Thursday, August 27, 2015

Naga Rebels tired of wars!

Age is catching up the old-war horse Thuingaleng Muivah. His compatriot of many years standing, Isak Chishi Swu is hospitalized. This might have expedited the Naga peace process, and there's nothing wrong in it. 
Celebrated revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, now the national poet of Bangladesh, had coined a very powerful phrase: “Vidrohi rono klanto (rebels tired of wars)”. The phenomenon of war-fatigue has perhaps  caught up with everyone as the Naga peace negotiations starting from 1997 has traversed a long time span of 18 years. 
Modi providing the support to aging 'rebel' Muivah
Between the two, the love for Nagalim and commitment to the Naga movement might have been something in common that made Isak Swu and Muivah stick to each other. But that is where perhaps the similarities would end. While Swu, the chairman of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM faction), essentially has been a man believing in the power of God and the magical strength of ‘Nagaland For Christ’ slogan, his general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah has been more of a practical man. Someone who enlisted military and strategic aid from communists-ruled China, Muivah was thus – a Naga ‘rebel leader’ in that sense.
Swu would say, It is by the “guidance of Holy Spirit” that have seen me through this far”, courtesy his Facebook posting. Muivah though would believe in the power of Lord Almighty, he would sound more natural when the refrain is “If anybody forces me, I can still go further because I don’t come here to surrender my rights”. 

Muivah had in fact made these remarks in a media interview few years back . As the nation debates the pros and cons of all possibilities being worked out between the Government and the NSCN(IM) for a final peace pact, it would be prudent to look back at the road traversed by both in guiding the Naga movement. 

Deadly duo: Neo-peace makers
Born on March 3, 1934, Muivah has age difference of 5 years with Swu, who is at present unwell and undergoing treatment at Delhi’s famous Fortis Hospital.
While Swu was always been an elderly guide and a mighty source of inspiration to hundreds of cadres drawn from his Sema tribe and other Naga tribesmen drawn from present day Nagaland; Muivah has been the real strategist and at times a Machiavelli for the militant organization. 
Over the years it also had emerged as ‘the most potent insurgent group’ in the northeast.

At one point of time Muivah’s writ ran along Naga hills, parts of Manipur and other Naga inhabited places. The NSCN (IM) had established “operational links” with groups including that of Bodos and ULFA in Assam. Muivah’s cadres had trained insurgents in practically all other states in the region and also took ‘insurgency’ seeds to critical hubs Tirap and Changlang districts of once the ‘peaceful state’ Arunachal Pradesh.
By mid-nineties, both Swu and Muivah also had in common a willingness to negotiate with adversaries — the Government of India. 
Thus a long but arduous across the table parleys started. While the ice was broken by the then Indian Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, in 1997 the ‘rebel leaders’ first met H D Deve Gowda in Zurich. 

A ceasefire was signed in August 1997 and since then 80 rounds of talks had taken place between Government and NSCN (IM).
But the August 3, 2015 signing of first ‘broad framework’ peace pact in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was almost a surprise. In Parliament, a section of Modi’s detractors were overheard calling it a ‘soft coup’ as PM Modi’s government was finding it extremely difficult to deal with opposition parties. 

Hours before the breakthrough was announced, the Lok Sabha Speaker had suspended 25 opposition lawmakers. The much repeated questions in everyone’s lips thus was: “why it came with so much of secrecy”. Did the signing ceremony came in hurry only to help Modi make a fiery speech from the ramparts of Red Fort on the Independence Day.
There’s another version on why the signing process was actually expedited. The illness of aging Swu was seen as a catalyst to sign the preliminary accord at the earliest. This was confirmed by interlocutor R N Ravi, who said, NSCN (I-M) chairman Swu wanted an agreement signed between the two entities in his lifetime as both sides have already agreed upon “major issues”.
It is ironical but true that Modi has got this destiny-sent opportunity to lap up.
While the pressure on him as his ‘personal ambition’ has been always to “deliver”, the real compulsion to see a peace accord fructify was on the collective leadership of NSCN(IM).   

In case the worst news had come from Fortis Hospital where Swu is undergoing treatment at a ripe age, things could have been difficult for Muivah to carry along the entire ‘collective leadership’ of NSCN (IM). “Any agreement without endorsement of Isak Chishi Swu would be simply unacceptable to a large section of Swu followers also among the Naga civil society,” an intelligence official right summed it up. 
Thus, the August 3 ‘framework peace pact’ was very timely. How far it will go to achieve lasting peace for Nagas as well as for the rest of the states in the northeast, now remains to be seen.
(The edited version appeared in The Statesman and few other websites including

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