New Delhi, Oct. 29: Seeking to establish a special federal relationship between “India and the Nagas” pivoted on a joint defence mechanism, NSCN (I-M) leader Thuingaleng Muivah today expressed the hope that the necessary political will not be found wanting. The general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) was speaking to The Telegraph in an interview today.
According to Muivah, if Delhi were to give the Nagas what they want, its prime concern — which relates to the security of Nagaland and, as a corollary, the rest of the Northeast — needs to be addressed. If this is done, believes Muivah, the Naga problem can be resolved for good.
The outfit has a different take on federalism. “When an agreement could be arrived at and a relationship is well defined, both Nagas and the government of India can go to the extent of being bound up. In that, separation would not be possible,” said Muivah.
Citing former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s statement to the Nagas that she was concerned most about India’s security, the NSCN (I-M) leader said his outfit was ready to meet those concerns even today. “Had she been here today, she would have confronted the issue,” he claimed.
The Centre obviously has no intention to give a semblance of separate identity to the Nagas beyond more autonomy. Nagaland is currently administered under Article 371(A) of the Constitution, which guarantees protection to Naga customs, traditions and identity.
But Delhi’s concerns are also premised on Nagaland’s strategic location. It is concerned about the outfit’s continued contacts with Beijing since the Sixties.
Supplementing this is a firm belief within the establishment that economic development in Nagaland will act as a magic cure and eventually end militancy. That, according to Muivah, is the Centre’s miscalculation and warned that if “something of a global nature happens, it will be a big issue for India”.
Muivah said the Nagas are sensitive to another identity and must be citizens of Nagalim and, at the same time, of India as well, suggesting a sort of “dual citizenship”. He said unless there was a separate constitution for Nagalim, the outfit would be driven back to insurgency. “We can have a joint defence of Nagalim and if the security problem of the Nagas is solved, the problem of Indian security does not arise. Nagalim can be best defended by Nagas. If India is protecting (us), that problem is not solved,” he said.
The Centre has already rejected this proposal, saying that “India will defend”. Muivah conceded that while no government at the Centre will be strong enough to take such a decision, yet to solve this problem, realistic steps need to be taken.
A joint defence mechanism would be advantageous to both sides, Muivah claimed, ensuring protection from “forces inimical to India’s interests”. For the outfit, the exercise would also take care of the large number of the outfit’s militant activists who would lose their jobs following a solution, say observers.
With the ceasefire completing 10 years and becoming the longest lasting ceasefire between any government and any rebel group in the world, the negotiation has also reached a crucial crossroads.
The outfit is insisting on a separate constitution and has sought help from experts such as Yash Ghai, Antony Reagan (who helped frame the East Timor constitution) and lawyer Nandita Haksar to study our Constitution.
Along with government officials, they are likely to continue this exercise for a year. “What can be accepted and what could be amended in the Constitution should be examined. We will accept and include in our constitution what is relevant, but we will have a separate constitution,” Muivah reiterated.