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Rebel rule

Print edition : Sep 07, 2007 T+T-

The peace process between the Central government and the NSCN (I-M) has made only a little progress during the 10-year ceasefire.

in Guwahati

GENTLEMEN, Do you have an invitation to attend the meeting? You will be allowed only if you are carrying an invitation, one of the Naga youth in combat fatigues and holding Kalashnikovs asked politely, signalling the Frontline team to stop at the entrance of the fortified central headquarters (CHQ) of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (IsakMuivah), or NSCN(I-M), located atop the hills at Hebron, about 40 km off Nagalands commercial capital, Dimapur.

It was explained to the young guerilla fighters that the Ministry of Information and Public Relations (MIP) had agreed to allow us to the venue of the 6th Naga Peoples Consultative Meeting at the CHQ on July 27 . We were allowed only after an MIP employee arrived on the scene to confirm the invitation.

Beyond the huge iron gate decorated in traditional Naga style lay a cluster of concrete and bamboo structures that embodied a well-structured Government of the Peoples Republic of Nagalim (GPRN) the de facto government run by the NSCN (I-M).

On July 30, the Thahekhu village council apprehended two car lifters who allegedly tried to steal a Maruti Alto from the village near Dimapur. Instead of handing them over to the police the village council handed them over to the crime suppression department of the GPRN. The department later stated that the two persons had been arrested by it and a motorcycle seized from their possession, while a third accused had escaped. The department also stated that an investigation was on.

Over the past 10 years of peace negotiations between the NSCN(I-M) and the Government of India, the Naga underground outfit has done everything it could do to prove to New Delhi that it is the GPRN, the parallel government, whose writ runs in Naga-inhabited areas.

When NSCN(I-M) chairperson Isak Chisi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah arrived at the circuit house at Dimapur from their bases at the CHQ to take part in the peace talks with the GOI delegation on July 31, the instance of first peace talks on Naga soil since the two sides entered into a ceasefire in 1997, their leaders were escorted by heavily armed soldiers of the self-styled Naga Army, some in their combat fatigues and some in civvies, and equipped with wireless communication gadgets. The convoy of Yaruiow (president of the GPRN) Swu, who came in a bullet-proof car was followed by Ato Kilonser (prime minister of the GPRN) Muivah and other functionaries of the parallel government. The convoy of the four-member GOI delegation, led by Union Minister for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes and peace interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah, was escorted by the Nagaland Police and Indian security forces. The Naga army personnel took their positions alongside the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans to guard the venue.

Recruitment to the Naga army is carried out regularly by the general field training department (GFTD), which also trains the recruits. On April 27, a large group of Naga youth in combat fatigues exhibited a spectacular foot drill, displaying military discipline, at the Mt. Gilead training centre at the general headquarters (GHQ) of the NSCN(I-M). It was part of the passing-out ceremony of the fifth batch of Naga army recruits. This ceremony comes less than three months after the same venue witnessed the attestation ceremony of the fourth batch on February 3. It is mandatory for newly recruited cadre to render three years of basic military service, which includes six months training. After three years service, the trainees are assigned civil and military duties depending on their recruitment conditions. Naga army personnel get their provisions from canteens at the GHQ. Besides, they are paid maintenance.

The showcasing of a parallel government is not confined to the display of a full-fledged army. The CHQ is a composite set-up of various wings of a parallel government. It has a parliament house, called Tatar Hoho. A member of the Tatar Hoho is called a Tatar. One Tatar is elected from every 20,000 members of the population. New Tatars are inducted at the Tatar Hoho, and the oath of allegiance is administered by the speaker. There is a budget session. The Yaruiwo addresses the session on the first day while the Kilonser (minister), Ministry of Chaplee Affairs (finance ministry) presents the annual budget.

The budget session, however, is a closed-door affair among the Tatars and the size of the budget is not generally disclosed. It is not advisable to tell you about the budget size. But it certainly runs into crores, a senior NSCN(I-M) functionary told Frontline.

The budget is an annual expenditure statement of the tax and other revenue collections. We tax each and every item available in the market within Naga areas, every commercial item imported into Naga areas, and every item exported. We collect house tax from individual households, the employees of various government departments pay employee tax. Likewise, the army ration tax is collected by each unit of the army from the areas under its jurisdiction. People pay loyalty tax to the GPRN for its smooth running and for sustaining the freedom struggle, he said. Receipts are issued in the name of the GPRN to every tax-payer. The CHQ also has a comptroller and accountant-generals office which audits the transaction in every ministry. Besides, there is a National Bureau of Intelligence to check corruption within the rank and file of NSCN (I-M).

