Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh on Sunday assured the government of Assam that geographical integrity of the state will not be compromised in the process of ongoing Naga peace talk. However, the move has hardly cleared suspicion around the peace process, as many civil society group see the assurance as mere wordplay without real intent to follow it in letter and spirit.
"The government has been repeating the same assurance for a long time. But the controversial draft agreement floated by Jagadamba Mall, a RSS functionary shows that there could be a plan in place without our knowledge to hand over the development and governance of Dima Hasao district to Nagaland government," said Prafulla Haphila, President of All Dimasa Students Union. He added, "If policy for development of Dima Hasao district of Assam is controlled from Nagaland, then won't this system would be as bad as tampering with the geographical integrity of the state?"
Rajnath Singh's assurance to the government of Assam comes days after two young men were killed in police firing to control a protest program that turned violent.
Monday night, Rajnath assured the Assam government and said:
— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) January 28, 2018
But a tweet has hardly succeeded in assuring protesters, because the said draft agreement issued by Mall proposes a separate development authority in the district. Last week, Mall, who has been working in Nagaland for the last 40 years, came up with a draft agreement between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN(IM) and Government of India. He maintained that the draft agreement was simply a sharing of idea and a personal endeavour that emanated from his experience. He also reiterated that by no means it is connected to the BJP or the RSS.
However, the insecurity the draft agreement has caused among the people living in Dima Hasao district was enough to cause tension.
"Separate development authorities shall be constituted for a period of ten years to execute the development programs in seven Naga inhabited districts of Manipur, two Naga inhabited districts in Arunachal Pradesh and one Naga inhabited district of Assam, that is, Dima Hasao (North Cachar Hill) district," said the draft agreement released by Mall.
Interestingly, the draft agreement did not suggest that Nagaland should have the administrative control over the proposed development authorities in Dima Hasao. The protestors suspect that it was a ploy to handover administrative power to Nagaland.
Consequently it led to violent protests in Dima Hasao.
The reason behind the suspicion that the administrative control of the proposed development authorities, would be handed over to Nagaland was the undisclosed Framework of Agreement signed between Government of India and Naga insurgent group NSCN(IM).
In 2015, the Government of India signed a memorandum of agreement with NSCN(IM) to initiate the peace process. The Centre has not made the content of the agreement public and hence it has been subject to widespread speculation and insecurity in the north eastern region.
Creation of a greater Nagalim by amalgamating contiguous Naga inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland has been a long standing demand of NSCN. No wonder it has given rise to speculation and insecurity in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur that these states would lose land to proposed Nagalim.
During Manipur Assembly election, the prime minister had to assure that geographical integrity of Manipur would not be compromised. "The agreement does not have anything that can harm Manipur's territorial integrity; it does not contain a single word that can hurt Manipur," Narendra Modi had said.
Later, Rajnath clarified the stand in a press conference last year, "There should be no apprehension or worry for anyone. Territorial integrity of no state will be affected." But Mall's draft agreement has renewed suspicion that the talks may lead to Nagaland's control over Dima Hasao by way of a development authority as proposed by the RSS functionary.
Haphila said that the government has not yet clarified whether it has decided to establish development authorities as suggested by the draft agreement, to be controlled by Nagaland government. "If any such decision has been made than we are not going to accept it and we will resist such move by democratic agitation," he said.
Dima Hasao is a sixth schedule area where the local tribes govern themselves through autonomous council. They view proposed development as a challenge to their autonomy. "What autonomy will we be left with if we are controlled by Nagaland government," said Haphila.
An angry All Assam Students Union said that it wanted solution to the Naga insurgency problem but that cannot be at the cost of Assam. "We welcome the peace process without affecting the geographical or administrative integrity of Assam over it’s own land. But if anything is done against interest of Assam, we will begin agitation," said AASU leader Dipanko Nath.
A day before the Republic Day, two persons were killed in police firing Maibang in Dima Hasao district in a violent protest that erupted after release of the draft agreement. During a twelve hour bandh called by local civil society organisations the protesters damaged rail tracks and vandalised the station after which five protesters were injured in police firing. One of the injured died on that evening itself while the other died on the next day.
The Dima Hasao district in Assam is dominated by the Dimasa tribe and they are wary that their land will go to Nagaland if the center agrees to fulfill the demand of the Naga insurgent group. Dima Hasao is also home to a sizeable Naga population.
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Updated Date: Jan 30, 2018 12:09:46 IST