The peace pact signed between the NDA government and the NSCN-IM on Monday has raised hopes of improving the conflict situation in the northeast, but Nagaland’s neighbours are wary of its content in view of the Naga outfit’s “expansionist designs”.
One of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland’s (NSCN-IM) prime preconditions for resolving the peace process was the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas. Referred to as Greater Nagaland, its map includes five hill districts of Manipur, two of Arunachal Pradesh and large swathes of Assam bordering Nagaland.
“We do not object to any peace accord, but it should not disturb our territorial integrity or divide the ethnic groups. The centre should remember 2001,” a member of an Imphal-based NGO said, adding that leaders of various organisations would consult for the next course of action after going through what the accord says.
Read: Govt, NSCN (IM) sign peace treaty, Modi calls it 'new future'
Violence erupted in Manipur in 2001 after the centre agreed to extend the ambit of the 1997 ceasefire with the NSCN-IM to areas beyond Nagaland. Protestors even set the Manipur assembly building ablaze.
The northeast has only one example of a peace pact that has sustained -- the Mizoram Accord of 1986 signed between Laldenga's Mizo National Front and New Delhi. The government earlier signed the Shillong Accord of 1975 with Naga rebels but it was largely rejected and led to the birth of the NSCN in 1980.
Political parties and NGOs in Assam felt the accord could have a positive impact on the militancy scenario in the northeast, but are wary the pact only has “Naga rebels’ agenda” in mind.
“We do not know the details yet but if the accord ensures lasting peace within the confines of Nagaland, we welcome it whole-heartedly. However, including any disputed part of Assam in the deal is not acceptable,” Pradyut Bordoloi, former minister and Assam government spokesperson, told HT.
Read: A history of accords but peace has eluded Nagaland
The mood in Nagaland was upbeat but many were guarded without going through the content of the accord. The Naga Students’ Federation said it was early to comment, as did the Naga Hoho – traditional apex body of all Naga tribes – and Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), which exercises significant clout in predominantly Christian Nagaland.
“A pact ending years of hostilities is welcome but we do not know yet what is in it for the Nagas and Nagaland," Chuba Ozukum, president of Naga Hoho, said.
However, some feel a peace deal with the NSCN-IM will not solve the Naga political problem. The traditional body representing the Konyak tribe, for instance, said any peace process cannot leave the NSCN-Khaplang out.