Despite divergent determinations, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – NSCN (IM) have agreed on October 18, 2022 in Kolkata to form the Council of Naga Relationships and Cooperation (CNRC).
Most recently, Naga national workers of the NSCN (IM) from the Nagaland State on the one; and the NNPGs and the Naga Tribes Council (NTC) of the Nagaland State on the other have expressed in public their diametrically divergent determinations for the Naga political problem.
On August 26, thousands of “Naga national workers” of the NSCN (IM) from 16 regions of “Nagaland state, both civil and army” gathered in Dimapur under the agenda, “Reaffirming of ‘One People, One Nation’”and a coordination meeting was held making a “solemn declaration” for a “unified Nagalim”.
The NSCN (IM), in a statement, said that this coordination meeting of the NSCN members from “Nagaland State” was necessitated as many divisive elements/groups are mouth louding for Naga solution only for “Nagaland state” and ready to forego the “Naga National Flag and Constitution” in the name of Naga solution. This is tantamount to selling out the “Naga National identity as stoutly defended by our forefathers”.
Chairman of the NSCN (IM) Qhehezu Tuccu, in his speech said, “Nagas are one wherever they are one common goal, one issue.” He also made a pointed response to the cry of the public for the delay of Naga solution, saying, “We cannot give away our rights for the sake of Naga solution and we can never compromise the Nagas’ rights”.
However, the Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) in a press statement issued by its media cell on August 29, 2022 said, “The general public in Nagaland have been the ultimate victim of the unabated and multiple illegal taxations, all kinds of suppressive and anti-people activities of the selfish authorities and the armed elements alike under the signed ceasefires during the last 25 years that have virtually destroyed everything both in public and private sectors.”
Asking why this stagnation and backwardness despite being funded lavishly by the Union government, the NTC reasoned that the unscrupulous elements have transformed the state into their “private goldmines”, particularly all through these 25 years of political negotiations.
“These elements, both state authorities and armed elements, have taken undue advantages on the gullible general public and their facilities with vengeance. Thus, Nagaland was made to be the safest haven for the exploiters in India,” the NTC statement charged.
The Naga Tribes Council said it is “badly perturbed” by the thick cloud of uncertainties being cast over the fate of the political negotiations between the government of India and the two groups of the Naga political negotiators – NSCN (IM) and the working committee of seven Naga National Political Groups or NNPGs – despite the peace process being in its 25th year.
“And as for the WC, 7 NNPGs, the negotiation began in October, 2017 and signed the Agreed Position with the GoI on the 17.11.2017 and now it is in its 5th year. Against this backdrop, though the GoI may or may not consider it to be a serious concern, the quarter of a century ‘peace process’ has immense toll on the life of the citizens in Nagaland”, said NTC.
Moreover, the NNPGs have said that the Government of India must be more forthcoming to find a solution to the decades-old Naga problem, which it claimed is more important than the state election due next year.
“It is time for the Government of India to be forthcoming,” the NNPGs said on August 26 adding the narrative is being manipulated from political solution to the problem to the electoral narrative.
“GoI representatives and the inner circle of Nagaland’s elected representatives are saying one thing one day and doing the opposite the next day, which is playing havoc with the sentiments of the Naga people,” the NNPG said.
The NNPG said that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership the Framework Agreement was signed on August 3, 2015. The Working Committee of the NNPGs was officially invited to begin political negotiations by signing an agreement on November 17, 2017. All entities involved in the matter had concluded talks on October 31, 2019, it added.
Regarding the conclusion of the peace talk on October 31, 2019, the NSCN (IM) then stated that after October 31, 2019 it had a formal talk on November 9, 2019 and again on January 30, 2020.
However, in a significant development, the NNPGs and NSCN (IM) have agreed to form a common platform to move forward on Naga’s rights.
The agreement was arrived at the meeting of the NNPGs and NSCN (IM) representatives under the initiative of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) led by its Convenor Rev. Dr. Wati Aier in Kolkata from October 17-18, 2022.
According to a statement under the title, “KOLKATA MEETING” signed by N Kitovi Zhimomi, Convenor of NNPGs and Tongmeth Wangnao, Vice President of the NSCN (IM) issued on October 18, 2022 stated that the meeting was held in Kolkata on October 17 and 18 “with a renewed spirit of commitment” in “response to the Naga people’s yearning for reconciliation and unity in purpose.”
“Taking forward the September Joint Accordant’s resolve ‘to chart a path forward,’ we have agreed to form the Council of Naga Relationships and Cooperation led by the Convenor of NNPGs and Chairman of NSCN to explore, at the earliest, realistic ways for Nagas to move forward on the basis of Naga historical and political rights,” said the statement issued after the Kolkata Meeting.
“Understanding the urgency to rise above our present condition, the NNPGs and the NSCN are committing ourselves to the values of Truth, Forgiveness, Justice, and Peace as the discerning power to help us choose a shared future over the divisions of the past,” declared the statement of Kolkata Meeting.
“We urge the Naga public to jointly participate and support this process of shaping and building this future together,” the statement added.
Significatly, it is a follow-up of the September Joint Accordant signed by the two Naga Political Groups (NPGs) – NNPGs and NSCN (IM), pledged to honour the “Covenant of Reconciliation” (CoR) of June 13, 2009 – signed by the late Isak Chishi Swu, late SS Khaplang and Brig (Retired) S Singnya in “letter and in spirit.”
It is to be noted here that the ‘September Joint Accordant,’ among others, stated that the two NPGs resolved to work together in the spirit of love and desist from all forms of armed violence and also refrain from indulging in violence of words through print and social media.
More importantly, the September Joint Accordant was made on September 14, 2022 after a meeting between the leaders of NNPGs and NSCN (IM) facilitated by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR).
Notably, the September 14 meeting is the first joint meeting facilitated by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation after a gap of over eight years.
The September 14 meeting was attended among others by Muivah’s trusted aide and one-time militant commander V.S. Atem while Alezo Venuh, Coordinator of NNPGs, represented the umbrella body of seven Naga political groups of Nagaland.
Moreover, to bring NNPGs and NSCN (IM) to a common platform, the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (NFR) never leaves no stone unturned.
Prior to the Kolakata meeting of October 17 and 18, the FNR facilitated another crucial meeting for the Naga apex organisations and the Church on October 8, 2022. At least 14 Naga apex organisations and the Church got together and extended support to the ‘September Joint Accordant’ and pledged to render ‘whole hearted assistance to reconciliation process.’
The October 8 meeting urged both the NPGs to find “common ground and mutually agree on a relationship of cooperation based on the Naga historical and political rights in order to move forward.”
However, the positions of two rivalry groups – NNPGs and NSCN (IM) are not yet moved while NNPGs has taken a pro-final peace pact stance in the interest of Nagaland since November 2017, the NSCN (IM) led by Thuingaleng Muivah sticks to their guns for a separate Naga Constitution and Naga National Flag besides a Unified Nagalim.
In another development in Naga politics, the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) has intensified their movement for a separate State of Frontier Nagaland consisting of six eastern districts of present Nagaland State.
Notably, the Senior Citizen’s Association of Nagaland (SCAN) has alleged that the NSCN (IM) has been overunning the Intaki Reserve Forest in Peren district of Nagaland where the Head Quarter of NSCN (IM), Camp Hebron is located.
As of now, the FNR is progressing in bringing the NNPGs and NSCN (IM) to a common platform. However, it is pertinent to ask – How far can FNR hold the water in the changing dynamics of Naga politics? Can FNR bring NNPGs and NSCN (IM) to the final settlement of Naga Peace Talks with Government of India?
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics