Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Dept of Environment and Climate Change

Newspaper Reports Spark Anxious Speculations on Whether an Inclusive Naga Peace Talks Will Exclude NSCN(IM)

Speculations about the ongoing peace talks between the Government of India (GOI) and Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland, NSCN (IM) and its final settlement continue to draw the attention of the affected states and their people.

The recent media report, “Naga accord ‘draft’ finalised, demand for separate flag rejected” first published in Deccan Chronicle on October 6 and also by other media houses perturbs the minds of the people of Manipur fearing balkanization of the multiethnic state of Manipur.

In connection to this report, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) in a press release on October 7 asked why the state is still silent if the Naga Accord is finalised.

The release further said that on September 22 last, the COCOMI had submitted a memorandum to the Union Home Minister, Governor of Manipur and state Chief Minister, reminding them about the decision.

The COCOMI has expressed that the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah’s not saying even a word on the agreement will become a reason for the people of Manipur in losing their trust in the Union Government.

The media report published in Deccan Chronicle quoting security sources says the Government of India has decided to go ahead with its plan to sign a peace accord with all the other armed rebel groups and civil society organisations of Nagaland soon, ignoring the defiant posturing and demands of the NSCN (IM). It is also reported that the Government of India has stated, “No more talks with NSCN (IM), up to them to sign or not.”

The report further said that a section of NSCN (IM) led by its secretary general Thuingaleng Muivah has not given their final consent for signing the peace accord, but asserted that the ball is now in the NSCN (IM)’s court to take the call on signing the peace accord as all the other stakeholders have approved the “final draft agreement” aimed at bringing an end to decades-old insurgency in Nagaland.

Meanwhile, the other states and their people particularly the COCOMI take the media report, though not an official statement of the GOI, very seriously. The reason is that the media report says the final draft agreement also proposes two autonomous councils —one  each in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh — besides the mechanism of transfer of power by holding general elections in the state. The number of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seats would also be increased to facilitate more representation to Nagas at the Centre.

The COCOMI considers the formation of Autonomous Council for Nagas inhabiting Manipur being included in the final draft of the agreement was and will never be accepted by the people of the state as it will balkanize Manipur.

The COCOMI expresses its firm stand that in case the media reports on the finalising of final draft agreement of the peace talk with or without NSCN-IM were true and to which the state government has remained silent, COCOMI along with the masses will fight together in safeguarding the integrity of the land.

The media reports say that the negotiations between Naga rebel groups on all issues have concluded that a consensus has been created for signing of the peace accord and a draft agreement has been finalised.

Further reports say the Prime Minister’s envoy for Naga talks and Governor of Nagaland RN Ravi is in New Delhi to finalise the draft-agreement and talks between the NSCN (IM) leadership led by its general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers concluded about 10 days back.

Reports pointing out that no meeting was held between NSCN (IM) and IB officers for the last 10 days said a section of Naga rebel leaders have been trying to create confusion that the talks are still going on and the NSCN (IM) has been trying to buy time by raising some rhetorical issues, but Government of India has made it clear that they can’t prolong peace talks any more as consensus has already been created on all the Naga political issues.

The report also pointed out that 14 Naga tribal Hohos and Nagaland Gaon Burah (GB) Federation would also be signatory to the peace accord along with armed rebel groups including Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) – a group of seven Naga insurgents.

The report even cautioned that a section of leaders in the NSCN (IM) may be isolated in Nagaland if they continue to defy the mood of civil society groups which is mounting pressure for an early solution to Naga political issues.

Another significant development of the Naga Peace Talks is the convening of a “consultative meeting” by the Government of Nagaland with all the mass-based organisations, insurgent groups and NGOs on October 15 to discuss the Naga political issue and ongoing peace talks between various armed groups and the Government of India. All tribal Hohos, mass-based organizations, civil societies, church organizations, political parties, NGOs, prominent persons etc. have been invited to the meeting.

With these new developments pertaining to the Naga Peace Talks in the present context, it will be pertinent to discuss the inclusivity of the Peace Talks. There is no dispute amongst conflict resolution and peacebuilding experts that inclusivity is the key for a lasting peace.

The meeting being convened by Neiphiu Rio’s government would also be on the lines of inclusive Naga Peace.

Since NSCN (IM) is said to be the largest and strongest militant group fighting for a Naga sovereign nation, the Government of India has been talking with them for the last 23 years without much significant progress while other Naga rebel groups continued to be engaged as if on the sidelines of the GOI-NSCN (IM) Peace Talks.

However, since RN Ravi became the interlocutor of the GOI-NSCN (IM) Peace Talks, the circle of the Peace Talks has become expanded to engage with other Naga rebel groups. Since the ceasefire agreement between the GOI and NSCN (K) was discontinued in 2015, the three breakaway factions of the NSCN (K) formed a new group and entered the dialogue with GOI.

At this later date the Naga Peace Talks have become seemingly inclusive of all the Naga rebel groups. The seven Naga rebel groups including the three breakaway factions of NSCN (K), FGN, NNC (Parent Body), NPGN/NNC (NA) and NNC/GDRN (NA) formed the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) on December 13, 2016 and have been talking with the GOI. A “Deed of Commitment” has already been signed between the GOI and NNPGs.

Here it would be good to revisit and mention briefly the Naga insurgent movement.

The Naga insurgent movement started with formation of Naga National Council (NNC) under the leadership of AZ Phizo in 1946.

In 1975, the Government of India signed the Shillong Accord with a moderate faction of the Naga National Council (NNC). After a short spell of peace for two years, the dissident group led by Thuingaleng Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu and Shangnyu Shangwang Khaplang rejected the agreement outright, and went underground again, spending much of their time in Myanmar. They formed the NSCN in January 1980, and eight years later, in April 1988, it split into the NSCN (I-M) and the NSCN (K) over differences in initiating a dialogue process with the Indian government.

Now, when the Naga Peace Talks is said to be reaching the stage of final settlement, reports say the GOI will go ahead and sign the Final Accord with NNPGs, 14 Naga tribal Hohos and Nagaland Gaon Burah (GB) as signatories whether NSCN (IM) sticking to its demand for separate flag and constitution joins it or not.

If this happens to be true, will the Naga Peace Accord ultimately exclude the much hyped and publicized NSCN (IM) since the interests of the NNPGs and NSCN (IM) are not the same? Complexities and contradictions continue to play a role in the Naga issue affecting the rights and interests of the neighbouring states of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur particularly. Will the NSCN (IM) try to sabotage the Naga Final Accord since the GOI may have failed to evolve an inclusive peace settlement?

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