Sunday, May 9, 2010

I-M’s dream for Lebensraum and New Delhi’s Treachery

New Delhi’s treatment and engagement with the Indo-Naga political dialogue which is into the 14th year now can best be described as disingenuous and deceitful. To any keen observer, it is crystal clear that New Delhi has no intention to bring the political dialogue to any amicable conclusion any time soon though 13 long years have passed since the cease-fire pact was signed on August 1, 1997. Rather, New Delhi seems quite content to leave the process going as long as possible. Perhaps New Delhi believes in the adage ‘time is the best healer’ .
However, the hard fact is that New Delhi is gaining greater and greater leverage as the political dialogue drags on. First, it was sovereignty and a third country, two basic conditions insisted by Isaak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah to initiate the dialogue process. Of course, the condition of including sovereignty in the agenda of the political dialogue was rejected by New Delhi outright though New Delhi was cunning enough to submit to the demand for setting the venue of the political dialogue in a third country. New Delhi knew well it was a small price to silence booming guns of one of the most powerful rebel groups in India. Now sovereignty and third country are non-issues or issues which Isaak and Muivah no longer dare to ask for.
After the failed Shillong Accord, ‘Naga National Workers’ were, perhaps, betrayed by Isaak and Muivah for the second time in the revolutionary history of the Nagas by entering into cease-fire agreement with New Delhi which categorically stated at the very beginning that sovereignty was out of the question. Perhaps, from the very beginning, Isaak and Muivah thought that complete independence was a goal unattainable. It is very likely that they signed the cease-fire agreement with something else in their mind, possibly integration of Naga inhabited areas under a single administrative unit, with the addenda of some sort of autonomy. Now, it is becoming truer than truth. The NSCN (IM) leadership has long ceased to shout for sovereignty. We are afraid if it is not a case of history repeating itself.
Here, it is pertinent to trace the birth of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) and the splitsville suffered by the Naga National Council (NNC). Phizo led NNC was, in fact, the mother of almost all insurgent organisations now operating in Nagaland and beyond. First, it was only the NNC. In the aftermath of the Shillong Accord, Isaak and Muivah and their followers defected together with SS Khaplang, then president in-charge of the NNC to form the NSCN in 1980. Eight years later, their leadership parted ways and gave birth to two factions––NSCN (IM) led by Isaak and Muivah and NSCN (K) led by SS Khaplang.
It is not the genesis or history of NSCN or NNC that is of interest or relevance here but it is the causal factors, circumstances and justifications given for the multiple splitsville. It is in records that the Shillong Accord was the immediate and most prominent factor for the rise of NSCN after their leaders split from the NNC leadership.
The Government of India negotiated the Shillong Accord with some moderate Naga leaders within the NNC, not with the collective leadership of the outfit, and the accord was signed in 1975. As expected, many leaders and cadres were disillusioned and disappointed at the manner how their leaders negotiated with the Government of India and what they got from the accord. The radicals quickly capitalised the situation and formed the NSCN which soon intensified the war against the Government of India. Led by Isaak, Muivah and Khaplang with the stated claim of winning sovereignty for Naga people, the NSCN soon outgrew its parent organisation. Its influence, fire-power and strike force became the most dominating one in the entire North East region. The new leadership also condemned those who signed the Shillong Accord as betrayers.
Though AZ Phizo, then leader of the united NNC was not present while signing the Shillong Accord which fell far short of the political aspirations of the Naga people, he refused to denounce it. Isaak and Muivah, then returning from their trip to China asked their leader Phizo to denounce the accord but Phizo only said, "it’s a process". Not long after, the NNC leadership parted ways and the rest is history. Nevertheless, this marked a turning point in the revolutionary struggle of the Naga people. It saw the beginning of the ascension of NSCN in place of the NNC as a frontrunner revolutionary group representing the aspirations of the Naga people.
But the commitment of Isaak and Muivah to Naga independence was put under serious question when SS Khaplang severed all ties with Isaak-Muivah group and set up the NSCN (K) under his leadership in 1988. This was followed by bitter internecine killings between NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K). At the time, when SS Khaplang severed all ties with the Isaak-Muivah group, he accused Th Muivah of constituting a committee headed by himself with a plan to travel to New Delhi by helicopter in order to initiate a ‘peace process’ under a tacit understanding with the Government of India and talk within the constitution of India. As it turned out, Naga sovereignty has never been the goal of Isaak-Muivah leadership though they split from the NNC after blaming Phizo’s leadership for accepting the Shillong Accord which did not touch the issue of Naga sovereignty even marginally.
