Dialogues across fault lines of territory and peoples: Bridging state, Nation and ethnicity in North East

The Naga self-determination conflict is perhaps the most definitive example of state and ethno-nationalist conflicts in the Northeast of India. The continuation of this conflict over nearly seven decades and emergence of other ethno-nationalist movements in the region underscores the inability of the Indian state in dealing with the demands of the ethno-nationalist communities who built their distinct identities grounded on cultural factors remains a problem.

Recognising that the Indo-Naga accord cannot deliver durable peace unless there is peace amongst the Nagas, a conference was organised by Heinrich Böll Foundation, Delhi in collaboration with The Other Media and South Asia Forum for Human Rights in December 2015 to create a Dialogue Forum that would encourage multi-stakeholders to engage politically in a non-partisan conversation so as to build an inclusive and democratic forum for inter-community dialogue. The dialogue was successful to highlight an unfolding contemporary development in the Northeast of India. It drew a mix of eminent veteran academics and young scholars of Naga, Kuki, Meitei, Assamese and Delhi perspectives.

Tapan Bose, one of the speakers in the dialogue argued that secrecy is the most distinguishing feature of the eighteen year long negotiations between the Government of India and the Naga people. The decision to keep the details of agreement a secret from the Naga people must have been taken at the highest level of NSCN-IM.

A young academia, Kaustubh Deka explained his extensive survey from seven different universities in the Northeast India and analyses the role of youth in electoral process. It also emphasises the emergence and prominence of students as a political actor arising out of a complex interaction between state and society. Rita Manchanda, core organiser of the conference on the other hand explains a conceptual and comparative analysis of the South Asian praxis of resolving ethno-nationalist conflicts which creates special autonomies and federal arrangements.

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.

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Date of Publication
August 2016
South Asia Forum for Human Rights and Heinrich Böll Foundation
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