chishi Swu-Muivah group and an American Baptist church lobby-backed Naga National Council.
This was later denied by the influential Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) and it said the organisation and individual churches were only working for peace and tranquility playing the role of peacemakers at times.
However, a number of senior church leaders were also eliminated by ultras over the years.
Those in the know of things say even in Sept-Oct 2020, a much headway was made towards Solution.
But on September 18, 2020, there was a clear setback to all efforts for reconciliation as the NSCN-IM issued a statement from its headquarters saying a separate Naga flag and constitution “must form a part of the Indo-Naga political solution”.
Around that time an impression was generated that Chinese agencies may not be too happy with movements towards peace and solution to the Naga problem.
A peace breakthrough by September-October 2020 or so would have given a strong global message that the peace has been attained by the Narendra Modi Central government notwithstanding India-China boundary skirmishes in June that year.
It would have also shown perhaps that China can no longer be an elder brother in the region.
According to informed sources if the fear of ceasefire abrogation has surfaced again, it is also not a new or a first-time phenomenon.
It is said after Indira Gandhi took over charge as Prime Minister in 1966, as many as seven rounds of talks were held with NNC at top level.
She was almost prepared to give anything lesser to sovereignty. But the dialogue was betrayed and the ceasefire was abrogated in 1967.
Prior to her, Lal Bahadur Shastri was Prime Minister between June 9, 1964 and January 11, 1966.
The Central government and the Shastri also had worked hard and a Ceasefire Agreement for Suspension of Operation was signed by Vishnu Sahay, Governor of Nagaland and leaders such as Zashei Huire, Biseto Medom and L. Zhenito on behalf of NNC on September 6, 1964.
The issues involved in Naga peace parleys are not only complex, there are wheels within wheels.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books, “The Talking Guns: North East India” and “Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth”. Views are personal)
Pan Naga Hoho aims to make ‘chairman’ more powerful than India’s President