August 09, 2015

Shielding Wrongdoing

THE monsoon session of parliament has been stalled ever since it began on July 21.  The main reason for this is the Modi government’s obduracy in refusing to even recognise that there are serious charges against a union minister and against the two chief ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. After refusing to respond to the opposition demand that action be taken in these three cases, throughout the prime minister has remained silent. He refuses to take a stand and his ministers have been trying to hurl counter-charges against Congress chief ministers.

The BJP is seeking to brazen out the situation by bleating that what the opposition is doing is undemocratic and harmful to parliamentary democracy. In this, it is being hypocritical and patently insincere. The BJP while being the main opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha established a record in the maximum disruption caused to the functioning of parliament.  It seeks to conveniently forget that much of this disruption was caused on corruption issues and the refusal of the UPA government to adequately respond.

The situation has been aggravated by the speaker’s decision to suspend 25 Congress MPs for five days of the session. This unprecedented act by the speaker has resulted in most of the other opposition parties lodging a protest by staying away from the Lok Sabha. They include apart from the UPA partners, the SP, the JD (U), RJD, CPI(M), CPI and the TMC.

Narendra Modi and the BJP should realise that the issues raised with regard to Lalitgate and Vyapam are not going to go away anytime soon.  The government will be compelled to move for the extradition of Lalit Modi to India to stand trial despite the best efforts of Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raja to render succour to him. A special court has issued a non-bailable warrant against Lalit Modi in a money-laundering case. Can the Modi government be blind to the spreading stain of Vyapam which has now acquired the dubious status of a killer scam?

If parliament cannot make those who hold public office accountable, then who can? Prime Minister Modi is damaging his credibility and political authority by appearing to shield wrongdoing.


(August 5, 2015)


Wait for Final Naga Pact


THE announcement that an agreement on Nagaland has been signed has raised hopes that a final settlement has been arrived at on the six decades long Naga problem.  However, there is need for caution before terming the agreement signed between the NSCN(IM) leadership and the government as a “historic peace accord”.  No details of the agreement have been made public.  It appears that this is only a framework agreement.  This has been confirmed by NSCN(IM) sources.  According to one official source, it will take two months to work out the “nuts and bolts” of the agreement.  Reports on the contours of the framework agreement suggest that it is similar to what the two sides had signed as an in-principle agreement in 2011. In that agreement, the NSCN(IM) leadership had agreed for autonomy, instead of  extension of the Naga territories which are to be incorporated in Nagalim or, greater Nagaland.  This has been the thorniest issue particularly with regard to the Naga speaking areas in Manipur. In Manipur, there are six autonomous district councils under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Four of these cover the Naga speaking areas. Can these be upgraded to the Sixth Schedule and will this be acceptable in Manipur? Given the Nagalim claims to neighbouring territories in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, the agreement has to assure the territorial integrity of the states concerned. 

It also remains to be seen how the sovereignty issue has been dealt with and what the concept of a “shared sovereignty” would imply.  Both “integration” and “sovereignty” have been key issues for the NSCN(IM).  The other aspect concerns bringing all the Naga political forces and groups on board.   The NSCN (Khaplang) broke with the ceasefire and is opposed to the type of agreement which is being worked out. It has its influence in Eastern  Nagaland.  Two others – the Khole-Kitivi and the Reformation group – are part of the ceasefire with the government but are not participants in the talks. Even if the Khaplang group opposes the agreement, it will be worthwhile to get all other forces on board. 

The peace accord, if it fructifies, will be the result of a prolonged process of negotiations in which various governments and interlocutors were involved.  The first ceasefire with the NSCN(IM) was in 1997 when there was a United Front government.  Subsequently, negotiations began with the NSCN(IM) leadership. These negotiations were pursued by successive governments who appointed official interlocutors for the talks. Step by step, progress was achieved though the final settlement was yet to be achieved.  It is premature and unwise on the part of the Modi government and the BJP to trumpet the framework agreement as a historic step achieved by the Narendra Modi.  Given the six decade history of this intractable conflict, patience and an approach of reconciliation is called for. 

(August 5, 2015)