The ‘historic’ ga peace accord that is supposed to mark the dawn of a new future, is setting off waves of unhealthy speculation with most stakeholders and interested parties continuing to be in the dark. The expectation is that Prime Minister rendra Modi will reveal in Parliament details about the agreement signed with the NSCN(IM) leadership last Monday. But as the days pass with no information forthcoming, political jockeying has already begun. With the three NE states Assam, Manipur and Aruchal Pradesh, most likely to be affected by the ga pact, being Congress ruled — the Congress high command has expectedly gone on the offensive over the issue. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has accused the NDA government of ‘arrogance’ for not briefing the Chief Ministers of these three states about the provisions in the accord. If battle lines are drawn up in this manner, the Modi government will have a hard time in seeking Parliament’s approval to the accord, particularly if constitutiol amendments are required. The question uppermost in the three states neighbouring galand is whether the accord has any provision that will affect them territorially. After all, when leaders like Isak Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah broke away from the ga tiol Council (NNC) after condemning the 1975 Shillong accord as a sellout, they formed the NSCN(IM) to fight for ga sovereignty and a Greater galand.
After coming to ceasefire with the Centre in 1997, Swu and Muivah may have climbed down from their ‘sovereignty’ demand. But have they now softened their stand on ‘galim’ as well, after the pact with New Delhi? If yes, then Swu and Muivah will have a hard time convincing their own ‘kilonsers’, let alone other hardline, breakaway factions like the NSCN-K, NSCN-U and NSCN-KZ. NSCN-K leader SS Khaplang has already repudiated the outfit’s 14-year ceasefire with the Centre this year, emerging as the main threat after the June 4 ambush on an army convoy in Manipur. There are reports that Khaplang has recuperated from his illness, returning from Yangon to his Taga hideout at the Chi-Myanmar border to plot more attacks in India. With most ga civil groups also in the dark about the peace pact, it is likely that outfits like the NSCN(K) will try to take advantage. And if their operatives remain armed and dangerous, can the NSCN(IM) be disarmed? The demand for galim laid claim to five hill districts in Manipur, two districts in Aruchal and a large swathe of area of Assam in Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong, Golaghat, Jorhat and Sivasagar districts bordering galand. Even the galand Assembly passed a resolution as recently as 23-24 July last, reiterating its earlier demands in 1964 and 1970 about bringing all ga people inhabiting a larger contiguous area under one administrative apparatus.
After a telephonic briefing by Prime Minister rendra Modi about the peace accord, galand Governor and in-charge of Assam PB Acharya hastened to assuage concerns about territorial changes in other NE states. Indications from the Prime Minister’s Office till now are that only a ‘framework agreement’ has been signed, which in turn will form the basis for more specific pacts in future. In case, the NSCN(IM) leadership has agreed not to press for territorial changes as of now in the neighbouring states because it is ‘politically ucceptable’ to the Central government, that in turn raises the intriguing possibility of ‘cultural integration’ of the ga people. It is a concept to which the NDA government seems to be much sympathetic, judging from the Prime Minister’s glowing speech after the signing of the accord. If galand gets more autonomy, particularly over its mineral and other resources, it may be a good precedent for other NE states as well. But if the deal with the NSCN(IM) involves grant of fincial and administrative autonomy to ga-domited areas in neighbouring states, that will again be a very thorny issue to negotiate. The further possibility of putting such autonomous, ga development areas under the Sixth schedule for direct funding from the Centre, will correspondingly lessen the influence of the respective state capitals. In case there is such a provision in the accord, what is the guarantee it will not open the door to political integration of all contiguous ga domited areas with galand 5 to 10 years down the road? If such a de-facto redrawing of state boundaries in the future is implicit in the ga deal, will it be acceptable to Manipur, Aruchal Pradesh and Assam? Already, various political parties and social organisations, suspecting such a fallout, have taken to the streets in Assam. There is similar disquiet in Manipur and Aruchal. The deafening silence of the Central government over the ga accord is not helping matters at all.