By Kh Ibomcha
With the end of the Naga peace negotiation on October 31, it seems too late for us to mount pressure on the Government of India to omit points that would go against the interests of the people of Manipur—particularly the Meiteis. Having said this, it does not mean that we have to remain as mere spectators to the episode that is likely to fold out anytime soon.
However, now is the time to wait for the contents of the agreement or the agreed points to be identified, which will happen only after the agreement is signed by the two parties, the Centre and the Nagas. So now ‘be prepared for the eventualities that would follow with the revelation of the contents of the agreement’ is the message I would like to convey to the people of Manipur.
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By the phrase ‘be prepared’ it means in-depth analysis of all the possible permutation and combinations of the agreement contents that would crisscross with our idea of territorial integrity and others. While being ready for the eventualities that are coming soon by the way of analyzing the pros and cons of what the Nagas in Manipur are going to get from the negotiation, we must always keep in our mind the saying ‘you can change friends, not neighbours’ to guide our actions in the right direction of history.
From the assurances given by central leaders, including the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other important persons from Delhi in the recent past, with no qualms, it can be taken for granted that the territorial integrity of Manipur is safe. Here, it is worth remembering that in large what the Nagas are going to get from the negotiation is not independence or freedom from India; the negotiation is purely under the Indian Constitution. Going by this calculation, what is evident is that we, both the Manipur Nagas and the Meiteis, are going to again live under the same political economy with its rein in the hands of the same rulers or masters from Delhi.
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If the Government of India is going to give something to the Nagas to settle the long-drawn Naga political problem, we ought to support the Nagas. We can suggest them options that would best serve their interests. However, while suggesting options, we have to assert what we want or expect from the agreed points which are yet to be revealed. Besides, we must also show them the ways leading towards solving two objectives, ours and theirs, with one single action.
As has been said above, we constantly have to remain vigilant to recognize the agreed points and their possible impact on us. And if their model goes against our ideal or set models—the existing state models, then we have to enable ourselves to frame an alternative model, even better than the one the Government of India and the Manipur Nagas are actually planning.
For instance, if in the agreed points, the Nagas are allowed to form a pan-Naga cultural council, what we have to first check out is ‘whether it overlaps with the existing state model, say the Department of Art & Culture, Government of Manipur?’
If it crisscrosses with the functional mechanism of the state’s already set model, we have to point out the areas that categorically affect us to mount pressure on the Centre for an alteration. And at the same time our likes and dislikes on the model must also be openly communicated to the Nagas to help each other in designing a new model accepted by both.
Again, if the acceptance for instituting a territorial council for the Nagas of Manipur is given by the Centre, what shall we do? Along the same line as laid down above, we have to intensely digest the structure of the council visualizing its pros and cons. While studying the structure of the council, it is needed to study the council’s legislative, judiciary and executive power? If the newly instituted territorial council impinges on the state’s already set up administrative integrity, we must point out the area that goes against our wishes. At that point, we can negotiate with the Nagas and assist each other in finding out a model that serves the interest of both parties.
Until and unless the peace talk is concluded with agreed points commonly accepted by numbers of stakeholders, it is more than evident that the enmity between the Nagas and the Meiteis will never end. So, the sooner the solution to the Naga problem, the narrower will be the fissure between the hills and the valley of Manipur. Here lies the importance of extending a helping hand to each other to fruitfully conclude the settlement.Therefore, now it is the time both for the Nagas, particularly the Nagas in Manipur, and the valley people to support each other to say adieu to the old debauched relations and start new relations built on mutual respect. We must remember this settlement is not the end of the war—the war of the have-nots against the haves. Let’s stop the act of venom-spewing at each other; we have had enough of it. There is a still a bigger war remaining to be waged which neither the Nagas nor the Meiteis can do alone; it calls for the unity of both entities.