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Key Naga groups to meet & decide ‘further course on talks’, Modi govt calls for peace

NSCN (I-M) set to hold internal meeting, and another with NNPGs. Modi govt sources say its emphasis is to make sure there's no law & order situation after killing of 14 civilians.

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New Delhi: The fallout of the Army’s killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland’s Mon district continues, with members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) — a key player in the negotiations for a long-pending Naga peace accord — set to have an internal meeting soon. Then, the NSCN (I-M) is set to meet the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) to decide on the “further course of the peace talks” with the Narendra Modi government, ThePrint has learnt.

“The leaders are yet to meet. We are in a state of mourning. A meeting will soon happen to discuss the further course,” a member of the NSCN (I-M), who did not wish to be identified, told ThePrint.

Asked if the killings will have any bearing on the talks, the member said, he could not comment on that right now. “This is one of the most unfortunate incidents. Let us see what the leadership decides in the upcoming meetings,” he said.

The Naga insurgency and efforts at a peace deal

The Naga insurgency started in the early 20th century and was initially centered on the demand for a greater Nagaland or ‘Nagalim’, comprising the state and Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. The central government had, however, ruled out any disintegration of these states to merge the Naga-inhabited areas with the existing state of Nagaland.

The NSCN (I-M) is the largest Naga group that had signed a framework agreement with the Centre in 2015 to end the decades-old insurgency in Nagaland. However, it later said it would not execute the agreement until the Modi government accepted the Naga people’s demand for a separate constitution and flag. 

The Centre rejected the demands and instead offered alternatives such as a separate flag for cultural activities, which the group refused to accept, thereby putting the accord in limbo. 

In August last year, the NSCN (I-M) also accused former Nagaland governor R.N. Ravi, an interlocutor in the peace talks since 2014, of deleting a keyword from the original document to “suit his interpretation”, and sought his removal. In September 2021, Ravi resigned as the interlocutor.  

Unlike the NSCN (I-M), the NNPGs, which comprise of seven insurgent groups, have been supporting the peace process till the last round of talks in October.

The Modi government, however, is now uncertain if the accord will be signed any time soon, sources said.

Also read: ‘Army tried to flee, fired when we tried to carry bodies’ — Mon Nagas reject ‘self-defence’ theory

Priority to maintain peace

According to a source in the Ministry of Home Affairs, since Saturday, a senior ministry official has met a few Naga leaders to ease the situation. But nothing has been discussed about the Naga Accord.

“These killings have sparked anger among people, which could be used to further strengthen the anti-India and pro-Nagalim sentiment by some groups,” the source said. “The priority is to maintain peace in the area and ensure that no law and order situation occurs.” 

A second source said that it is important to keep in touch with the Naga groups and “bring them on board”.

“Nothing will be discussed about the peace accord and this is not the time,” the source said. “We need to bring on board the Naga groups that can help us assuage the situation in the current scenario.”

Anger against the killings

While the NSCN (I-M) is giving little away in terms of the Naga accord, it has released a statement slamming the security forces’ actions.    

In the statement released soon after the killings, the NSCN (I-M) said the Indian security forces have brought about a “toxic storm of bloody dust in Nagalim”, which “is not a new thing but a repeat of the past to suppress the legitimate Naga political movement”. 

The statement said that it was a “black day” for the Nagas and that the “Indian security forces will never be able to wash its hands off (sic), smeared with the blood of innocent Nagas no matter how it come out with a nonsensical statement which is linked to credible intelligence reports of movement of insurgents”. 

It further said that killing was the work of the “trigger-happy 21st Para Commandos/Assam Rifles.”

“The Nagas had in the past faced trigger-happy Indian security forces, acting with impunity under the Government of India’s Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act/AFSPA which is mainly used against the Naga political movement,” it said.

“Under this situation we find it difficult to use the right words to condemn the killing of unarmed civilians and it cannot be justified in any manner in this part of the civilised world (Nagalim) where the Indo-Naga peace process has seen much progress,” the statement added. 

Also read: Nagaland BJP calls civilian killings in Mon ‘genocide & war crime’, wants AFSPA repealed


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