Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju made good use of their pre-election missions to Manipur to convince the people of the Imphal Valley (Meiteis) that in the 3 August 2015, “Framework Naga Peace Accord” Indian interlocutor RN Ravi signed with NSCN(IM) chairman Isak Swu and general secretary Th Muivah, there is no mention of integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur. The underlying message was that the Meiteis should repose their faith in the BJP and vote for it. Any agreement or understanding , inspired by the intention to restore peace, foster tolerance and ethnic harmony/goodwill, is welcome.
But what is questionable about the “framework” accord is the hasty and secretive manner in which it was concluded. There was no need to rush things through when the NSCN(IM)’s core demand ~ greater Nagaland – was not even on the agenda. The Naga leaders had raised this demand upon landing in New Delhi in February 2003 for talks on the ground for the first time after the July 1997 Nagaland ceasefire. Then BJP Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee even acknowledged the Nagas’ “unique history” ~ that they had never been under subjugation.
Former Nagaland chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, now an MP, even changed the name of his ruling Nagaland People’s Front to enable it to contest in the Manipur assembly polls to fight for the cause of Greater Nagaland. In the 2012 Manipur assembly poll his party was able to win four seats. As a matter of fact, the NSCN (IM) leaders had often iterated their stand that there can be no compromise on the integration issue. Yet no sincere efforts were made to consult the chief ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. In fact, after the signing of the Framework agreement, the Prime Minister reportedly spoke to most national/opposition leaders, and even chief ministers, but conveniently ignored the incumbents in Itanagar, Dispur and Imphal.
Now comes the moment of truth for the BJP. Taking cognizance of what the Cenral leaders had to say, the working group of Naga National Political Groups has, in a statement, appealed to the people of Nagaland in particular and the Nagas in general “to prepare themselves for greater responsibilities in future”. This sounds ominous.
Vajpayee had tried to appease the Nagas by giving them a homeland but at the fag end of his tenure he turned out to be too mature a politician to suggest that the contentious integration issue should be left to the people concerned to decide.