‘The Day After’ is the title of many books, fact and fiction, depicting the devastating consequences of a catastrophic war, extreme weather events, and the use of nuclear weapons.
Similarly, the ‘guillotine’ used on 5 August for eradicating Article 370 accompanied by the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019, has wreaked physical and emotional havoc on the people of J&K.
The shell-shocked Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP, Supriya Sule, asked in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the abrogation of 370, how this would affect the Framework Accord with National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Nagaland) which was signed on 3 August 2015, adding that, “the state is unique and has a different history”.
Poignancy was introduced when Ms Sule said, “My seat is 462, and vacant seat next to me is 461 which is occupied by Farooq Abdullah who is elected from Kashmir. But his voice is silent today… and this debate will be incomplete in history”.
Governor RN Ravi’s Attempt At Allaying Fears Of the Naga People
Promptly, Home Minister Amit Shah assured the House that the government has no intention of removing Article 371 of the Constitution which includes provisions for 11 states, including six states of the Northeast including Article 371 A (13th Amendment Act 1962) to Nagaland. This provision was inserted after a 16-point agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention in 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland in 1963.
The Parliament cannot legislate in matters of Naga religion, social practices, customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice, and ownership and transfer of land, without concurrence of the state assembly.
Articles 371 B, 371 C, 371 D, 371 E, 371 F, 371 G, 371 H and 371 J apply to Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka respectively.
The day after the ‘guillotine’, the new Governor of Nagaland and government interlocutor with the Nagas, RN Ravi, on finalising the Framework Accord, allayed fears among Naga people about the eradication of Article 371 A.
RN Ravi embellished his assurance with the “solemn and sacred commitment to the people of Nagaland”, adding that the “ongoing political process which is at a very advanced stage will be concluded shortly”. Such optimism on clinching the accord has been expressed by Ravi many times in the past.
Post 370, Clamour for Gorkhaland Grows Louder
The elimination of Article 370 has set the cat among the pigeons. Sikkim, the closest equivalent to J&K, was the last state to merge with the union of India on 16 May 1975, and was granted special status under 371 F.
Before its merger, Sikkim, like J&K, had acceded to the Centre only defence, foreign affairs and communications. A military operation was launched on 9 April 1975 by the Indian Army to disarm the Chogyal’s palace guards, which included soldiers from the Indian Army, the first and last time such an operation was executed. A referendum was followed by the Parliament voting overwhelmingly to become the 22nd state of India.
None of this constitutional and legislative procedure was followed in removing Article 370.
The Chief Minister of Sikkim, Prem Singh Golay, has said that his state has been assured by the Home Minister that it is protected by Article 371 F.
The clamour for Gorkhaland from Darjeeling has become louder after the application of the J&K Reorganisation Bill, 2019.
The underground Bimal Gurung faction of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which helped the BJP win the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, has demanded statehood, though this is the first time in the history of state reorganisation in India that a state has been bifurcated and demoted to Union Territory.
Golay said “those demanding Gorkhaland for Darjeeling Hills are doing so according to their constitutional rights”. The Darjeeling Gorkhas though would be happy with the status of Union Territory, from the present Gorkha Territorial Administration.
Steps Taken By Nagaland Governor RN Ravi
Besides affirming the Naga Framework Accord, Ravi signed an agreement on 17 November 2017 with Naga National Political Groups, a collective of six former Naga armed groups. The Parliamentary Standing Committee report of the Ministry of Home Affairs laid in the Rajya Sabha in July 2018, revealed that NSCN (IM) had agreed for political settlement within the Indian Constitution with special status, though the sticking point of Greater Nagaland (Nagalim) constituting contiguous Naga-inhabited territories of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur (now all BJP-ruled states) lingers on.
In February 2019, Muivah, in an interview with North East Live said, “Old issues had not been resolved. Only one government, integration of Naga contiguous areas, our flag, our constitution”.
Ravi reportedly shot back, “This was not what was offered’’.
Will RN Ravi, The ‘Water-Walker’, Be Able To Unite 1.2 Million Nagas?
Uniting 1.2 million Nagas will not be easy even as Ravi has been having parallel talks with NSCN (IM) and Naga political groups. NSCN (IM) inhabits the Hebron camp near Dimapur, flies its own flag, has its own army, and runs a parallel government, collecting taxes. India literally bought a ceasefire in 1997, and still keeps its leaders happy with new banknotes.
Ravi is a ‘water-walker’: from Special Director of IB in 2012 to Chairman, Joint Intelligence Committee in 2014 for three years, to interlocutor and Deputy National Security Advisor, and four days before elimination of Article 370, the new Governor of Nagaland.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio welcomed Ravi’s appointment. V Horam of NSCN (IM) quizzed his appointment, but appreciated his contribution to the Naga Peace Accord. Alezo Venuh from NNPG expressed surprise on his appointment as Governor. Surprising indeed, that a constitutional head is likely to continue as interlocutor with two different Naga groups.
If true, it will be the first time a Governor will be involved in conflict resolution in the same state of which he is the constitutional head. The seeds of doubt sown by the removal of Article 370, will delay the fruition of the Naga Accord.
(Major General (retd) Ashok K Mehta is a founding member of the Defence Planning Staff, the forerunner of the current Integrated Defence Staff. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)