Over the decades the GPRN has also set up a parallel multi-layered judiciary based on customary laws. At the bottom of this are traditional village courts. An NSCN(I-M) leader explained that if a customary village court failed to settle a dispute, then it went to a range court and if this court could not settle the dispute, then the parties went to the next higher court an apex tribal court. In the event of an apex tribal court also not being able to settle the dispute it is referred to the regional court (which has jurisdiction over various tribal regions ) and if required to the apex court called the national judicial board. The apex court is headed by a convener. Besides, there is also another court called the Razou Teyu below the regional court to decide cases pertaining to criminal offences and law and order. He claimed that the Naga people prefered to seek justice from GPRN courts where, cases were disposed of faster than the Indian judicial system.

The GPRN also has under its various departments doctors and engineers who have joined the NSCN (I-M). The ELISA Test to detect HIV/AIDS infection is performed on the soldiers by the medical wing of the Naga army, which has its own test kits and laboratory equipment according to the NSCN (I-M) leader.

The GPRN issues work permits to all post-1960 migrant workers from India and other places for a fee of Rs.130. The crime suppression department issues the permit, which bears the photograph of the permit holder. The permit is valid for one year and can be renewed.

A day ahead of the Indian Independence Day, the GPRN observed August 14 as Naga Independence Day in different Naga areas, including the State capital, Kohima. Muivah took the salute at a march past by soldiers of the Naga army at the celebration of the 61st Naga Independence Day at CHQ in the presence of civil society leaders.

It was on August 14, 1947, that the Naga National Council (NNC), led by the legendary Naga leader Angami Zapfu Phizo, declared Naga independence and informed the GOI and the United Nations about it. In spite of the independence declaration it was decided by the NNC that the machinery set up to run a parallel government should not be put into motion as it was apprehended that the setting up of a parallel government might lead to violence and that the Nagas would lose the sympathy of Mahatma Gandhi. On December 30, 1949, the NNC adopted a resolution through which it resolved to establish at the earliest a separate sovereign state of Nagalim.

Former chief of the Naga army, General (retd) V.S. Atem, who unfurled the Naga national flag at the celebration of Naga Independence Day at Tsiemek Huma village in Kohima, warned that the NSCN(I-M) might withdraw from the ceasefire agreement if no breakthrough was made in the ongoing peace talks. He pointed out that in its charter of demands submitted earlier to the Centre, the NSCN(I-M) had demanded, among others, a separate constitution and a flag for the Nagas, integration of Naga-inhabited areas and a joint defence mechanism.

He, however, said the NSCN(I-M) had agreed to accept the Indian currency considering the changed global scenario, but would not compromise on a flag and a constitution.

At the peace talks, the two sides agreed to extend the 10-year-old ceasefire indefinitely, subject to progress in the talks.

Over the past 10 years the two sides have made very slow progress in resolving the conflict, except agreeing to sustain the ceasefire in order to prevent the peace process from breaking down. However, the ceasefire has provided the NSCN(I-M) enough space and scope, to strengthen the GPRN so much so that when the two sides really start discussing substantive issues such as integration of Naga-inhabited areas, a joint defence mechanism, and a special federal relationship between India and Nagalim, which have been raised by the NSCN(I-M), it would be difficult for New Delhi to overlook the existence of this parallel government. The rapid changes, which the GPRN has undergone during the past 10 years, explain the patience of NSCN(I-M) leaders in sustaining the peace process despite expressing their resentment over New Delhis insincerity in addressing substantive issues.

Whatever be New Delhis perception about the parallel government, the NSCN(I-M) has long-term plans to strengthen the GPRN, for it feels that a stronger GPRN would give more bargaining power. At an NSCN(I-M) meeting held at the CHQ on May 2 and 3, Swu underlined the need for such long-term strategic planning thus: A time has come for NSCN to inject fresh and innovative ideas into civil and military wings. A reformed NSCN party equipped with result-oriented ideas in its military and civil set up is the need of the hour. Equality, justice, efficiency and commitment to the cause shall be insisted in the areas of promotion and administrative assignments both in the army and civil wings. Strategic planning and coordination will be pursued. Establishment of military council for in-depth study and analysis of immediate and long-term goals have become necessary. Technology must be given its rightful place in our struggle.