New Delhi: The much-awaited peace accord between the Modi government and various Naga groups is undergoing a churn of its own, with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) being increasingly marginalised and other Naga groups taking centrestage.
The peace process re-initiated during the first tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
The talks have hit a roadblock with the NSCN(I-M) adopting an aggressive posture as it is increasingly getting isolated with a number of other Naga groups taking centrestage and pushing for culmination of the peace process.
Among them is one of the lesser known but one of the most influential organisations in the state — the Nagaland Gaon Bura Federation — which is the traditional tribal body of all the state’s village chiefs.
Representatives of the federation had met Governor Ravi at the Jafu Hotel in Kohima on 18 October, 2019, when they unambiguously conveyed their position to the Centre and to the Naga armed groups that a final settlement must be reached without any delay on whatever had been mutually agreed. These included the Naga armed groups handing over their weapons and the unresolved issues being settled in a peaceful, democratic manner post-settlement.
On Tuesday, the federation issued a statement after meeting with the NSCN (I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah. “The position of NGBF remains unchanged,” the statement said, adding that the final peace accord should be signed “as per the 31st October 2019 understanding arrived at between GOI (Government of India) and two Naga negotiating groups — the Framework Agreement (FA) with NSCN (I-M) and the agreed position with WC and NNPGs”.
The NNPGs are a group of seven Naga outfits and organisations that along with the NSCN (I-M) are involved in the talks with the Centre.
On 28 August, the federation had issued a statement, which set off alarm bells in the NSCN (I-M). “There is a perpetual tendency within the NSCN (I-M) leadership to brand Naga leaders, tribes, organisations, other civil societies as anti-Nagas and traitors for not towing their political ideology,” the statement said.
“This is a mockery of Nagaland… God fearing leaders should not insist their words and actions are final in the Naga context. The people’s voice and will is final. NGBF is opposed to dictate that stifles people’s sentiment.”
The NNPG has also made it clear that it is not in the favour of delaying the peace accord.
Also read: Modi govt has ‘no plans’ to oust interlocutor Governor Ravi despite demand from Naga groups
Centre assessing shift in paradigm
The Naga groups coming out openly in favour of the peace accord has opened up new avenues for the government as the NSCN (I-M) seems to be stalling the process, say highly placed sources.
The issues of a separate flag and Constitution, which are being presented as roadblocks for closing the deal, had been sorted out but are being raised now only as a ploy to delay the peace process, said a top government functionary.
According to a top official associated with the process, the Centre is of the view that to bring permanent peace to the state, which has witnessed insurgency since the 1950s, it is important to engage with all stakeholders.
Although this is also what has miffed the NSCN (I-M), which claimed to be sole representative of the Nagas, the organisation appears, according to those associated with the peace process, to be fast losing ground as it is being challenged by some of the most deep-rooted organisations in Nagaland.
According to high-level government functionaries, the Centre is looking at the groundswell of support from the grassroots level positively. If the NSCN (I-M) continues to stall the process, the possibility of a peace accord with the rest of the Naga groups could not be ruled out though all efforts are being made to take everyone on board until the last moment.
A belligerent NCSN (I-M)
The NSCN (I-M)’s recent belligerent approach, which includes seeking the removal of Governor Ravi, could be a result of it sensing this isolation and possibility of it being left out of the peace deal.
The Centre and the NSCN (I-M) had signed a ‘Framework Agreement’ in 2015 with Ravi as one of the signatories as a representative of the Government of India. The other two signatories were the NSCN(I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and then chairman Isak Chishi Swu, who has since passed away.
The NSCN (I-M) anger at Governor Ravi stems from the fact that after he took over the post in July 2019, he effectively dismantled all the ‘town commands’ of the Naga outfit, which were present in every district headquarters and were illegally raising money through extortion in the name of levying ‘taxes’. Ravi also instituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe all such illegal actions, bringing the NSCN (I-M)’s activities under the scanner.
R.N. Ravi, a 1976-batch IPS officer, retired as special director, Intelligence Bureau, in 2012. In August 2014, he was appointed as the chairman, Joint Intelligence Committee, in the National Security Council Secretariat in the PMO. Later he was designated the deputy NSA with Ajit Doval as the National Security Advisor. In September 2014, he was also appointed as the Government of India’s representative and interlocutor for the Naga peace talks.
Also read: Nehru, JP, Ambedkar — Pranab Mukherjee wasn’t first non-Sangh leader to connect with RSS
The writer is associated with RSS. He is research director at think-tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra. He has authored two books on the RSS