In a season when Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are basking in media glory for having cornered the Modi government in Parliament, the Congress party seemed to have lost its plot and instead chose to play with ‘fire’ in the north east. Sonia Gandhi made her Tarun Gogoi, almost on his last stint faced with a tough elections next year, retract his initial “welcome” statement on the Naga peace move by the Centre.
Sonia Gandhi and her party should remember that Shillong Accord of 1975 was signed during the reign of Indira Gandhi. The much controversial clause of the Shillong Accord read “the representatives of underground organizations conveyed their decision of their own volition to accept, without condition, the Constitution of India”. This pact was later responsible for so many violence and killings in Nagaland and other parts of northeast.
“The Prime Minister, as well as Muivah must clarify whether NSCN(I-M) has given up its demand for Nagalim. Why is the Government of India keeping such an important document a secret. We demand that all contents of the agreement be made public,” said Assam Chief Minister Gogoi at a media briefing in New Delhi on August 7, a day after Sonia blasted Modi-Muivah peace pact.
In fact, along with Gogoi, the AICC had summoned two other northeastern Chief Ministers – Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh) and Ibobi Singh (Manipur) to toe the Sonia line that Prime Minister Modi had displayed sheer ‘arrogance’ by ignoring her hand-picked Chief Ministers.
“If a single inch of our land in Manipur is taken as a consequence of this government, we cannot accept it and we will fight if a single inch of territory is given,” said Ibobi Singh, who had in 2010 sabotaged Muivah’s visit to his native Somdal village in Nagaland.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki said that Modi had called up Chief Ministers of other States but forgot to call them. “Such fast decision-making will bring troubles and stress relations between the Centre and the States”.
As leader of Congress party, which has ruled Nagaland and other northeastern states for long period, Sonia had an opportunity to show that when it comes to 'national (India's) interests', she can rise above party lines.
But a section of netizens do not have much high opinion of Congress and its leaders on this front. The BJP as expected joined issue with her and union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman wondered, how the Congress chief is questioning the accord after three days when the party leaders including Ninong Ering and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had welcomed it soon after the announcement.
"Whose interest is the Congress serving?', asked Sitharaman adding, "We probably never saw an Opposition speaking against the interests of the country".
"Sagacity has never been the forte of Congress and its leadership. In fact, they are the most elitist, feudal and arrogant bunch of politicians, who think that ruling the country is their birth-right. I am fully convinced that they are still hurting from the fact that they are not in power," wrote Prashant Pandey on the internet responding to this writer's blog.
Another Arun Shah, who also worked in Nagaland, wrote on Facebook emphatically, "north east leaders welcomed the initiative of Government of India to resolve the longstanding Naga issue. However, after getting tutored by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, they have retracted from their initial stand of welcoming the Naga Peace Accord. What type of morality these Regional Congress Leaders have?
Someone from Jaipur was all the more angry saying, "Sonia is always misguided on major national issues. Opposition for the sake of opposition will not get them popularity and back to power. In fact she and her bandwagon will be alienated further. Majority will never endorse congress way of working as an opposition party.
For my part, I ought to say Sonia’s attack that Congress Chief Ministers were not consulted, I agree, has been on expected line but uncalled for. It was time to show restrains.
Had she not taken a big political risk as the Congress could be now seen as a party opposing the hard earned peace process itself ?
At one go, Sonia has conveniently forgotten that immediately after the signing ceremony, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken to a galaxy of leaders including Sonia and former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh among others.
So, is it not burning the bridge? How would she react when Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not talk to anyone next time on issues of such importance?
When PM Modi called Sonia, did she ask him, "what about my Chief Ministers....you need to talk to them".
Worse, such grand standing by a major political force in the northeast -- that Modi has shown arrogance by moving ahead with the peace process, could only spark off some adverse reactions.The hills in Nagaland and parts of Manipur and Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, where Nagas live, have been in flames in the past and as late as 2001 and even much later in 2010 – when Muivah wanted to visit his Somdal village in Ukhrul district of Manipur.
For long, the refrain in north east among the political class and even others have been that New Delhi has been shedding crocodile tears. Ironically, the charge this time would be against an opposition party and the Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
To sum up, ‘tight rope walking’ responsibility would not be the sole liability of the Modi government and NSCN(IM) alone.
And those who cite Shillong Accord that failed to bring about peace and resolve Naga problem should keep it in mind that the Accord was signed during the period of national emergency under most powerful Indian Prime Minister - Indira Gandhi.
The Shillong Accord was signed on November 11, 1975 and the Governor L P Singh, handpicked by the then Prime Minister, merrily posed for a group photograph.
In retrospect, L P Singh's most favourite piece of draft was later dismissed by Nagas as an 'act of Treason'.