Elusive chance of early solution to Naga issue

Report by: 
NIRMALYA BANERJEE
Kolkata
22 Sep 2018

With the Nagaland Legislative Assembly unanimously adopting on Thursday a resolution on integration of the contiguous Naga inhabited areas for all Nagas to live under one administrative umbrella, the possibility of an early solution to the Naga  political crisis  seems to have vanished.
For some time now, every year before the Republic Day or the Independence Day, people of Nagaland start hoping that an announcement from the ramparts of the Red Fort is round the corner. Hopes started rising after the Narendra Modi government signed a framework agreement with the NSCN(I-M), though the terms of the agreement are still under the wraps. The Nagaland assembly resolution could have been prompted by apprehension that a delay in the announcement could mean dilution of the provision of integration of Naga-inhabited areas in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Recent developments suggest that the options of the Modi government are severely limited. Even on August 17 last, two days after the Independence Day, there was widespread protest in Imphal valley in the face of reports that the agreement with NSCN(I-M) had reached a conclusive stage. Meitei women took the lead in the protests, along with businessmen who kept their shutters down and auto-rickshaw drivers held a sit-in demonstration. Even the BJP Chief Minister of Manipur N. Biren Singh had said he would have little option but to resign if the hill areas of Manipur in any way became part of a greater Nagalim.
The resolution passed in the Nagaland assembly on Thursday in support of a contiguous Naga-inhabited area was supported by the BJP, a part of the ruling coalition, along with other parties. The dilemma of BJP is thus obvious. In Nagaland and Manipur, its party units have taken diametrically opposing views on the issue of Naga integration. While it cannot overlook Meitei sentiments, the Nagas, too, are becoming restive over the delay even after the signing of the Framework Agreement. It was the sixth such resolution passed in the Nagaland assembly, the earlier ones being passed in 1964, 1970, 1994, 2003 and 2015.
According to reports, the protests in Imphal erupted last month amid a hint from the Union Home Ministry that Article 371A of the Constitution which gives the State of Nagaland a large measures of autonomy --- more autonomy than constitutional provisions like the Sixth Schedule provide --- would be extended to Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Extending the provisions of Article 371A to the Naga-dominated areas of Manipur would make these Naga tribes, too, largely autonomous.
Under Article 371A, even Parliament cannot interfere in the customary laws of in Nagaland or with ownership and transfer of land and its resources. If it is extended in the hill areas of Manipur, the Manipur government would have no right to interfere and tne Naga-inhabited areas would be like a ‘state within a state,’ it was pointed out. Presently, the hill areas of Manipur are covered under Article 371C of the Constitution, the Manipur governor can periodically send reports to the Centre on the situation in the hill areas of Manipur and the Centre can issue directives to the Manipur government on administration of these areas. (Written with PTI report from Kohima)