Will Manipur take the PM’s word at face value?

A ‘historic peace accord’ or a page-long ‘framework agreement’, the Centre’s insistence on keeping its agreement with Nagas secret casts a shadow on the election in Manipur

Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images/PTI Photo
Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images/PTI Photo
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NH Political Bureau

On August 3, 2015 Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted about the ‘historic peace accord’ that the Government of India had signed with the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). It was not just the end of a problem, he tweeted, but the beginning of a new future.

The Times of India had then carried the following report.


A year and half later, the Prime Minister was trying to convince people in Manipur that there was no accord that affected Manipur’s territorial integrity. “Standing on the holy land of Manipur, I promise you that there’s not even one word in any accord which is against the interests of Manipuris,” he said at an election rally in Imphal on February 25.


But why not disclose the content of the ‘accord’ (which the Government now concedes was just a framework agreement and is less than a page long) in that case? This was not necessary, said Union Minister Prakash Javadekar at Imphal on Sunday. Didn’t the PM say there was nothing to it? People of Manipur were satisfied, he claimed, that their interests would not be compromised by the PM.


Pressed by the media to at least explain why the framework agreement is kept a secret, Javadekar is quoted as saying reluctantly, “Because it is a work in progress” and therefore the details cannot be disclosed.


The NSCN(IM) has been less discreet. At various times it has claimed that the Government had recognised Naga 'sovereignty’’, that the dream of Greater Nagalim with integration of Naga inhabited areas in Manipur, Assam and other NE states and even Myanmar was close to being fulfilled. The insurgent group is also reported to have claimed that the agreement would eventually allow Nagas to have a flag of their own. The NSCN(IM) of course has ministries and an army subsidised by the Government of India.


“If the Centre is sincere, it should clear the air on the framework agreement. Why keep the people of Manipur in the dark?” says Thangso Baite, who represents Outer Manipur in the Lok Sabha.

Had the Modi government agreed to a ‘greater Nagalim’? If not, how was this issue planned to be solved as per the framework agreement? What was the execution plan? How were the neighbouring states being brought in to be on the same page on this issue? It may be noted that soon after the announcement of August 3, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh—along with his Congress counterparts from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh—had accused the NDA government of deliberately keeping them out of the loop and declared that they would not cede an inch of their land.

Had the Modi government agreed to a 'greater Nagalim'? If not, how was this issue planned to be solved as per the framework agreement? What was the execution plan? How were the neighbouring states being brought in to be on the same page on this issue?


It may be noted that soon after the announcement of August 3, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh—along with his Congress counterparts from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh—had accused the NDA government of deliberately keeping them out of the loop and declared that they would not cede an inch of their land.


“It is incomprehensible why the accord can’t be made public,” says Baite.


The BJP’s argument has been that the PM had called up Opposition leaders to inform them about the peace accord between New Delhi and NSCN(IM). However, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury punctures that claim. He is quoted by ANI as saying: “Where is the accord the PM told us on phone that was settled?” Yechury said that neither has Parliament seen that accord nor even the opposition party: “So, I don’t think there is any accord.”

“If the Centre is sincere, it should clear the air on the framework agreement. Why keep the people of Manipur in the dark?”
Thangso Baite

The Prime Minister’s claim that if the BJP is voted to power in the state, it would get the four-month-old blockade of Manipur by the Nagas lifted within two days has added fuel to the fire. The blockade was declared against the Manipur Government’s move to create seven new districts for ‘administrative efficiency’.


“I am not surprised at the PM’s statement. The Centre, if it wants, can solve the economic blockade issue—the NDA Government only has to direct the UNC to do so,” says Baite, claiming that the BJP has been in cahoots with all the Naga groups.


In an interview to The Economic Times, Manipur’s Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam alleges that the UNC was the frontal organisation of NSCN-IM and the Naga People's Front (NPF) was the sponsored political wing of NSCN-IM. “Economic blockade is a vicious circle. NPF is a partner of the NDA government. This is how the BJP is involved in the blockade. In local level in hill areas, the BJP and the NPF have joined hands in district councils. NSCN-IM is having dialogues with the BJP-led government in the Centre,” he says.


A large number of Union Ministers have converged on Manipur to swing the election slotted for March 4 and 8 in favour of the BJP. There is, however, no answer to the question whether the blockade by Nagas would continue if BJP fails to win the election in the state.

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Published: 27 Feb 2017, 8:02 PM
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