Friday, January 27, 2023

Revisiting the 16-Point Agreement

It was sometime in January, 2003 that a trivial incident made me realise the deficiency in my awareness of the import of the 16-Point agreement (16-PA or Agreement, hereinafter). I was a sympatizer of the then Congress candidate in our constituency, and a particular acquaintant of mine , who was a vociferous grassroots leader of the ‘Boycott Elections’ lobby the previous state elections, and a much in demand ‘youth leader’ (in his early forties!) provoked me with a diatribe against the ‘Indian’ party candidate.
A mini-debate followed during which he authoritatively pronounced that the 16-PA was a sellout and betrayal by a few educated Nagas in collusion with the Indian intelligence agencies . Being uninitiated on the background history, I was squarely beaten in the battle of words with the obviously misled and indoctrinated acquaintant of mine.
That particular ‘defeat’ led me to go for a serious perusal of the text of the 16- PA and to acquaint myself with its background history. This personal note is penned as it is believed that the agreement of 1960 has a bearing on the present scenario.
It goes without saying that the current Indo-Naga political negotiations has been necessitated because the existing 16-PA fell short of the Naga aspiration for a sovereign, independent homeland as envisioned and put into active pursuance by the Naga Club and the Naga National Council to which hundreds and thousands of true Naga patriots vowed, and still vow, unflinching loyalty and adherence.
It is an irony that the Naga nationalist organisations engaged in the political negotiations now, more than 60 (sixty) years after the signing of the 16-PA have been COMPELLED to give in to a solution ‘under the Indian Constitution’. Accordingly, sovereignty is ruled out. Integration of all contiguous Naga areas under a single administrative unit (hereinafter, Integration) has been shut out as of now. Back to square one?
An optimistic inference now is that Nagas will be favoured with a new deal which, compared to the existing 16-PA , ought to be atleast a notch higher in terms of political status, qualitatively better in terms of general human benefit and substantively bigger in terms of influence, capacity and standing. In this light, a serious, dispassionate and enlightened reappraisal of the following points may help us to hazard a guess as to what may be expected when the ‘solution’ materialises, hopefully in our lifetime !
Constitution Art. 371(A) is the soul of the 16-PA. Withdraw or invalidate the 16-PA and Art. 371(A) will be history unless this particular provision is incorporated in the latest anticipated settlement.
The 16-PA does not mention anything, not even implicitly, about renunciation of the Naga birthright of sovereignty and independence and, therefore, the allegation of sellout and betrayal does not hold water.
If one bothers to acquaint oneself with the kind of situation that prevailed in our land in the 1950s till the advent of 1960s, he/she will agree that the 16-PA was the only available option, sort of an interim-measure, to prevent a holocaust-like massacre and even extermination of Nagas (remember Morarji Desai’s threat?) Documented accounts of many contemporary Nagas of diverse political affiliations and leanings pertaining to the Naga situation in prevalence upto the time of signing of the 16-PA may be read and pondered by anyone before daring to condemn the 16-PA and demeaning and degrading its Naga signatories.
The invitation extended by the Govt. Of India to the NSCN (IM) in 1997 for political negotiations is an instance to prove that the 16-PA had kept the door open for further pursuance of the Naga political issue.
By going through the biographies, auto-biographies, books etc. authored by several Nagas of repute, it is gathered that the 16-point Memorandum, on the basis of which the 16-PA was arrived at, was finalised and drafted following painstaking, extensive and transparent consultations with Nagas at all levels covering 16 major tribes.
Also, look at the array of distinguished leaders who piloted the 16-Pt. Memoramdum right from its embryonic stage to its culmination in the 16-PA. If we are to believe the words of the authors/writers referred to above, and there is no reason why we should not, the probably motivated and juvenile allegations against our leaders who made the 16-PA possible is outrageous, to say the least.
The issue of Integration has found mention in the 16-PA. It is clear that GoI neither acceded to nor rejected outright the demand for Naga Integration. We can say that the issue has been left or kept pending to be pursued and decided ‘post-Agreement’(!). The point is that India remains seized of the matter and we can justifiably pursue the matter concertedly and vigorously any time as long as the 16-PA remains valid.
The above are just a few points which may be relevant for reference vis-a-vis the anticipated political settlement.
As stated earlier, we have to wait for the attainment of the aspiration of our pioneer patriots for now. We have waited for nearly a century and we are prepared to wait for another century or more, even eons, steadfastly clinging to our dream. Meanwhile, Govt. of India may not forget or ignore our uniqueness and extend befitting respect and treatment that unique citizens of India deserve by keeping its words and fulfilling its promise without further delay.
K.T. Imchen
Merhulietsa, Kohima

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