TODAY -

Demands for Naga Flag, Constitution are hurdles to Naga Peace Solution, says apex body NNPG

Nirendra Dev *



"Emotive issues such as the flag and (Naga) constitution are mere pretext to hoodwink the Nagas. In other words, there was, and is, never a real intent to bring honourable political solutions to the Naga people," stated umbrella organisation Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) of Naga militant groups.

The press statement from NNPG Media Cell on Nov 23, 2023, is categorically critical of the role played by the NSCN-IM which had recently expressed certain reservations on the provisions of Article 371 (A) that applies tothe state of Nagaland.

In fact, Article 371 (A) is the basis of formation of the 16th state of Nagaland in the 1960s. " The Indo-Naga solution implies an insufficient grazing land for the Tangkhul (Naga tribe) leadership. Therefore, instead of working for a solution, it is more profitable for them to continue unabated taxation and extortion, burdening Nagaland state and people, Nagas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Prolonging the Indo-Naga issue is the real solution for them," the statement said.

The NNPG led by its convener N Kitovi Zhimomi is keen for an early signing of a peace pact with theGovernment of India based on its 2017 Agreed Position preliminary document inked between NNPG andthe then Naga peace negotiator R N Ravi, who was also Governor of Nagaland and later shifted to Tamil Nadu.

Stating that the Framework Agreement inked between Ravi and the NSCN-IM on Aug 3, 2015 had its limitations, the NNPG statement said on Thursday that, "NSCN-IM leadership could not accept the fact that Working Committee of NNPGs, in robust consultation with apex Naga civil societies, NTC, Naga Gao Bura Federation(Village elders), Tribal Hohos, intellectuals, Student Bodies, Ex-Parliamentarians, retired bureaucrats, Legal and Constitutional luminaries etc., had "meticulously achieved in two years what they failed to do so through secretive parleys for over two decades".

It said the Govt of India has "acknowledged Naga right to self-determination" and the Agreed Position (signed with NNPG) allowed Govt of India and NNPGs to respect each other's position and rights, prior to starting political negotiations. Thus, the dialogue between Govt of India and WC, NNPGs began on a "practical note".

The NSCN-IM since 2019 October has raised the issues of Naga Flag and a separate Constitution which theModi government has categorically rejected more than once. In fact, in a meeting with Nagaland legislators and ministers including CM Rio on Sept 12, 2022, Home Minister Amit Shah had said, "woh baat nahi karna (please do not raise the issues of Flag and Constitution)".

The NNPG statement (Nov 23) says, "All Nagas have been blessed with their own ancestral land although in different states. The effort all must be to return to one's own native Naga areas and ensure Naga land, culture and tradition is protected".

The Tangkhul Nagas who have a dominant presence in NSCN-IM mostly reside in their native villagesin the hilly region of Manipur. But the NNPG statement says, "The Tangkhuls in the NSCN-IM want to run Nagaland CM (Neiphiu) Rio's government in Nagaland. They await each Indian election to indulge in it neck deep. It is a fat paycheck season ....In Manipur, they set up family members as candidates and lobby for plump portfolios"

On this backdrop the NNPG statement said, "Today, who is criticizing Nagaland's Article 371(A)? Let them criticize all constitutional provisions in Manipur if they feel so. 371(A) is a child of Nagaland state and therefore let the people of Nagaland own it."

The Naga peace talks started in August 1997 when I K Gujral was the Prime Minister. Many Naga prominent leaders including ex Nagaland CM and ex Governor of Gujarat and Maharashtra, S C Jamir, and a former Speaker of Nagaland assembly, Z Lohe have pressedfor early solution and signing of a final peace pact to resolve northeast India's oldest insurgency problem.

The NNPG statement has claimed that efforts are being made to silence some of these leaders including the likes of K K Sema, a vocal retired IAS officer. It even says, "the savagery and cruelty" meted out to many Naga public leaders in the 1990s"were worse than the Taliban brutality in Afghanistan". They referred to the elimination of prominent journalist turned politicians Chalie Kevichusain 1992.

Lately, analysts feel pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver a Peace Solutionto Nagas as the talks had made significant progress during the tenure of R N Ravi as the negotiator andNagaland Governor.

The ethnic conflict in Manipur has made things more challenging even for Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister was to address a poll rally in Mamit, around 80 km from Mizoram capital Aizawl, October 30 for the election campaign. However, he had stayed away and Modi himself staying away from Mizoram in the election season is more than mere official engagements etc.

Mizoram Chief Minister and MNF leader Zoramthanga, also an ally of BJP, declined to share stage withthe Prime Minister. Mizos share ethnic bonds with disgruntled Kukis who had to flee BJP-ruled Manipur. These have made it obvious for the BJP strategists now to underscore that only "the Naga solution at this juncture" can salvage the Prime Minister's image vis-a-vis tribals in the northeast.

Things have been late already; and the Government of India has to perhaps blame itself for trusting absolutely 'wrong people'. The incumbent NDPP-BJP regime led by Neiphiu Rio, according to insiders, is virtually a liability the Modi Govt is shouldering at the cost of many things including personal image of Prime Minister Modi himself.

The NDDP-BJP dispensation is allegedly more interested in delaying the Naga peace talks and this has not helped boost the reputation of the saffron party among Nagaseither within Nagaland or those who are in states such as Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The alleged 'non performance' on peace talks front by stakeholders including an elected state government is also a case of wrong doing..

And they are will-full defaulters. It's high time, PM Modi gets up; understands the message of the alarm bell ringing and then takes a final call.

( Views expressed are personal)


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist.
He is also author of the books ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’, and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. The writer can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 27 2023 .



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