Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sovereign Space?

A few days ago, there were reports that the Center had come up with a proposal to resolve militancy in Nagaland by giving some more financial powers to the State along with additional control over socio-cultural issues. The proposal was a result of feelers from both the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), as perceived by the Centre, that they would agree to the new autonomy framework. A senior Union Home Ministry official was quoted as saying that ‘‘instead of taking up the matter of Greater Nagaland (or Nagalim) and sovereignty, the proposal enlarges the scope of Article 371A of the Constitution’’. Nagaland enjoys special status under Article 371A that ensures that ‘‘no Act of Parliament shall apply to Nagaland in relation to religious or social practices of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to the Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources’’. According to the quoted Home Ministry official, the Centre’s new proposal ‘‘talks about amendment in the Constitution to ensure financial powers including greater rights over natural resources, one of the 30 demands submitted by NSCN(IM) during talks’’. However, the NSCN(IM) has castigated the Union Home Ministry for claiming that the outfit has accepted the Centre’s move to resolve the Naga problem within the ambit of the Indian Constitution. In a statement, the outfit has made it clear that ‘‘the NSCN(IM), at no point of time, accepted the importance of the Constitution to form the basis of Naga solution’’. Also, reacting to Union Home Secretary GK Pillai’s recent indication that the NSCN(IM) had come to an understanding with the Centre to resolve the Naga impasse, the outfit harangued the Centre for its ‘‘wavering stand’’ and rued the ‘‘uneventful years gone by’’ and the ‘‘unbecoming statement of the Union Home Secretary that miserably failed to carry weight of political correctness’’.

Look at the NSCN(IM) thesis. The outfit’s statement drives home the point that ‘‘the Centre’s recognition of the unique history of the Nagas means they are not part of the Union of India and the situation in Nagalim is political, not that of law and order under the Indian Constitution’’. This is preposterous. The Centre’s recognition of the ‘‘unique history’’ of the Nagas does not mean a recognition of their sovereignty outside of the Indian Constitution, but only the acceptance of the fact that every ethnic group has a history unique to it that must be respected and given scope to continue freely. Going by the NSCN(IM) doctrine, every ethnic group with a unique history must have an independent, sovereign homeland! This militates against the very idea of a nation-state built upon multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious foundations as well as upon the premise of possibility of a unified socio-politico-economic democratic structure with the freedom for each of the communities and religions to assert their uniqueness and flourish freely. The Naga militants would do well to read the pulse of the Naga youth of the time; his changing mindset in relation to Indian democracy; his desire to be free from the vicious grip of militancy and violence; and his desperation for all-round development. The NSCN factions should also then ponder as to whether they have not eventually turned out to be the greatest deterrent to the aspiration of the very youth they had set out to ‘liberate’. Yes, times have changed. THE SENTINEL

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