TODAY -

Influential umbrella body of Naga rebels reposes faith in PM Modi

Nirendra Dev *



The ongoing Naga peace talks have reached a critical and advanced stage and here comes the relevance of all complexities in the entire story. A key Naga rebel leader N Kitovi Zhimomi says not only seven Naga guerilla groups are ready to sign a peace deal and end the Naga problem; perhaps other groups such as ULFA would be also coming forward to end their differences with the government of India.

This will only has compounded problems for NSCN (IM) which wanted to mount pressure on the centre for removal of R N Ravi as peace talks interlocutor. The ruling combine in the state comprising NDPP, BJP and Independent MLAs on Thursday, Aug 20, welcomed Government of India's fresh moves to arrive at an acceptable agreement and final agreement.

But the main opposition Naga People's Front (NPF) has walked out from the Joint Legislators Forum set up to work for consensus in ensuring a solution to the vexed and oldest insurgency problem in northeast India. Of course, the NPF protest was against the ruling alliance and specially Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who allegedly did not keep the opposition camp well informed about the developments.

"When the ruling dispensation does not have confidence in llegislators of NPF, there in no valid reason why NPF should continue to remain as part of JPG," NPF said in a statement.

There are other more critical twists. The NSCN (IM), which entered into ceasefire and formal talks with the centre way back in 1997 during the tenure of I K Gujral as Prime Minister, has yet again flagged off the demands for separate flag and constitution. It has also blamed peace interlocutor and state Governor R N Ravi for trying to dilute the spirit of the Framework Agreement signed between two sides on August 3, 2015.

Of course, both the demands are pretty tough and complicated to be 'accepted' by any elected government or the Prime Minister in Delhi. The centre has also rejected demand for Greater Nagaland which was hanging fire in states such as Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

NSCN (IM) has also demanded that Ravi should be replaced as interlocutor and there are reports that in order to let the talks process go on, the Centre has apparently tasked senior IB officials to do the talking and take the negotiation to its logical conclusion. The Modi government is keen for a settlement by September 2020. Last year, apparently October 31, 2019 was set as deadline.

The Naga peace talks had begun in 1997. I K Gujral's predecessor H D Deve Gowda who had first met the NSCN (IM) leaders at Zurich in 1997 and set the ball rolling. Deve Gowda recently in a statement suggested that any 'distrust' between two sides should not be allowed to pursue and that the talks should not be derailed.

Amid all these now comes a hope from an influential umbrella organisation of the rebels. Convener of umbrella organisation, Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), a conglomerate of seven groups, N Kitovi Zhimomi has reposed faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Crucially, he has asserted that there is no alternative to peace.

"It is high time that we sort out the long standing political problems with GOI through a contemporary approach both political and socio-economic on priority. It is important because in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi - there is a decisive man. To an extent, I say, Mr Modi has many qualities of a young Naga - a dreamer and who will take a firm decision to achieve that dream," Zhimomi said in a statement.

"I may not agree to everything he (Modi) says and does," the rebel leader said and underlined that, "we ought to appreciate the fact that the Modi government took a few firm decisions".

In this context, he said the August 3rd, 2015 Framework Agreement with NSCN(IM) during the last days of respected leader Late Isak Chishi Swu (former chairman of NSCN-IM) and the 2017 'Agreed Position' signed with NNPG are clear testimony to Prime Minister's "sincerity and a determined mind".

Therefore, Kitovi Zhimomi made an impatient plea for the much sought after peace stating - "We should take advantage rather than prolong a solution". He emphasised: "The general notion that is infused into the Naga Society is that ‘If the talks fail, we go back to jungles’. This is easier said. The resultant of this move would be disastrous to our Naga brothers and their families. Should we continue to shed blood?"

Elaborating further, he said, reviving insurgency or going back to jungles does not help anyone. "I might sound very harsh at times. But it is also time we do some practical and reality talks. I am not trying to be bitter although some points I have flagged here could appear in bitterness. But my purpose is not to spread any bitterness. I want our Naga people to live in peace and harmony among ourselves and also with the Indian authorities".

Zhimomi, it may be mentioned here that in his statement on August 14, has said the umbrella organisation of seven rebel groups operating chiefly within Nagaland state are ready to sign the peace pact with the centre "anytime".

The NNPG leader further said, the world has changed a lot since the 1960s or 1970s. "We must also change and try to work as equal partners in development with the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Lastly, my emphasis is on the Government of India's 'Act East Policy'. This visionary policy and the great vision can yield expected results only if we can offer an ideal and peaceful atmosphere in the Naga hills and in other parts of Northeast India".

He also hoped that "most other compatriots" like the ULFA and Bodo groups (of Assam) "have either come forward for peace or will be doing so at the earliest".

Therefore, Kitovi said the Nagas also have a "greater role to ensure peace and tranquillity" in the entire northeast of India.

"We owe it to ourselves," he maintained.


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a longtime northeast watcher and had penned a few books including 'The Talking Guns: North East India'
and can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on August 22 2020 .



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