By Anirban Choudhury
Far away from mainstream media’s glare, an air of optimism – perhaps unprecedented – is sweeping across galand and ga-inhabited areas of Assam, Aruchal Pradesh and Manipur for the past few months now, that a solution to the vexed ga issue could filly be round the corner.
Accompanied by the State’s lone Lok Sabha MP Neiphiu Rio, a high-level delegation from galand led by Chief Minister TR Zeliang and comprising his Cabinet colleagues was in New Delhi last week meeting Central Ministers and urging them to seal the deal before Christmas this year. They even went to the extent of urging the Government of India to postpone the State’s Assembly elections scheduled early next year.
In fact, all major groups, political or otherwise, in galand are gung-ho that a fil solution seems to have been filly found by New Delhi in consultation with stakeholders and therefore issuing statements urging gas to be prepared for the big announcement.
galand Legislators Forum (NLF) had even gone to the extent of passing a five-point resolution in Kohima last Friday in anticipation of the fil resolution to the decades-long conflict. Among other things, the resolution appreciated Prime Minister rendra Modi for his leadership and vision in making “significant progress” in the negotiations for a fil settlement of the ga political issue, besides seeking deferment of the Assembly polls till the fil agreement is reached.
Special prayer meets are also being organised, like the one recently held jointly by galand legislators with members of galand Baptist Churches Council.
There is thus an unmistakable sense of hope and optimism among a vast section of the ga society today in anticipation of a “fil” resolution to the ga problem. And not without reason since none have bore the brunt of the conflict for all these years more than the gas. In fact, public discontent against armed groups and their activities has been brewing for quite some time now in galand, evident in the emergence of mass movements like Against Corruption and Against Ubated Taxation or even Survival galand in the recent past.
Further, what has raised the expectation levels this time around perhaps is the involvement of virtually all ga armed outfits – or ga tiol political groups (NNPGs), as they are more popularly known in galand – in the peace process by the incumbent at the Centre. Of course, barring the NSCN (K).
On the other hand, in contrast to the all-round hope and optimism in galand, political turbulence has once again gripped neighbouring Assam and Manipur. People are hitting the streets along the inter-State borders in both the States and warning their respective governments and Centre against including their land in the proposed Greater galim insisted by NNPGs, mostly notably the NSCN (I-M). Opposition parties and other social groups and NGOs in both the States have become very vocal for the past few weeks even as border residents have been gripped by fear and panic.
And the matter has been further compounded due to the thick veil of secrecy still being maintained two years since the Framework Agreement was signed between New Delhi and NSCN (I-M) in August 2015. Opposition parties in both Assam and Manipur have been quick to denounce the Framework Agreement, alleging that territorial integrities of both the States will be compromised if it’s implemented.
It is against this backdrop of hope on one hand and despair on the other that prompted the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by former Union Minister P Chidambaram, to summon Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and Centre’s interlocutor for ga talks RN Ravi on 27th November to give clarification on the Framework Agreement.
And amidst the optimism and heightened activity all around, there are also indications of traditiol fault lines coming to play once again. For instance, the Eastern ga tiol Government has declared its strong opposition to any attempt to include Tirap, Changlang and Longding (TCL) districts of Aruchal Pradesh in any territorial integration with galand or Greater galim. It also appealed to the Government of India and other intertiol organisations not to endorse any demand made by NSCN (I-M) in this regard. But this is hardly surprising given the fact that NSCN (K) has strong influence in TCL area.
Under the circumstances, New Delhi understandably finds itself in an unenviable position. Any wonder then no government in Delhi has been able to hammer out a solution that is acceptable to all parties thus far. And not just the neighbouring States, even the plethora of NNPGs. For instance, status quo vis-à-vis current political boundary of present galand won’t be acceptable to most NNPGs, while any attempt at altering it by incorporating lands from neighbouring States would put the latter on flames. For instance, the gas in Manipur want to merge their land with galand, but any bid to accede to their demand would singe the neighbouring State. At the same time, any NNPG agreeing to the existing territorial limit of galand would be viewed as a “compromise” and “sell out” by others, and none would obviously want to shoulder that ignominy.
Further, New Delhi reaching a deal with any one particular group will not necessarily lead to a lasting peace, as past experiences have shown – examples, the 16-point Agreement of 1960 or the Shillong Accord of 1975. It’s a zero sum game.
Hence, working out a solution to the oldest insurgency movement of the country that is acceptable to all the parties is tricky, if not impossible. And it is against this backdrop that the problem has defied any solution whatsoever so long. It has always been a tightrope walk to mage disparate groups with conflicting demands, while at the same time not upsetting the proverbial applecart.
Nevertheless, if the current dispensation at New Delhi somehow mages to pull an ace up its sleeve and comes out with a breakthrough to the impasse – a solution tailored to meet everyone’s expectations – then the Modi Inc would be covering itself in glory for the posterity. So, let the anticipation sustain, and not jump the gun.