TODAY -

The bone of contention - Two Entities

SK Singh *



The seemingly breaking down of the all-important ‘peace talk’ between the Centre and the NSCN (IM) or should we rename it broadly as Nagas, in view of the importance laid to the factional group, the NNPGs, can be traced to the term ‘two entities’, reportedly finding a prominent place in the Frame Work Agreement (FA) signed on August 3, 2015.

The IM had been hell- bent on the two conditions, Flag and Constitution for the Nagas. They interpret it as two independent units India and Nagalim to strike ‘shared sovereignty’, and have been vociferously demanding a separate flag and a separate constitution. What exactly are the terms actually used in the FA, the fact remains that IM has been talking big, and they cannot understandably refer to it unless it finds a mention in the FA.

But then how can RN Ravi representing the Government of India backtrack? Both sides are adamant as of now and certainly something is amiss as it stands today. And that is the major area for the delay in finalizing the treaty.

As is usual, now both sides are minting reasons for the difference. The IM has been pointing accusing fingers to Ravi for ‘double dealing’, an apparent hint on the issue Ravi signing another agreement with Working Committee (WC) of the Naga National Political Group (NNPGs), a conglomeration of 6 other factional groups of the original NSCN.

RN Ravi did talk to these factional groups, albeit clandestinely, as charged by Muivah, to arrive at an alternative agreement with the WC of the NNPGs on November 17, 2017 where the warring groups went mild on the question of flag and constitution. They even signed a separate Interim Agreement called, ‘Agreed Position’.

The IM did not take this endeavor kindly on the charge that they represented the Nagas movement and were the principal protagonist. RN Ravi too was only in his class to hunt for alternative avenues to strike a balance given the onerous responsibility of working out a solution to the vexed Naga treaty.

A visibly upset Muivah wondered if this NNPGs had done anything of hard negotiation with the Centre other than, according to him, being made to listen attentively to the so-called ‘economic package’ in waiting, in the name of Naga political solution. The IM roared, “Nagas simply cannot be carried away by any amount of economic packages.” IM apparently was in their rights to question the sincerity of the Interlocutor to resolve the political issue when Ravi had struck a deal surreptitiously with the NNPGs.

Tracing the situation over four years back when the Frame Work Agreement (FA) was conceived and drawn, it was a hard-earned agreement in as much as, the peace talks between the GOI and IM began since 1997 and in the process ran into hurdles starting from separate passport and not Indian passport for the Nagas, peace talks in foreign countries only, demanding independent sovereign country etc. to mention a few major areas.

All these got eased slowly over the years, using critical diplomatic twists although a long 22 years of regular meets and crucial negotiations. An agreement in stake that nearly took the Centre and the IM by surprise was the Bangkok Agreement in 2001 when the GOI tired of taming the IM over the years and yet prepared to ease the atmosphere, agreed with the IM’s pressing demand of extending the ‘ceasefire area’ beyond the geographical boundary of Nagaland.

A restive Atul Behari Vajpayee conceded by way of a policy of ‘give and take’. Little did he anticipate any upshot against this initiative in neighboring states particularly Manipur where Nagas populate maximum next to Nagaland. It was not to be however; natives of Manipur in their tens of thousands erupted near-spontaneously against the extension of the jurisdiction of ceasefire boundary to the whole of Manipur.

Ibobi government faced the severest law and order disproportions in the state only for the Centre to abrogate the controversial agreement instantaneously though the damage was already caused. A lesson was learnt by the Centre though the hard way.

This time around too, the D-day appears to be so near and yet it turns out to be so elusive. Both sides charge each other from their advantageous positions. The IM group still adamant for separate flag and constitution; the GOI charging the IM for raking up this issue despite clear signal of the two as non-negotiable.

Meanwhile the factional group of NNPGs appears to be not too keen about the two issues considered very crucial for the IM group. The WC of the NNPGs had come out openly charging the IM faction for causing this deadlock now when the entire Naga society had been demanding early solution.

Their going to the extent of asking the IM why these issues of separate flag, constitution and also integration were not addressed since the initial years in the past 22 years is only relevant. It is only rational why these core areas had not been attended to in the much talked about the FA.

Irked with this hurdle a top leader of the IM along with 16 other members reportedly quitted IM faction to merge with NNPGs on the charge that the IM remained insensitive to the cause of the people’s wish for an honorable solution to the vexed issue.

The Naga groups had become restive and had started questioning the rational of the IM in their stand which is turning out to be only untenable considering the recent nullifying of Art 370 and Art 35A in the state of J and K on the premise that one country and one flag. The NNPGs are the forerunner for the treaty though in the run up, the NSCN (IM) cannot be sidelined.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be reached at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on October 30, 2019.



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