NSCN-IM leader V S Atem had reportedly said that the “current NDA government has everything to conclude the long-drawn negotiation” (Indo-Naga peace talk). “But after 5 long years since the signing of the Framework Agreement (FA), the Nagas have been patiently holding on”, the NSCN-IM leader was quoted as saying. V S Atem is not sure on what pretext the Government of India might try to prolong the peace talks.
The former army chief (V S Atem) of the NSCN-IM was participating in the 18th Morung Dialogue on September 19 (Webinar), on the topic ‘To Freedom: A human story’ organized by the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, Delhi (NPMHR-Delhi). “The Morung Dialogue is a talk series organized by NPMHR, Delhi with the objective to strengthen the power of conversation, sharpen and share ideas and views on issues that affect “our lives” and contribute to democracy, justpeace and social justice”, according to the NPMHR-Delhi.
V S Atem is now “Member of the Collective Leadership, NSCN/GPRN”. Atem was narrating his story of serving in the Naga movement, leading up to his views on the current negotiations, said the NPMHR-Delhi through a press statement issued on Monday.
The chair of the webinar, Prof. Paul Pimomo, Washington University, set the tone of the dialogue, posing how life could be post-settlement. “Would the settlement answer the dreams of the people? Will the parallel negotiations reconcile into an agreement?,” said Prof Paul, according to the NPMHR press statement.
Atem started by paying tribute and respect to the Nagas – both living and dead – who have sacrificed for the Naga cause. He made special mention of Naga women who have suffered great humiliation and hardships in the hands of the enemy but is hopeful that a solution will emerge as the people have been praying and fasting ceaselessly for God’s intervention.
Regarding the current scenario, V S Atem expressed disappointment with the long-drawn peace process with the Government of India. He had thought that the peace talks would find resolution within 4 to 5 years. The reason for this delay, he said, was that the Government of India under UPA was not for solution and they were just trying to manage the conflict. R.S Pandey, the interlocutor of the Naga peace talk during the UPA wanted to push forward the process to its logical conclusion but was apparently discouraged from doing so and was asked to instead manage the situation and so Pandey eventually resigned. “The NDA government under the leadership of Vajpayee was not a stable one as he was leading a minority government. Therefore, the talks could not progress well,” Atem was quoted as saying.
In response to a question, Atem expressed his opinion that no one is a fence sitter and no one is a front runner for the Naga cause. “It is a team effort like football where there is no difference between the scorer and goalkeeper. Every Naga is equally playing for the team,” V S Atem said. He also said, “Whatever can be done at present should be done.” Atem truly believes in the unity of Nagas. To him, unless the Nagas are united, there cannot be a solution. He clearly stated, “There are no two issues of the Naga cause but only one, and therefore there can be only one solution.” To a query on the way forward in the worst-case scenario, V S Atem replied, “For men, there may be no way but for God, there is no dearth of ways for solution.”
Naga elder and thinker, Neiketu Iralu, who called the dialogue an honest conversation, commented that the Naga people have become a people and a nation and “we should be thankful to God for what we have achieved so far”. According to him, “we cannot keep on blaming each other for not achieving what we have not achieved yet”. He further commented that the Nagas believe and try to act on what is right and good, but according to him, the problem with the Nagas is “we have all along done things our way and not God’s way. “Therefore, destructiveness and damage have crept into the struggle”. Neiketu suggested that the ‘advanced’ Naga tribes should take the first step and ask the other tribes to identify where they had done wrong to the Naga people and say that they’re sorry. “Thereafter, the other tribes can be given the same opportunity”. This to him is the way forward to peace.
V S Atem agreed and responded to Neiketu’s comments by quoting from the Psalms: “Mercy and truth and have met: Righteousness and Peace have kissed.”
Atem is hopeful that the different Naga political groups will one day unite even though this unity has been elusive so far. He also informed the discussants that they have been continuously sending people on this very mission. The Covenant of Naga Reconciliation that was signed in June of 2009 stated that the Naga reconciliation will be based on the historical and political rights of the Nagas. The collective leadership, according to V S Atem, hopes that the covenant will be respected by all. He also appealed to the civil society organizations to stand united for the Naga causes and also to recognise the need to understand each other. “Nation-building is a collective affair and not a one-sided project”, he asserted.
V S Atem began his speech by paying tribute and respect to the Nagas – both living and dead – who have sacrificed for the Naga cause. He made special mention of Naga women who have suffered great humiliation and hardships in the hands of the “enemy” but is hopeful that a solution will emerge as the people have been praying and fasting ceaselessly for God’s intervention.
V S Atem also shared about his childhood and life in the Naga movement.