| NORTH-EAST COMPLEXITIES
Following is an article written by me and published in a Bangalore Daily, Vijay Times, three years ago. I think the contents of the article are still relevant will interest you.
NORTH EAST COMPLEXITIES NORTH EAST COMPLEXITIES
(Vijay Times, 4 May 2005)
In an interview to the BBC World, the general secretary of the National Socialist Council of NagalandSCN, Thuingaleng Muviah has said: " It's not possible for the Nagas to come within the Indian Union or within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Nagaland was never a part of India. Sovereignty of the Naga people belongs to the Naga people alone." He demanded the integration of all Naga areas outside the present boundaries of Nagaland with the Greater Nagaland within a reasonable time frame. "We do not want our people to live under the Assamese, Manipuris or others. Our areas were forcibly occupied. We want them back to protect and pursue our own culture, our own way of living and our traditions. How can Nagas be ruled by 'foreigners'?"
He added that the slogan "Nagaland for Christ" did not mean that he intended to set up a theocratic state. "Because more than 95 per cent of the population is Christian naturally they have to profess that way.... Nagalim or Greater Nagaland has to be secular. If it is not secular then we will be betraying ourselves."
Thus, the eight-year-long negotiations - 41 rounds of dialogue, to be precise, - between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muviah)- the biggest outfit fighting for Naga independence - have hit a major roadblock.
The Naga separatists claim that Nagas had never been part of British or post-British India. This might be true. But you cannot hark back to what used to be more than 100 years ago. The Hydaari Agreement of June 27, 1947, which the Nagas accepted, said they would be free to choose for themselves the precise pattern of administration within the Constitution of India. They went back on the undertaking when Constituent Assembly Committee incorporated the conditions of the agreement in the Sixth Schedule for safeguarding the Naga demands. There might be resentments. What should people of India make of the Nagas participating in the assembly and parliament elections and nearly 60 per cent of them turning out to vote? The government in Kohima is that of the Nagas and come through the process of polls.
Alteration in the boundaries of any state is a dangerous proposition. No political party or leader has the courage to raise the issue, much less convince a state to part with its territory. If a state were to be touched without its consent, there would be civil strife everywhere. Some boundary disputes, dating back to 1955, are still working against ethnic groups because no state wants to give up its claim on the territory that was once its own. In short, it is important for the Naga secessionists to realise that it is not possible for the Government of India to expand Nagaland at the expense of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal.
Yes, many if not most, Nagas would prefer to be independent and sovereign rather than part of India. Should we permit Nagaland to break away, the latent nationalisms in other parts of Indian states could flare up. As Yugoslavia has shown, it does not take much for a supposedly "united" federation to disintegrate into a squabbling congeries of peoples.
The reasons for the continued insurgency in Nagaland and elsewhere in the NE are not far to seek. One of them is, of course, lack of development. Then, the insurgent outfits thrive because at one level, existing international borders are porous; at another, liberally buffetted by their friends and benefactors, residing abroad, and politicians playing a double-game at home, the insurgents have had everything going for them. Add to that the combination of terror and sympathy both among the common masses, and we have fairly clear picture of the North East.
The insurgents have been recipients of foreign funds and arms in massive quantities. The Indian State can be said to have utterly failed to check the huge largesse. Half-hearted attempts in the shape of legislation cannot obviously work as a useful check, because the funds and arms have now become part of a hard-to-break-established chain. It shows the inability of successive Indian governments to grapple with the problem with a sense of urgency and commitment.
In all fairness it must be said that the role of Christian missionaries in the secessionist activities in North East India has not been above reproach. In 1970, in the Rajya Sabha, the late Mr. Joachim Alva had reminded the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi: "foreign money was poured into India's borders and the Nagaland problem was damaged by the flow of funds from Churches abroad."
In the guise of uplifting the backward classes, the fundamentalist Protestant missionaries have been engaged in a massive proselytisation drive for several decades now. Their main targets have been the gullible tribals in the hill regions and other backward classes in the plains of Brahmaputra valley. Although the proselytising activities themselves should be a cause for concern, a more disconcerting aspect of the missionary activity has been their tendency to influence the politics of the North-East region.
Delivering the Zakir Hussein Memorial Lecture on "Secularism &Minorities", on 30 November 1979 in Bangalore, the late Prof. V.V.John, the noted educationist had said: "Christians have also an obligation to take note of the circumstances that a section of the Christians of tribal origin in the North-Eastern region adopted secessionist attitude. And some diehards still persist in their original stance. The non-Christian sees in this phenomenon a failure on the part of Christians to keep politics out of religion, as they in their secular moments counsel others to do."
The missionaries have been active in the North-East because of the failure on the part of the Centre as well as the state governments to address themselves to the basic problems facing the people. If the idea is to make the Indian State and its measures popular in one of the most neglected parts of the country, step-motherly attitudes should give way to really genuine ones.
It is also true that the state governments, central and para military forces have often been guilty of mistaking repression for a remedy to endemic terrorism. Certainly one form of terror cannot be countered by resorting to another; after all, as is well known, the socio-political roots of insurgency need to be understood and eradicated if any lasting peace is to be provided to a region which has seldom had any respite from the cult of the gun.
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