Naga Republic News
While public outpouring over the present ills facing Nagas as a people was a dominant theme in the just concluded series of public interaction conducted by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) in New Delhi, one deep concern raised over and over again was how the Naga people will respond once a political settlement or solution comes about, as is expected sooner than later.
Convenor, Forum for Naga Reconciliation Dr Wati Aier speaking during the open public interaction on May 4 at New Delhi
Several young scholars expressed apprehensions over the growing trust deficit in Naga society, hatred among tribes, identity politics etc. “Are we ready for the Framework Agreement”, was a common refrain coming from the public during the interactions with the FNR which was held over three days in the National Capital.
One Naga faculty member of Delhi University who teaches political science expressed his concern over ‘conflict in a post-settlement era’ and requesting the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) to do something. Another Naga academician teaching sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia University wanted that FNR should also ‘pro-actively work towards solution’.
In one of his responses, FNR Convenor Rev Dr Wati Aier said that the ‘key to peace in post-settlement is healing’. Further he pointed out that ‘in some way the FNR was preparing the way for a peaceful settlement’.
“What FNR can do is give a sense of direction in a post-agreement period where confusion and violence may take place. We can help minimize violence if any”, Naga historian and FNR member Dr Visier Sanyü said of the role that the FNR can play if given the opportunity.
Naga elder and member, Forum for Naga Reconciliation Niketu Iralu speaking during the open public interaction on May 4 at New Delhi
“We must not make what is bad into something worse”, said FNR member and renowned peace activist Niketu Iralu in response to some of the worries and anxieties that was apparent in the public discussions held in Delhi. “FNR will be responsible to make sure that any agreement is not made worse by violence and killings. Things are already bad so don’t make it worse”, Iralu said.
The President of the Naga Scholars Association (NSA) during their interaction with the FNR pointed out that one of the challenges for the Nagas as they prepared for a settlement was to reach out to the neighbours. “We need an initiative to work for peace in the region”, said Dr. Zuchamo Yanthan.
The FNR Convenor informed the public interaction that they were planning to meet the Meiteis and Assamese for dialogue and understanding. “All identities are unique whether it is Nagas, Meiteis or Assamese”, he said. Another FNR member Somipam Lungleng disclosed that back-channel talks with civil society groups in Manipur have already begun.
FNR member Dr Pangernungba Kechu moderating a discussion with the Naga Scholars Association Delhi on May 5 at New Delhi
While the word settlement was used freely by participants in the open interactions, there was also caution among FNR members.
Morung Express publisher and FNR member Dr Akum Longchari preferred not to use the term settlement. Critical of the way the Government of India was attempting to ‘manage’ the present peace process, Dr Longchari said that this was being done in order to ‘compromise the people’. He questioned whether the process was designed and guided by Naga aspiration or the other way around.
A senior member of the NSA, Dr Walunir did not mince words either when he expressed during the discussion that the Government of India should deal with the Naga people more honestly and sincerely.
According to Dr Walunir, the establishment in Delhi was approaching the Naga issue for their own national security interest. “They have achieved 80% of their objective and Nagas are not aware of it”, he lamented. He was equally critical of the Naga negotiators. “Our leaders talk to our people through newspapers but they talk to their Indian counterpart face to face”.
A section of the crowd along with members belonging to the Forum for Naga Reconciliation seen here during the open public interaction held on May 4 at New Delhi
Giving his mind on the current peace negotiation, FNR member Dr Visier Sanyü said that ‘there will be no solution or settlement but only signing of an agreement’. Pointing out that past ‘agreements’ did not bring about any ‘solution’ but only ‘problem’, nevertheless he ‘expected’ that the coming agreement will be an improvement over past agreements’.
Related to this, a senior member of the Naga Elders Forum Delhi voiced his apprehension about another ‘Shillong Accord’ that may come about once the present talks conclude and termed Naga reconciliation as the need of the hour.
In response, former leader of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) and present FNR member Nepuni Piku said that a ‘non-violent peoples movement was needed in a post-settlement era’ and that the FNR was working to bring Naga civil society together in belongingness’.
Another theme that dominated the discussions was on the familiar subject of disunity among the Nagas.
Participants seen here during the Forum for Naga Reconciliation open public interaction held on May 4 at New Delhi
“Because of our fragmentation Nagas do not have a voice”, said another member representing the Naga Elders Forum Delhi. While appreciating that the FNR will continue to work ‘beyond solution’, the member regretted that there was no ‘over-ground voice to bring the Naga Political Groups together’.
Claiming that the Government of India’s Interlocutor also had to ‘intervene’ to get the 6 NNPGs to the talks table, a participant from the Naga Scholars Association put this pointer: “But shouldn’t we find out why we have failed to bring all the Naga Political Groups together”.
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) had to respond a number of times to queries related to the Naga Concordant, which was signed on August 16, 2011 and why it could not take off. The failure of the Naga Concordant, according to the FNR was questioned by not only the public but even some of the NPGs wanted to know why it failed to take-off.
However without going into finger pointing or blame game, the Convenor said the FNR will take ‘responsibility’ for whatever has happened. The FNR during the public interaction also expressed hope that the Naga Concordant will ‘pick-up’.
One PhD scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) wanted to know if the FNR was going to take feedback from the public interaction to the signatories of the Covenant of Reconciliation (COR). “Whether these interactions are going to have any impact otherwise it is a waste of time”, the scholar argued.
Still another voiced his opinion and questioned if it was wise on the part of the FNR to meet with the Naga Political Groups (NPGs), terming the latter as fast ‘losing credibility’ over the Naga issue.
Of interest to note is that during the just concluded visit to Delhi, the FNR team had closed door meetings separately with the 6 Naga National Political Groups and the NSCN (IM).
Meanwhile following the interaction with Delhi based Naga Scholars Association (NSA) a few areas of convergence were identified by the FNR to work alongside the NSA in the future. They include reconciliation of the different Naga Political Groups, working for peace with neighbours, possible intervention in a post-settlement situation and lastly to create awareness on Naga identity among the youths.
Members from the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) and Naga Scholars Association (NSA) seen in this group photo taken on May 5 at New Delhi.
In response NSA members volunteered to initiative its own dialogue with think-tank groups from the neighbouring States since Delhi was where most policy matters are outlined and decided. The NSA members also informed that they were playing their part in meeting with the six Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and NSCN (IM) and exploring ways to bring them together.
The NSA also pointed out that it can give ‘intellectual inputs’ if required in peace negotiations. Further the NSA was lobbying hard with political parties in India to get their support for an honourable political settlement, the NSA informed during the interaction with FNR.
FNR member Rosemary Dzüvichü termed the interaction with the NSA as a ‘springboard to many more conversations’ while Dr Longchari said FNR and NSA complemented each other. Another FNR member Dr Pangernungba Kechu described the scholars present as the ‘heartbeat of Naga conscience’.
It was agreed in principle to conduct a joint workshop of the FNR and NSA on urgent issues related to the coming peace accord and its aftermath.