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Muivah for joint panel

Bangkok, Sept. 22: Even as he looks for a European shelter to carry on his negotiations with the Centre, NSCN (I-M) leader Thuingaleng Muivah does not want the momentum of the peace process to flag.

Having agreed to find a solution consistent with the “fundamental principles and framework of the Indian Constitution”, Muivah has now suggested to the Indian negotiators that they jointly set up a committee of legal experts to take the process forward.

“We have proposed that a committee, with legal and other experts nominated by both sides, should go into the details of analysing the Constitution and the sharing of competencies between the Indian government and the Nagas. It will report to the joint negotiating team, whose decision would be final,” Muivah said, elaborating on his proposal.

However, Delhi might be reluctant to go ahead with such a committee at this stage as it is not sure what Muivah means by accepting the fundamental principles and framework of the Indian Constitution. While not ruling out a separate Naga constitution at this stage, Delhi would perhaps like Muivah to say unequivocally that the acceptance of the Indian Constitution means that its principles and structure can accommodate the rights and aspirations of the Nagas.

Muivah, however, has a different interpretation. And therein lies the gap between the two positions.

Muivah’s view is: “While the Nagas would have a separate constitution, it would be consistent with the fundamental principles and framework of the Constitution, wherever possible. What we are willing to accept is that the political and constitutional system of the Nagas would be similar to and consistent with India’s. The two constitutions would also be similar and consistent. This is what I mean by saying that we do not accept the Indian Constitution per se.”

However, Muivah has also agreed that the Naga Constitution would be formulated only after an agreement on the division of competencies — subjects of governance (competencies) with the Nagas, with Delhi, and those to be governed jointly. If the contents of the Naga constitution were yet to be decided, how could anything be said definitively about its shape and contours'

“It is true that at this stage, we cannot say what the shape of the Naga Constitution would be. But it is clear that we want a system that is democratic and broadly consistent with India’s political and constitutional system. We will have a system which accepts political institutions such as Parliament, the Election Commission, the comptroller and auditor-general, the Supreme Court, the Planning Commission and the Finance Commission. But remember, these institutions will be a part of our Constitution, separate from the Indian Constitution,” he added by way of explanation.

Instead of generating confidence in Delhi for going ahead with a settlement, such an explanation may, in fact, force a serious rethink. Because Muivah also says: “Do not interpret this to mean that we are becoming a part of the Indian system or the Indian Union — only that we will seek to promote consistencies rather than divergence.”

The Naga apprehension — if that is what it is — perhaps relates to the Indian Constitution’s frequent amendments. Their rights, enshrined in the Constitution, might be eroded over time, as the people of Jammu and Kashmir have claimed in their case. “The Kashmiris have their own history. Our attempt is to reach a settlement which would be permanent — it shouldn’t be a case of here today and gone tomorrow,” the Naga leader said.

Muivah, while reluctant to dilute his position, also indicated a way forward. “If the guarantees of Naga rights and aspirations are embedded both in the Indian Constitution and the Naga Constitution with a federal relationship between the two, the debate about who is accepting which framework becomes irrelevant. We should use the genius of our two people to work out such a new legal and constitutional framework of our relationship,” he added.

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