Uncertainty regarding Naga peace process prevails as guv RN Ravi shifts to TN
The sudden relocation of Nagaland governor RN Ravi, who has been the Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks since 2014, to Tamil Nadu has evoked mixed reactions from people in Nagaland. Residents are uncertain on where the ongoing Naga peace process is headed- whether the latest development will fast-track the process or stall it.
The Centre on Thursday, in a series of administrative changes, ordered the transfer of Nagaland governor RN Ravi as the next governor of Tamil Nadu. Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi will hold the additional charge of Nagaland.
Ravi’s appointment as governor of Nagaland in 2019 had evoked similar reactions. While many saw it as a positive indication to resolving the decades-long Naga political issue, various people doubted how he would juggle two constitutional posts while others speculated that the Centre was bringing down the ongoing peace talks from the Prime Minister level to the governor level.
As interlocutor, Ravi had a fallout with the Isak Muivah-led National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) last year with whom he manoeuvred the signing of the 2015 Framework Agreement after he allegedly misinterpreted the agreement and tried to manipulate it. Subsequently, the NSCN (IM) sought his ouster as interlocutor.
Talks with seven other Naga nationalist political groups (NNPGs) who signed an “agreed position” in 2017 with the Centre concluded in October 2019 but no final agreement was reached as the NSCN (IM) remained firm on its demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution.
As governor, while Ravi was considered astute in his constitutional duties, he also initiated certain measures and made statements which had people question whether the elected government or the constitutional head was in-charge of governance in the state.
In the political landscape, his abrupt removal as governor of the state is largely being seen as a positive step towards finalising the peace deal, especially at a time when all the members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly have agreed to come together to push for settlement and pave the way.
“I am as surprised as anyone else on this sudden development. Maybe Delhi’s wisdom is best for all of us,” state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Temjen Imna Along told HT.
The ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) also stated if the government of India is of the opinion that this decision is good for Nagaland and the Naga people, then the party welcomes it.
“In so far as the Naga political talks are concerned, we are confident that the Prime Minister and the union home minister will take the negotiations towards the right direction and bring an early and honourable solution,” party spokesperson Merentoshi R Jamir said.
Naga People’s Front (NPF) MLA and former chief minister TR Zeliang said he thought Ravi was “someone who brimmed with enthusiasm on resolving the Naga issue till he was appointed as governor of the state”, after which there was a “blame game” between him and one of the major negotiating groups (NSCN-IM) which created a “huge gap between the negotiating parties and brought the talks to a deadlock”.
Towards this, Zeliang expressed his reservations that Ravi’s exit at such a crucial time could either be perceived as a step ahead for the dialogue to resume, or create more confusion and delay the peace process further which would be “too costly” for the Naga people.
During his two-year stint as governor, Ravi also appears to have gathered moss on his social relationship with the public of Nagaland. The Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), an influential Naga women organisation, termed it unfortunate that unlike earlier governors who were in touch with the people, the Raj Bhavan, during Ravi’s tenure, became exclusive.
“As the governor of our state, we wish he (Ravi) had been more in touch with the common people rather than with select groups. But we wish him well and hope he cultivates good relationship with the people of Tamil Nadu as it is also a state with turbulent history,” says NMA advisor Dr Rosemary Dzuvichu.
“As governor and interlocutor of the Naga peace talks, RN Ravi is well informed about Naga issues and pragmatic in dealing with the Naga political negotiation. Under his able leadership, we have achieved a great level of understanding and hope to have a solution that will usher in enduring peace in the entire northeast region,” Nagaland Tribes Council media convener Theja Therieh said.
While congratulating Ravi as he takes over the responsibility of a “bigger state”, the organisation expressed hope that the government of India has the political will to deliver the long-awaited solution to the Naga issue as per the “agreed points” on the negotiation table.
Naga Hoho president HK Zhimomi said that Ravi as a governor was not in tune with the people of the state. He said Ravi, after becoming governor of Nagaland, started misinterpreting the Naga peace talks and began to take sides even in his public speeches, while his connection with the people of the state became “purely political”.
The Naga Hoho had written to the Centre in 2020 for the removal of Ravi as governor of Nagaland citing various reasons. Zhimomi said his replacement as governor was long due as “reasons” were compounding. He added that the Naga people can expect positivity on the peace process following this development.
“Unlike his predecessors, governor Ravi’s closeness with the Naga civil society was based solely on Naga peace process. In the process he distanced himself from the people of Nagaland and mainstream Naga organisations,” said H Chishi, senior journalist and president of Nagaland Press Association. He said Ravi as governor had developed a strained relationship not only with Naga organisations, but with the state government wherein the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also a partner.
The comparison between Ravi and previous governors of Nagaland is even more glaring as his immediate predecessor PB Acharya was widely known as the “people’s governor”, who during his five-year tenure, opened the doors of the hallowed Raj Bhavan to the people of the state, particularly the less privileged.