Negotiations between Centre, Naga groups concluded: Governor
Nagaland’s governor and the Union government’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks, RN Ravi, on Friday announced in the state assembly that the political negotiations that were going on for several years between the Centre and Naga groups have finally concluded.
Addressing the first day of the seventh session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA), the governor said even as the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic was going on for the past year, the early resolution of the long-drawn-out Naga political issue continued to remain the focus of the government.
With the negotiations over, he said there is now a need for efforts to build on the substantial gains made so far, and to move swiftly for a “final solution”.
Governor Ravi’s fresh statement came barely two weeks after he said the Centre’s initiative to resolve the Naga political issue since the past 24 years was yet to bear fruit due to “unrealistic intransigence of some people” who were unwilling to forsake politics of the gun. In his Republic Day address, Ravi, without naming any group, blamed the delay in Naga solution on “politics by gun”, which, he said, had fragmented the Naga society.
The new statement also comes close on the heels of the assertion made in Parliament by India’s junior home minister G Kishan Reddy on February 9 that negotiations with Naga groups were at an advanced stage, but no time-frame for agreement could be indicated at this stage. Reddy was responding to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha raised by Nagaland MP Tokheho Yepthomi regarding the progress of negotiations between the Centre and Naga groups, and whether the agreement is likely to be signed in the current year.
The Naga insurgency began in 1950s seeking independence, but over the years that gave way to demand for other things like more autonomy, integration of all Naga-inhabited areas in Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
The prominent Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, or NSCN-IM, has been holding peace talks with the Union government since 1997, while a conglomeration of seven different Naga national political groups (NNPGs) have also been engaged in separate talks with the centre since 2017.
The Centre had signed a “framework agreement” with NSCN (IM) in 2015, and an “agreed position” with the NNPGs in 2017.
The relationship between NSCN (IM) and interlocutor Ravi appeared to sour when, in 2019, the rebel group stood firm on its demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution, and the interlocutor later set a deadline to ink the final agreement on the protracted Indo-Naga issue. During such a time, both parties concurred that the almost all the modalities were all drawn out, except symbolic issues including the flag and constitution, the NSCN (IM) and the interlocutor had a fallout, with the armed group accusing Ravi of violating the spirit of the “framework agreement” and of becoming a liability for the Naga political settlement.
“The pending issues are about the Naga people’s political rights and identity as symbolised by the Naga flag and Yehzabo (constitution) but Ravi is putting the blame on gun politics,” the NSCN (IM) had stated in the January issue of its bi-monthly newsletter “Nagalim Voice”. The group also made it clear that only the principle of the “framework agreement” was the key to an honourable and acceptable solution for durable peace, not economic packages or imposed political packages.
NSCN (IM) then resumed negotiations vis-a-vis flag and constitution with other government agencies, according to people familiar with the matter.
Meanwhile, the Naga tribal and civil society, along with the state government, have been reiterating that the armed groups must come together to facilitate “one solution” for the sake of the Naga people.
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