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Kashmir Valley’s shadow on the Naga Hills

Nagaland is governed by Article 371(A) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees certain protection to Nagas. Governor Ravi has already promised 371(A) won’t be touched.

From Srinagar to Kohima may be a long and distant 3,000 km, but the recent developments in troubled Kashmir may have a heavy bearing on the impending fortunes of the evolving Naga issue. And vice versa.

On the two key demands—a separate constitution and a distinct flag for Nagas—the Naga underground leaders often alluded to Kashmir which till last week had both.

Three years ago, VS Atem, emissary to the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) collective leadership and a key figure in the ongoing talks, had told this journalist: “If Kashmir can have a separate flag, why not Nagas?”

Now with no example to point to after the watering down of Article 370 and abrogating of 35A on August 5, it will be interesting to see how the talks between New Delhi and the NSCN-IM pans out.

Particularly as the constitution and flag issue continue to be unresolved ones.

It is well understood that the talks between New Delhi and the NSCN-IM has reached a certain level of mutual comfort and understanding. Initiated about 22 years ago, the progress in the talks was recorded in the Framework Agreement signed in 2015. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and present home minister Amit Shah in attendance, the document was inked by NSCN-IM’s general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and RN Ravi, the interlocutor who is currently the governor of Nagaland.

The ongoing talks followed the incremental model. It meant all points of agreement were sealed and locked up while the negotiations continued on the difficult and prickly issues. And the impossible ones kept out.

So issues like complete sovereignty or total independence for Nagas, separate currency were ruled out.

Agreements on transferring federal powers were reached and sealed. While deliberations continued on the difficult ones. Like a separate constitution, a separate flag or the carving out of a ‘Greater Nagalim’ by incorporating Naga-dominated areas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

Admitted that there can be no comparison between the Kashmir and the Naga issues as they are as different as can be, but it will be interesting to see New Delhi’s response to imminent questions like how it abolished certain privileges in Kashmir but granted them or retains them in Nagaland post the expected agreement.

Nagaland is governed by Article 371(A) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees certain protection to Nagas. Governor Ravi has already promised 371(A) won’t be touched.It will also be interesting to see if the Centre gives special treatment to the backward districts of the state in a way not much different from the granting of Union Territory status to Ladakh. Incidentally, a delegation of the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) representing the backward tribes of eastern Nagaland was in the national capital on Tuesday (August 13) at the Centre’s request for a parley. Seemingly, New Delhi is brewing quite a potion.

by Sanjib Kr Baruah

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