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Modi govt to push ahead with Naga peace accord, ‘with or without NSCN (I-M)’

The 23-year-old dialogue for peace in Nagaland, home to India’s oldest insurgency, is expected to conclude Thursday, 31 October.

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New Delhi: The central government is intent on signing the Nagaland peace accord with the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), whether or not the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) is on board, ThePrint has learnt.

Security has subsequently been stepped up in Nagaland to prevent law-and-order situations in the wake of the peace accord, sources in the defence establishment said. 

The 23-year-old dialogue for peace in Nagaland, home to India’s oldest insurgency, is expected to conclude Thursday, 31 October, in keeping with a deadline set by PM Narendra Modi. 

This follows the historic framework agreement signed by the Modi government and the NSCN (I-M) in 2015 to “restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the northeast”.

However, on the threshold of an agreement, the NSCN (I-M) has cited a separate flag and constitution as a condition for peace — a demand the Modi government has refused to fulfil. 

This has stoked fears that the NSCN (I-M) may not be party to a final peace accord. If this happens, it is feared, the agreement is unlikely to hold and the Naga insurgency, which has claimed thousands of lives, will continue.   

However, a source in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said they will go ahead and sign a peace accord with the NNPG, a group of seven armed outfits that joined the dialogue in 2017, if the NSCN (I-M) “do not come on board by late evening Wednesday”.

According to the source, talks are underway with the NSCN (I-M) with an intention to find a “middle path”. However, if the group still disagrees, the government will go ahead and sign the accord with the NNPG.

“There will be no further delay. The accord will be signed, with or without them,” a home ministry official said, referring to the NSCN (I-M). 

“The government had earlier made its stand clear, they are determined to conclude the peace process without any delay, and endless negotiation under the shadow of guns is not acceptable,” the official added.

The official also pointed out that 17 NSCN (I-M) members, frustrated with the group’s rigidity, had joined the NNPG in the pursuit of peace.

Also read: Nagas are worried a peace accord without NSCN (I-M) won’t bring real peace

Security stepped up

Meanwhile, fearing violence from NSCN (I-M) cadres in case the outfit is left out, the MHA has given special instructions to step up security in Nagaland, a second source in the home ministry said. It is also said to have requested the Army’s involvement. 

Sources in the security and defence establishment said adequate arrangements had been made in Nagaland to prevent violence. However, they added that some eruptions are still likely to occur.

According to them, some cadres of the NSCN (I-M) have left the Hebron camp and are trying to establish another one along the Indo-Myanmar border. 

Over 400 armed cadres of the NSCN (I-M), it is said, have reached Myanmar, and are camping at Koki opposite Shera.

They are also said to be trying to establish contact with the Khaplang faction of the NSCN, which has been responsible for a string of attacks, including a 2015 Army ambush. 

However, sources privy to the Naga peace process said the NSCM (I-M) was unlikely to indulge in violence.

Asked about reports that the NSCN (I-M)’s “headquarters” in Hebron was being vacated, the sources dismissed them. “There is no such movement. The camp stays as it is,” one of the sources said.

Detailed consultations held

The Naga insurgency started in the early 20th century and was initially centred on the demand for a greater Nagaland or ‘Nagalim’ comprising the state and Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.

However, the NSCN (I-M) has reportedly agreed to give up its demands for sovereignty and settle for a solution that doesn’t require the state boundaries to be redrawn. 

According to the government, a mutually agreed draft comprehensive settlement, including all the substantive issues, is ready to be inked. However, it has accused the NSCN (I-M) of adopting a “procrastinating attitude to delay the settlement”.

In a statement issued earlier this month, the Government of India and Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, the interlocutor for peace talks, said the NSCN (I-M) had “mischievously raised the contentious symbolic issues of separate Naga national flag and constitution on which they are fully aware of the Government of India’s position”. 

It also said some NSCN (I-M) leaders, through various media platforms, were misleading people with “absurd assumptions and presumptions over what they have already agreed with the Government of India”.

Following this, Ravi held detailed consultations with some other representatives of Naga society on 18 October 2019 in Kohima. 

The meeting was attended by the apex leadership of 14 Naga tribes of Nagaland, all the minority non-Naga tribes of Nagaland, and Nagaland Gaon Burhas’ Federation (NGBF), the apex body for tribal village heads.  

“The framework agreement with the (NSCN I-M) and the agreed position with the working committee of the NNPGs were extensively shared with the leaders, pertinent issues discussed and doubts on competencies clarified,” a statement issued after the meeting said.

With inputs from Snehesh Alex Philip

Also read: While Kashmir continues to grab headlines, we must not ignore the growing anxiety in Nagaland



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