Finally, four years after the Framework Agreement was signed with the main Naga rebel group, there are indications that a final peace agreement maybe signed in November this year, reports Sujit Kumar Chakraborty.
By all indications, the Centre is unlikely to accept the incorporation of two core demands of the NSCN-IM Collective Leadership, that is, a separate flag and Naga constitution or Yezabo as a precondition for signing the Indo-Naga peace agreement.
“There can’t be two constitutions or two national flags within one sovereign nation. We have just got rid of two national flags in Jammu and Kashmir after Article 370 and Article 35A were abolished. For the first time national flag was hoisted in Jammu and Kashmir after removing the separate J&K flag. There is no question of reopening this saga,” said a senior official of the Government of India on condition of anonymity.
The official continued, “The ceasefire agreement was signed in July 1997 and thereafter a series of negotiations were held at difference places with different Naga interlocutors. However, the pace of negotiations was accelerated after Narendra Damodardas Modi had taken over in 2014. A very knowledgeable official, R N Ravi, was appointed with the mandate to settle the vexed issue within a specific time frame.
"Subsequently, the interlocutor had made it clear that the Nagas have to forego two of their demands, that is, incorporation of Naga inhabited areas from the neighbouring states and sovereign Nagaland or what they call Nagalim. Rest of the demands can be accommodated through negotiations.
"Both sides agreed and later, on August 3, 2015, the Framework Agreement was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Modi, then home minister Rajnath Singh and the NSCN supremo Th Muivah at the Lok Kalyan Marg residence of the prime minister.”
He further said, “The 'inclusive' word clearly written in the Framework Agreement with the understanding that any future negotiations will be inked within the framework of the Constitution of India. There was no mention of Naga constitution.
"Now talks are almost at the final stage when the octogenarian Naga leader made a U-turn reiterating the same old demands of co-existence and shared sovereignty. He is insisting to incorporate two issues -- Naga flag and Naga constitution -- in the final agreement. That is unrealistic and not going with the spirit of talks.
"If the Government of India accepts a separate Naga flag and a separate Naga constitution as a precondition before signing the final agreement, it tantamounts to accepting a sovereign Nagaland and then the question of incorporation of Naga inhabited areas within three neighbouring states -- Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and a sizeable Naga population living in Myanmar, will automatically figure. Government of India can’t reopen that chapter. That chapter was closed when the present interlocutor Ravi began negotiations with the NSCN-IM collective leadership.”
On July 28, just before taking over as the governor of Nagaland, R N Ravi met the NSCN-IM general secretary Muivah in the national capital and explained that the final solution would ensure the inclusion of Nagas in the Indian Union. Ravi also reminded the 86-year-old Naga veteran that the word ‘inclusive’ was written in the Framework Agreement. But the NSCN-IM supremo was reportedly very angry and charged Ravi with changing the meaning of the term ‘inclusion’ written in the Framework Agreement to fulfill his objective.
Muivah claimed that the actual meaning of word ‘inclusion’ was to “include all terms and conditions that were agreed upon in the final Accord. A successful solution will provide for an inclusive and enduring new relationship between the two entities.” Muivah apparently told Ravi that “this juggling of word” will take us nowhere.
However, Ravi reportedly did not budge from his stand.
Another contentious issue was the arrest warrant against five top-ranking NSCN leaders by the National Investigation Agency and arrest of a few leaders.
Muivah is believed to have expressed his displeasure and asked the interlocutor why the NIA has been interfering when the peace talks are on and why as the interlocutor he was not able to protect the NSCN leaders and cadres. Ravi is reported to have pointed out the gross violation of ceasefire ground rules and the setting up of camps and hideouts outside the designated ceasefire zone. The heated exchange continued between them and apparently that meeting ended on a sore note.
Ravi took over as the Nagaland governor on August 1 and in a public reception he disclosed that the prime minister wanted to finalise the 22-year-long peace negotiations in three months time, that is by November this year.
However, unhappy with the with “body language” of the interlocutor, the NSCN-IM leadership sent a communiqué to the prime minister urging him to appoint a new interlocutor as they were opposed to continuing negotiations with the governor of Nagaland.
Although Ravi has been continuing as the interlocutor of the ongoing Indo-Naga peace talks, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has recently been given the additional task of supervising the ongoing Indo-Naga peace talks.
Meanwhile, the NSCN-IM supremo rushed to the designated camp headquarter Hebron and a held series of talks with almost all leaders and groups to explain the new developments in the peace negotiations.
He asked all leaders and groups to always be prepared for the worst.
However, on September 2, the new governor of Nagaland and interlocutor Ravi had a one-on-one meeting for nearly one hour with NSCN-IM boss Th Muivah at the Chumukedima police complex. And it appeared that the ice melted there. Both of them have apparently tried to clear the confusion and agreed to have a fresh round of talks by the end of this month or early October.
It is reliably learnt that both sides have agreed to work an ‘alternative way out’ to make the solution acceptable and honourable to all. Now it remains to be seen what happens to the two core issues.
Interestingly, the seven NSCN factions which formed a combo called the Naga National Political Groups, has been blaming the NSCN-IM for creating confusion and in the process delaying the signing of the peace agreement with the Government of India.
The NNPG is of the view that NSCN-IM had already agreed to forego its two core demands, incorporation of Naga inhabited areas of neighbouring states and sovereignty issue, before beginning the peace negotiations. But now the NSCN-IM leadership is raising this issue to assuage the sentiments of the Naga people.
Leaders of 14 Naga tribes recently asked the NSCN-IM leadership to expedite the peace process and settle the issue once and for all. They also advised the collective leadership to keep aside the core issues and iron out a workable solution to put an end to the seven decades old Indo-Naga political problem.
Meanwhile, the Naga Students Federation and Naga Students Union, Delhi, organised a rally in the national capital on September 25 and submitted a detailed memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office demanding an early, inclusive, honourable and acceptable solution to the protracted Indo-Naga political issue.
Joined by hundreds of Naga youth, a majority of who had donned at least one traditional item, be it necklace or stole or jacket, the rallyists marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, often breaking into songs, beating drums and holding up placards and banners urging the central government to expedite the process of ongoing peace talks with the NSCN-IM collective leadership and ink the final agreement at the earliest.
At Jantar Mantar, a makeshift stage awaited wherein speakers from the the Naga Students Federation, Naga Hoho, Naga Students Union Delhi, and many associated bodies addressed the crowds. The rally ended with songs by popular Naga singer Awarthanga Chiru.