‘The deal marks not merely the end of a problem but the beginning of a new future.’
Five years ago, a historic framework agreement was signed between the Government of India and the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muviah) in a bid to address the sovereignty issue in Nagaland.
The framework agreement signed on August 3, 2015, between the Government Interlocutor for the Naga Peace Talks R.N. Ravi and NSCN Chairman Isak Chishi Swu, General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah in the presence of Prime Minister Modi was marked as a ‘remarkable’ step for bringing in peace and tranquility in the region stuck by violence for decades.
However, things have not gone according to plan since the ‘historic’ agreement and the Naga Peace process has reached a stalemate. The inability of the government and the intransigence of NSCN (IM) to reach a logical conclusion have landed the process in a deadlock.
While the NSCN (IM) stayed adamant towards their demand for a separate flag, constitution, and the amalgamation of certain areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Manipur adjoining Nagaland to form a greater Nagalim. The Indian Government, on the other hand, stated that a separate flag and constitution are out of question and it would not accept any demands that would dilute the sovereignty of the country or impinge on the territorial integrity of the neighbouring states.
Interestingly, the first deadline set by the centre to wrap the Naga Peace talks was October 31, 2019. However, due to the indifferences between the two parties, the deadline had to be extended to September 2020 as per the request of the NSCN(IM) without finalizing the Naga Peace Accord.
Meanwhile, the Centre is firm on its September deadline to conclude the decades-old Naga Peace Talks by signing a final peace accord in which all the stakeholders will be signatories.
Amid the talks to finalize the agreement, the relation between the NSCN-IM and the interlocutor R.N. Ravi has turned sour. Ravi, who also happens to be the governor of Nagaland, took a jibe at the NSCN(I-M) ranks in June this year calling them “armed gangs” that are challenging the legitimacy of the state government. To add salt to the wound, he ordered that all government employees disclose the names of their relatives who are members of underground outfits, triggering anger among the Nagas
The NSCN (IM) on the other hand, blamed the interlocutor and the Governor of Nagaland R.N. Ravi for destroying the momentum of the talks. It accused him of trying to turn the clock back by reframing the conflict as a law and order issue, and not a political dispute. In retrospect, those writings could have foretold the differences that have now hamstrung the negotiations.
But with the relationship souring between NSCN(I-M) and the interlocutor, any further talks became impossible. The Prime Minister’s office intervened and directed the Director of Intelligence Bureau, Arvind Kumar, and the Special Director Akshay Kumar Mishra to carry the talks further.
With the three crucial demands of the NSCN(I-M) being so complex and affecting other states, it is being speculated that NSCN (IM) will not be a part of the peace accord and the talks will now be conducted between the Government of India and the Naga National Political Groups- an organization comprising of 7 rebel groups.
However, it is still unknown if the government would extend the deadline to avoid any law and order situation in the state or will go ahead with the peace talks with or without the NSCN.
But, it can be concluded that the ‘historic’ announcement of the government has turn turned out a ‘damp squib’ and the government must pace up its approach towards wrapping up the peace talks before another insurgency breaks out in the region.