Dialogues Across Fault lines of Territory & Peoples:

Dialogues Across Fault lines of Territory & Peoples:

Bridging State, Nation, Ethnicity in North East

The Indo-Naga Framework Agreement is a catalytic moment in the contentious politics of the Northeast and holds out the promise of a more flexible template of peace-making (shared sovereignty) in the region, but simultaneously the Framework Agreement has produced waves of discord, especially in the context of the tension between territory and peoples’ self- determination rights in the neighbouring states. Recognising that no Indo- Naga accord can deliver durable peace unless there is peace amongst the Nagas, and importantly peace with neighbours, it is proposed to create a Dialogue Forum that encourages multi-stakeholders to engage politically in a non-partisan conversation confronting differences and acknowledging anxieties; identifying common interests and striving towards expanding a more informed less confrontational understanding so as to build an inclusive and democratic politics. The December dialogue is envisaged as a first, in what it is hoped will be a series of such multi- stakeholder dialogues.

Objective of the Dialogue Forum

The Naga self-determination conflict is paradigmatic of state and ethno nationalist conflicts in the Northeast and epitomizes the inherent flaws in the state’s praxis of peace accords via autonomous ethnic homelands.The Indo- Naga Framework Agreement (2015) holds out the promise of bringing peace to the country’s oldest insurgency, and weakening the Northeast conflict network of armed groups. While the devil is in the detail of the Accord when it is eventually finalized, evident is a new template of flexibility around ‘sovereignty’, i.e. in emphasizing the ‘unique history of the Nagas –the government is recognizing the political rights of an intermediary – the ethno- national collective.

It needs to be reminded that whereas Part X of the Indian Constitution (under which Schedules V & VI were incorporated) provides for particular responsibilities of the state with respect to administration of areas inhabited by the tribal populations; it does not recognize the tribal communities as collectivities or confer on these entities the right to collective bargaining. These schedules are a part of the responsibility of the “welfare state” to make additional efforts for the betterment of individuals belonging to tribal communities. The constitution conceived of the Indian state as a liberal democracy grounded in the fundamental principles of basic individual civil and political rights. At the international level, the discourse on collective rights has evolved into a robust body of covenants and conventions at the international level, however, the basic approach of the liberal democratic state to manage ethno-cultural diversity is still evolving. The inability of the modern rationalist liberal state in dealing with the diverse claims of rights placed before it by highly mobilized identities premised on cultural factors, i.e. unique history, remains a problem. The states responses have remained ad hoc as evinced in the state’s responses ranging from conceding minority cultural rights to a denial of all such claims.

Moreover, the Indo-Naga Framework Agreement, in line with the state’s accord making praxis is exclusionary – with the state choosing whom to recognize as the legitimate representatives and stakeholders. The Agreement excludes relevant stakeholders (both amidst the Nagas and amongst the neighbours) and has set off waves of anxiety especially over the fundamental contradiction in the Northeast between claims to territory and people’s self-determination rights – a tension that has been exacerbated by the creation of ethnic homelands. In the present polarised atmosphere of anxiety and mistrust which the announcement of the Indo-Naga framework agreement has intensified, the proposed Dialogue will re-establish a political conversation bridging faultlines, and in the process acknowledge that there are multi-stakeholders, and facilitate the possibility of expanding the scope for understanding the other’s grievances and anxieties, identify common concerns that highlight the value of working together so as to begin thinking of ways of overcoming confrontational politics that eventually undermine common interests.

The Consultation will be held in Delhi a middle space for a dialogue that seeks participation from policy makers, social activists and public intellectuals, but above all faculty and students from the Northeast and those engaged in the study of the Northeast from its multiple universities and research institutes. It is these students who will determine the future of the region. The significance of a middle space for such a dialogue is all the more important because of the shrinking of spaces of political conversation across faultlines in the Northeast. Carewill be taken to ensure in the Delhi Dialogue that a variety of representative stakeholder voices are heard across ethnicity, region and gender. Initiating the discussion will be some select invitees from the Northeast region, who are authentic and influential stakeholders.

Themes will cover political constitutional economic and social aspects and incorporate multiple perspectives including gendered approaches to customary law guarantees in peace accords.

Informantion:

Chok Tsering, 
Programme Coordinator, HBS
T +91 11 2685 4405     
E: chok.tsering@in.boell.org