TODAY -

Naga Peace parleys reach deadlock; who can 'unlock' it ?

Nirendra Dev *

 A rally for peace 'Expedite Framework Agreement' from Phalee to Somdal :: 14th August 2018
A rally for 'Expedite Framework Agreement' from Phalee to Somdal in August 2018 :: Pix - Oken Luwang



In an era of Lockdown and Unlockdown vis-a-vis post-Corona, the Naga peace parleys have now reached a deadlock! NSCN (IM) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah gave an interview to a website and said the Nagas can never be part of Indian Union.

“We have stood our ground on these two non-negotiable issues (Flag and Constitution) and we shall continue to stand till the last man standing”, Muivah said in the interview.

The strong observation from the Naga rebel leader came a day after the state Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio held a Consultative Meeting at Kohima. Now that the peace parleys, which formally began in August 1997, have reached a deadlock, who could be blamed for it - or what can be singularly attributed ?

The issues are complex. There are some matters which make Naga insurgency unique, but one thing is simple - no elected government worth its salt in Delhi can give up a separate Flag and Constitution for any community or state.

"The symbols of sovereignty namely, separate constitution, flag, currency, defence and foreign affairs are sacrosanct and never negotiable," says Swaraj Kaushal, former Mizoram Governor and the 'first' Naga peace interlocutor appointed in 1998.

Kaushal handled the Mizoram insurgency in the 1980s and had developed good personal rapport with rebel Mizo leader Laldenga. "I have seen my brother T. Muivah’s interview to a digital media. Was this interview necessary ? I think ‘No’. Will this interview help you or your organisation ? I think ‘No’," Kaushal wrote in the micro blogging site Twitter disapproving the media interaction.

In fact, the Consultative meeting at Kohima on Oct 15 was not quite successful and elements known for closer affinity to Muivah's organisation had either backed the NSCN(IM) demand for Flag and Constitution or did other things to make headlines.

The Naga Hoho staged walkout and Naga Mothers' Association said the twin demands of Flag and Constitution were justified. The meeting at Kohima was also boycotted by Congress party, NPF and JD(U).

Ironically, NPF has been a BJP partner for long and the JD(U) is a NDA constituent at the national level and also in poll bound state of Bihar. The Congress standpoint on Naga issue is as old as the history of the state but is also guided by ambiguity.

In the meantime, the Congress says in Jammu and Kashmir, the controversial Art 370 ought to be restored. So does it mean, Congress can even back demands for a separate Flag and Constitution for the Nagas?

The Congress has ruled Nagaland for many years but is out of power in the state since 2003. The incumbent Naga Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio is also a former Congressman and is now heading NDPP-BJP dispensation. Now, the Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio may be summoned to Delhi soon. Congress says the Chief Minister should resign.

G.K. Zhimomi of Congress said that the 7-point resolution adopted after the Oct 15 meeting reflected the “bankruptcy of ideas" of the Rio government. The much awaited Kohima Consultative Meeting on Naga Peace Talks and Solution ended on Thursday with a modest resolution urging all Naga negotiating groups to come together in "oneness, mutual trust and understanding".

Such appeals have been made umpteen times. It may be mentioned that the meeting was convened by Chief Minister Rio at the personal directives of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. NEDA convener Himanta Biswa Sarma has worked as a trusted lieutenant of Amit Shah and tried to keep the states of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam on board.

In October 2019, it was alarm bell from Manipur that ensured checkmate from Shah's office. Himanta's remarks are therefore crucial though a section is suggesting that he has crossed the brief. The resolution in Kohima meet signed by meeting chairman Neiba Kronu and co-chair Mmhonlumo Kikon did not have anything specific to cherish about and thus the roadmap to the last phase of over two-decades old negotiations still remains 'hazy'.

Naga Hoho president H K Zhimomi ventilated his anguish at the manner the meeting was conducted and said: "Everybody is talking about unity, when there is no unity". Now, will this be regarded as the failure of the consultation process or the very peace talks that actually originated during the tenure of PV Narasimha Rao.

Well, it cannot be described as a success either. The answers to most of the other questions remain in the womb of time. The issues related to the Naga insurgency dates back to the pre-independence era. Nagaland attained statehood in 1963 after signing of a 16 Point Agreement. Originally led by A Zapu Phizo, the Naga National Council split a number of times especially after the 1970s.

The NSCN (Isak Muivah) faction was led by Late Isak Chishi Swu and Muivah. Swu, the former chairman of NSCN (IM) breathed his last in 2016. On August 3, 2005, NSCN (IM) and peace negotiator Ravi had inked a pact in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was later described as the Framework Agreement.

The NNPG, a conglomeration of seven Naga groups operating in Nagaland, has expressed its readiness to ink a final accord with the Government of India at the earliest. Status quo with no solution may suit a section of Naga leaders - both overground and underground; but GoI wants early solution.

So would the Nagas and people of northeast because peace in the region would make Centre's Act East policy vis-a-vis ASEAN members and South East Asia crucial.

The recent visit of Indian foreign secretary and Army chief to Myanmar must be seen from that perspective.


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a resident of New Delhi and can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on October 18 2020.



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