But Naga sovereignty was what they promised and claimed to be fighting for when they lured the Naga people after setting up the NSCN. However, following the departure of SS Khaplang, the Isaak-Muivah group started exposing their real agenda, that is, integration of Naga inhabited areas, not Naga sovereignty, when they unleashed a pre-meditated pogrom targeting Kukis in Manipur hills in the early 1990’s. It is a discernible fact that the ethnic cleansing programme was planned and executed mercilessly with the aim to form Naga exclusive domains which, of course, failed bitterly at the cost of thousands of innocent lives. It is interesting to note the changed rhetoric of NSCN (IM) leadership after the failure of the ethnic cleansing programme. The I-M leadership reversed their rhetoric saying that Nagas and Kukis can be good neighbours and live together within the Naga lebensraum of their dream, the so-called Greater Nagalim. But Kukis had already questioned the integrity of Th Muivah as a revolutionary leader. Isn’t it a case of history repeating itself that Isaak and Muivah are negotiating with New Delhi sans the agenda of sovereignty, which is quite similar in many aspects to what they denounced when done under Phizo’s leadership 35 years back ?
In the backdrop of these dynamics operating around the NSCN (IM)’s highly chauvinistic demand for lebensraum, New Delhi’s understanding of the North East is superficial, to say the least, even though the region has been a part of the Indian Union since the last 60 years, if not earlier. What is disturbing is that New Delhi evinces little interest to understand the complex dynamics operating in the North East. What is even more frightening is that New Delhi never seems to learn from its past blunders. One fait accompli after another is committed, pushing the North East region into a dark pit of chaos and anarchy, making it a ticking bomb waiting to trigger a chain of ethnic clashes across the whole region. Here, we cannot help asking New Delhi if it has been scheming all these years for such a situation to relish upon where the people of the North East, who are racially different from mainland Indians, plunge into a bloody war of mutual extermination.
Any keen observer can read that New Delhi is a confidant of NSCN (IM)’s demand for Naga lebensraum, if not a supporter . This was reflected well when the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) signed the cease-fire agreement after leaving out Naga sovereignty from the agenda of political dialogue. From being a confidant, New Delhi became a supporter of I-M’s sole agenda in 2001 when it extended the cease-fire agreement into the boundary of Manipur where thousands of innocent people were butchered to make space for I-M’s lebensraum dreamland. But New Delhi was shocked and its conscience shaken when the cease-fire extension was received with a massive violent protest movement in Manipur. Whereas the demand for lebensraum did not threaten the integrity of India, the civil movement had all the telltale signs of the people’s readiness and resolve to severe all ties with India, should Manipur’s territory be sacrificed to make space for the lebensraum of I-M’s dream.
Alas ! New Delhi’s memory seems to be very short-lived. New Delhi exposed its ineptitude and haughtiness in handling the issue by keeping the people of Manipur away from the political dialogue of which creation of a lebensraum (read disintegration of Manipur) is understandably the sole agenda. Once again, New Delhi committed another inexpiable blunder by giving clearance for Th Muivah to visit Manipur, only to be retracted or hold back at the stiff resistance offered by the Government of Manipur. This is a treachery on the part of New Delhi to both NSCN (IM) leadership and the people of Manipur. Twenty precious lives (counting together the victims of June 2001 and the recent Mao incident) have been lost due to acts of treachery played by New Delhi. May their souls rest in peace.
Had the people of Manipur been taken into confidence in the process of the dialogue, the controversy and violence caused as a result of Muivah’s proposed visit to Manipur could have been averted.
The man in white lungi from down South should stop playing with fire. The Government of India need to learn at least one lesson from the Shillong Accord that pacifying one insurgent group cannot bring lasting peace in the region. New Delhi should understand that they are only branching the Hydra. Stop playing the wily monkey of fable distributing bread to two fighting cats. Every community can make irredentist claims.
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, May 9, 2010

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