Naga peace accord likely by end of October
The Centre is set to conclude the Naga peace process by the end of this month with the signing of a peace accord, taking a big stride towards ending a decades-old insurgency in the northeastern state of Nagaland.
“All Naga armed groups are engaged with the government of India’s Interlocutor and have worked out the draft final settlement,” Nagaland governor RN Ravi, New Delhi’s principal interlocutor on the Naga issue, said.
There is, however, a strong possibility that the final Naga peace deal could be signed without the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), people familiar with the peace process said on condition of anonymity. NSCN-IM is one of main players in the decades-long rebellion that dates back to the 1950s and is often described as the world’s oldest surviving insurgency.
Ravi said: “Unfortunately at this auspicious juncture, the NSCN (I-M) has adopted a procrastinating attitude to delay the settlement, raising the contentious symbolic issues of a separate Naga national flag and Constitution, on which they are fully aware of the government of India’s position. They have mischievously dragged in the framework agreement and began imputing imaginary contents.”
The draft Naga peace deal doesn’t have provisions for either a separate flag or a separate constitution. Barring the NSCN(IM), several other insurgent factions,including NSCN (K for Khaplang), NSCN (U for Unification) and NSCN (R for Reformation) are on board a final deal.
In 1975, New Delhi and the Naga underground came to an agreement to end the insurgency, with the rebels accepting the Indian Constitution. The agreement did have dissenters, leading to the formation of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). Divisions with the NSCN led to the splintering of the group and the formation of the NSCN (K) and NSCN (IM). One of the original and most complicated demands that Naga insurgent groups, especially the NSCN(IM), have pressed — for the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas that lie in other states with Nagaland — has been resolved, the people cited above said.
Several religious bodies the church, in particular, have supported the move to seal the deal. “As the church, we always pray for unity and understanding among all Naga groups; we also wish for the early solution to the peace talks. We are in agreement with the positive action taken by the government of India with regards to the final solution. We are not against it,” said Rev N Paphino of the Nagaland Joint Christian Forum, who took part in a meeting Friday with Ravi.
In a cautious statement, NSCN (R) leader Y Wantin Naga said the solution “should be workable” “inclusive,” “comprehensive” and keep in mind “contemporary political reality,” and “no one should be left behind.”
He also referred to the formation of the autonomous Naga council in Arunachal Pradesh. The contentious issue of Nagas demanding sovereignty could be addressed through such bodies, he indicated. “No nation is independent, Nagas want peaceful coexistence with the government of India,” Wantin Naga said.
Meanwhile, a day after Ravi accused NSCN-IM of procrastinating the final agreement, NSCN-IM on Saturday reiterated its demand for a separate Naga national flag and constitution. NSCN-IM chairman Q Tuccu said: “After coming so close to the point of conclusion, we are facing hurdles on the issues of Naga flag and constitution.”
While Ravi, in his statement, accused NSCN-IM of “mischievously dragging” the 2015 pact into the peace talks and “imputing imaginary contents to it”, the outfit said it was important for the final pact.
On Friday, Ravi held a detailed discussion with the senior Naga leadership to give the final touches to the agreement.
Soon after being re-elected in May, the Narendra Modi government decided to conclude the Naga peace deal as early as possible. During its first term, the Mod- led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government signed the a framework agreement on August 3, 2015, for a peace deal with the NSCN(IM). On November 17, 2017, another agreement with seven Naga armed groups under the banner of the Working Committee (WC) of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) on the political parameters of the settlement was signed.