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‘Naga flag, Constitution not negotiable’: NSCN-IM calendar asserts as peace talks in limbo

Recognition of the two symbols by Centre is best & only solution to Naga political issue, says NSCN-IM leader Kehoi Swu. But an ex-civil servant asserts outfit is fooling Nagas.

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Guwahati: Reinforcing its core demands of the Naga flag and Constitution, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isaak Muivah (NSCN-IM) has released a 2023 calendar replete with pictures of its activities undertaken last year.

The January and February pages open with the picture of the Naga national flag captioned ‘Naga National Flag & Constitution (Yehzabo) not negotiable’.

“Naga Flag is a symbol of national pride and identity, a symbol of our history — one people and one nation. It provides us spiritual guidance and reminds us of the courage and sacrifices of Naga martyrs. It reflects national sentiment and honour,” the description reads, highlighting the importance of both the flag and the Yehzabo.

“The Constitution (Yehzabo) is a crowning achievement of Naga political movement (History). It is our laws and beliefs by which our God’s given Naga Nation is governed. It lays down the principles and guidelines to show the way forward to our future,” says the calendar released Sunday.

Senior NSCN-IM leader and deputy kilonser (cabinet minister) Kehoi Swu told ThePrint that the recognition of the Naga flag and Constitution is the best and the only solution.”

Nagaland will vote on 27 February — the third election since the Centre and the NSCN-IM signed the 2015 ‘Framework Agreement’. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in coalition with Neiphiu Rio led-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, had campaigned on the poll slogan of ‘Election for Solution’ in 2018.

Talks between the NSCN-IM and the Government of India have entered the 26th year, but the peace process remains stuck over the outfit’s demand for a separate Naga national flag and Constitution in recognition of the “Naga history spanning over 70 years”.

While the peace talks supposedly concluded on the Centre’s deadline of October 2019, the NSCN-IM reportedly said in July last year that there is no documentary evidence to support it.

Retired IAS officer K.K. Sema told ThePrint that the NSCN-IM was fooling the Naga people, trying to convince that sovereignty was achieved.

“The situation is not moving forward at all. They are still sticking to the flag and constitution and it’s a useless effort to try and convince NSCN-IM that using a flag for cultural purpose is of no consequence. They say they have achieved sovereignty — a sovereign nation does not ask another country to recognise its flag and constitution. It comes as a byproduct of that sovereignty, something that nobody can stop you from having,” Sema said. 

The retired civil servant said the outfit simply does not want a solution to the Naga issue. “They would not give up on this demand because they do not want a solution. For if there is a solution, Thuingaleng Muivah (NSCN-IM general secretary), as a Manipuri Naga, cannot become the CM or the PM of a ‘Naga Nation’ in the state of Nagaland, in the absence of integration of Naga inhabited areas (Nagaland and neighbouring states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur),” he added. 

Also Read: Same strategy, arrangement with CM Neiphiu Rio’s party — How BJP hopes to ace Nagaland polls

‘Rio govt has messed up’

When it comes to other stakeholders, Naga civil society groups and tribal bodies do not think much of the central government’s approach.

In February, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), a group of seven Naga insurgent outfits which were party to the peace talks, said that even after five years of governance and the conclusion of negotiations, the Centre and the State Government continue to play with the Naga sentiments.

GPRN/NSCN deputy kilonser Hekiye Swu, who is also an NNPG member, told ThePrint that the Neiphiu Rio government has “messed it up”.

“The government has not been able to find any solution, but continues to hold elections. The NNPGs have already signed an agreement with the government, but NSCN-IM has not been serious about achieving a permanent solution, sticking to their demand of a flag and constitution. New Delhi should understand this,” said Swu. 

Considered to be the ‘mother of all insurgent groups’ in the Northeast, the NSCN-IM was unofficially in talks with the Centre since 1994 as the key negotiator. The formal talks began only in 1997, which initially took place at different parts of the world before New Delhi and Nagaland.

In August 2015, the Centre signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM. It officially extended the scope of talks with the NNPGs by signing a ‘Deed of Commitment’ in 2017.

In another page of the calendar, the NSCN-IM wrote about “the unpredictable situation created when Government of India started to show disdain for the Framework Agreement.” A photo from 31 May last year was incorporated with the description: “ such flip-flopping on Framework Agreement forced NSCN to call for Emergency National Assembly on 31 May, 2022 at General Headquarters, Naga Army, when a resolution was passed to uphold and protect Nagas’ unique history and national principle at any cost…”

Among the various events highlighted in the calendar are the “People’s Rally: A call for peace”, organised by the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) in New Delhi and the Naga Solidarity Walk 2022, organised by the Global Naga Forum (GNF) under the theme ‘One People One Destiny’ in Nagaland.

Signifying a joint commitment to the Naga political cause, the last page carries a picture of the leaders of NSCN-IM and NNPGs, sitting together with the members of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) led by its convenor Wati Aier. 

Sema, however, said NFR’s efforts will have “no tangible conclusion in terms of a solution, as there are internal and critical differences between the IM and NNPGs, for which they would not see eye-to-eye on many issues.” 

“They have fundamental differences — the NSCN-IM is pressing hard on the issue of pan Naga Hoho, which the seven NNPGs might not agree. I wonder how the government of India intends to bring them together and sign one principle agreement,” he said.

On the other hand, FNR founding-convenor Wati Aier told ThePrint that it is only because of their differences that both NSCN-IM and NNPGs have come together through the association to find a solution. 

“There is nothing new on the positions of both the political groups. And if there were no differences, there would have been no requirement of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation. We must agree among each other that we are different, but even in the midst of differences, we can cooperate. It’s a process and we are working at it,” Wati said, adding that the Centre should give serious thought in finding a permanent solution to the Naga issue. 

“The government already knows about NSCN-IM’s position, but I think both sides can come to a win-win position,” he told ThePrint.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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