The decision of the NSCN (IM) to agree to recognise the Indian Constitution is a development that can easily be described as momentous. It is potentially the biggest breakthroughs in the effort to resolve the longest-running and one of the most violent secessionist movements in the country,one that predates Indias Independence as well. And the best thing about it is that it no longer puts a question mark on Indias sovereignty.
Unfortunately,however,the government does not seem to have acted with the alacrity and urgency that this development deserves. It is learnt to be more than a year that the willingness of the NSCN leadership to find a solution to their problems within the framework of Indian Constitution was conveyed to the government. The subject is so sensitive that no one wanted to reveal it,till it was brought to light by this newspaper on Monday.
Already,there are indications from the Naga group about some amount of dissatisfaction on the lack of an quick honourable response from the government. In the absence of measures that could match a perceived climbdown from its side,the NSCN camp fears being discredited amongst its own community. To be sure,the organisation makes the distinction that it is not the Indian Constitution as it exists that is acceptable to it,but a suitably amended one that takes care of their concerns.
Indications are that they are not demanding any changes in the unalterable basic structure of the Constitution,as defined by the Supreme Court. But they are learnt to be recalling the assurance given to the Naga people by the NDA government in 2002 recognising the unique history and situation of the community.
The NSCN move to no longer question the sovereignty of India is as good a proposition as can be for the Centre at this stage. And that is why it requires an urgent response with an offer that restores honour,addresses issues of identity and culture,and makes them feel recognised and protected. Prime Ministers directive to other affected states like Assam,Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to get involved in finding a solution is a welcome step. A lot of political capital needs to be invested in that effort and neither the Centre nor the affected states must be found to be lacking in it.
Amitabh is a Senior Assistant Editor based in New Delhi,firstname.lastname@example.org