CFs and SoO (Suspension of Operations) with Under Ground (UG) Groups of North East (NE) region are the same side of a coin. Other side is the violence. Both aim at stopping the violence in society. The difference between the two is, the former is bipartite (UG Group and GoI) and latter tripartite (UG Group, GoI & State Govt). Ceasefires have given birth to a new form of seemingly legalised violence in public places. Probably SoO may be better since State Govt is on board. It is heartening that the most troubled State (Manipur) of this region has embarked on SoO (first ever) with the conglomerations of Kuki, Zomi and Hmar outfits ie United People’s Front (UPF) and Kuki National Organisation (KNO). Probably others will follow the suit. Previously it was between SF and UG Group without recognition of Manipur Govt.
CF between NSCN (IM) and GoI has been in existence for 11 years now but there is no respite to violence in Nagaland. In fact the violence has made a dangerous shift from uninhabited areas to thickly populated towns. The results can be gauged from one of the conversations, the author had with a shop keeper in Dimapur (a business hub). On being questioned about the present situation in Nagaland, The reply was, “It was better 20 years ago”. Author interrupted, “It was peak of insurgency then and now it is ceasefire”. Shopkeeper replied, “Demand notes (for money) by NSCN were in hundreds then and now it is in lakhs”.
GoI also entered into a CF with Khaplang faction of NSCN in 2001. Now there is an emergence of third group called unification group of NSCN. It is formed by breakaway cadres of NSCN (IM) and headed by Sumi leaders Azheto Chophy and brother of Isak Swu (Chairman of IM group). This group posed itself as a new Robin Hood but is far from it. It is not in a ceasefire mode. Earlier factional clashes were between two groups but now it is amongst three groups. These are more for control of major territory of Nagaland for maximum ill-gotten gains. It has resulted in killing of more number of Nagas both by direct clash of the groups and collateral damage to innocent civilians. Chingwak Konyak, leader of Congress Legislator Party (CLP) said about the prevailing situation, “It is not that Nagas fear Indian army nor other security forces but they (Nagas) fear their own brothers”. As per Institute of conflict management there had been a total of 255 insurgent related fatalities in 2006 and 2007. Out of this 204 were Naga militants (terrorists) and 49 Naga civilians.
After CF with NSCN groups followed number of CFs with other groups in the region eg United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), Dima Halam Daogah (DHD), Bodos, Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) etc. Latest is Hywennwerp National Liberation Council (HNLC) wanting to enter into a ceasefire after realising the senselessness of gun culture. Despite all this violence level in Assam is not declining. Only United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) can not be blamed for the violence in Assam but also the outfits committed to CF. In 2006 and 2007 there were total of 913 insurgency related incidents that resulted in death of 450 civilians, 175 insurgents and 56 SFs in Assam.
ULFA is not entering into peace talks despite Assamese wanting peace desperately. ULFA is also divided between pro talk (breakaway cadres of 28th and 709th battalion) and anti talk ie rest of ULFA including C in C Paresh and President Rajkhowa. The outfit has set conditions to dodge the peace initiative since the ULFA leadership is living lavishly in Bangladesh and cadres are languishing in poverty. To quote director of Assam Public Works (APW, an organisation of kith and kin of ULFA), “since ULFA C in C Paresh Barua and Chairman Arbindo Rajkhowa have been minting money and living a lavish life in Bangladesh. They are reluctant to hold peace talks with the Government even though people of Assam want peace in the State.” (The Sentinel datelined 12 Jul 08).
Now it is SoO with UPF and KNO; accumulations of eight and seven outfits respectively. Will this be more effective than ceasefire and how can ceasefires be made effective? Will this give these outfits a chance to run their own writ in more open and more legalised manner? Every sane citizen feels the effect of failing governance in the States. Every one feels there is parallel governance by insurgent turned mafia or gangs of criminals who need to be reined in soonest possible. Do the CF and SoO mean that the outfit will carry out those activities that were being done covertly earlier?
Let the appeasement be not out of fear or to avoid unpleasantness but from a position of strength and with clear policies. This is the only sure way of lasting peace. CF ground rules say that GoI will ensure implementation of agreement with the group. Law and order is a state subject and State Legislature is a Constitutionally elected body. Therefore it is legitimate that State Govt implements the agreement clauses on behalf of GoI. Is it being done or refused willingly since the State is not a signatory to the agreement? The people who have elected legislators of State Govt to power have all the right to expect a fair deal and not left to protracted and avoidable inconveniences. This is also written that members of the outfits under CF will not move with weapons and will not resort to recruitment, extortion, illegal blockades etc. But this is the order of the day. Besides getting maintenance allowance the cadres are engrossed in all sorts of proscribed activities (of a civil society) to fill their coffers.
The maintenance allowance to the cadres should not be given as a grant but it should be linked to productivity. The State Govt should house the cadres in safe places and impart vocational training under a secure environment. There after these cadres can be engaged in productive activities like pineapple industry, growing of vanilla trees, organic farming, rubber industry etc and the products could be sold out by a cooperative. This needs to planned, executed and actioned both in retrospect and prospect.
“Let us never negotiate out of Fear. Let us never fear to Negotiate”
— ‘John F Kennedy’
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