The ongoing peace processes and negotiations – an Assessment
The peace process began in the North East immediately after Independence to begin with, there were Naga-Hydari pact, Shillong accords on Naga issue and the Mizo accord, TNV accord in Tripura, the Assam accord, the Bodo accord and so on. In fact the government already had a couple of accords with the Nagas and the Bodos as such, yet peace processes with them are still being persuaded. The concern is that all the accords have been concluded have not yielded lasting and sustainable solution.
The Karbi Anglong political situation is a unique issue. It is not merely a demand for upgradation of powers but a cry for survival. To understand this, the historical legacy of the Karbi polity needs to be understood.
Firstly, it must be borne in mind that the Karbi share political legacy with the tribes of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. To be specific they were all parts of an entity called the “Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas” so, what is true for Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland is also true for Karbi Anglong and N.C. Hills. If it was impossible for those tribes to remain with Assam, it was also impossible for the Karbis to remain as well. If the Socio-cultural milieu of the Khasi, the Mizos, the Garos and the Nagas were incompatible with the Socio-Cultural milieu of the Assamese people, the same is true about the Karbis also. It is therefore a logical premise that if the Khasi, the Mizos, the Garos and the Nagas needed to be politically rehabilitated, the Karbis also need to be politically rehabilitated. For the last twenty years government have only made half hearted attempts to resolve the political solution instead of sincerely addressing the fundamental political and economic problems the government has only tried to suppress if possible or appease the agitating groups. So, the resolution of the problem adopted were always ad hoc, in 1969 also instead of solving the core political issue the government went ahead with the policy of persuasion- persuading the Karbis to remain in Assam and serve the territorial interest of the state. In return the government of Assam doled out ministerial berth to the Karbi leaders and empty promises for the future. In 1995 another accord was concluded for the Karbis which again was a half hearted efforts instead of resolving the Karbi political issue, the accord again gave more weightage to Assam’s territorial interest. Since a Karbi political problem was not resolved by the accord it was only inevitable that armed struggle would gain the support of the general masses leading to the present negotiations. It is natural that civil society in Karbi Anglong is now banking their hope for fulfillment of their political aspirations on the present peace negotiations between the UPDS, the State and the Central government. The present peace process has to have full support of all the section of the society, because it promises the dawn of a new era of peaceful co-existence of all communities in Karbi Anglong.
However, the fourth round of negotiation that have already taken place have send mixed signal to the people at large. Firstly, the reluctance of the state government to open fresh political negotiation on political issues is palpable. Secondly, there seems to be an inclination on the part of the government to dodge the question of statehood- the core political issue and divert the negotiating process towards mundane economic issues. Thirdly, there seems to be a deliberate conspiracy to encourage and sharpen intra tribe and inter community contradictions which do not augur well for the peace process.
Last but not the least, there seems to be a tendency of the media to ignore the core political and socio-economic issues of the Karbi people and instead concentrate reporting on the conflicts. The non–implementation of various accords in the past raised fundamental questions about the sincerity of the government in resolving the problems of the north east. There seems to be a serious inability of the government to learn and understand the genuine problems of the people of the North East .The Karbi people as a whole strongly feel that the government has not understood our fundamental problems.
At present, the government is engaged in peace process with various agitating groups, to mention a few the ANVC, the NSCN(I-M), the DHD, the NDFB and of course with the UPDS . There are many more groups in the North East who are still active in pursuing their political goals. But the government’s lackadaisical attitude in the peace negotiations which it is presently engaged will certainly raise question whether other groups would willingly commit themselves for negotiations across the table. We believe, the time is ripe for the media and the intellectuals to probe the intentions and modalities of the government in dealing with insurgency related movement of the North East.
We also believe and hope that by presenting this Seminar paper in this august gathering respected delegate, media persons and intellectuals will assess the core political issue of the Karbis and the people of Karbi Anglong and help bring in permanent peace.
(Submitted by Somindar Karbi Amei (SKA) on the occasion of Seminar on “Accords, Peace process and Prospects of Civil society peace initiatives” on 8th of September 2005 organized by North East Peoples’ initiative (NEPI) at Guwahati)