New Delhi: The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) has said they have made their position “very clear” to the Government of India and are now waiting for the draft peace resolution.
Negotiations between Naga groups and the Centre have been going on for 23 years now to find a peaceful solution to the vexed issue that has spanned over six decades.
“We have made our position very clear and the Government of India was to give their response in writing. I think in the process of formulating that, maybe they are having second thoughts because they have to be very cautious,” executive member of the NSCN(I-M)’s steering committee V. Horam told ThePrint.
“We are waiting for the draft resolution,” he added.
The NSCN(I-M), one of the key players in the negotiations, had resumed informal talks with the central government in August this year — after a gap of nine months, which continued till October — for an “overall retouch” of what was being worked out between the group and the government for the resolution, Horam said.
ThePrint reached a spokesperson of Ministry of Home Affairs through WhatsApp for a comment on the matter, but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.
’35 rounds of talks held between August and October’
At the centre of the Naga issue has been the demand for a sovereign ethnic homeland, including Nagaland and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur, complete with a separate flag and Constitution.
During the informal talks with the central government this year, the NSCN(I-M) is said to have brought up the issue of the flag and Constitution.
“The prime minister had deputed IB (intelligence bureau) officials and an overall retouch (of what was being worked out between them and the government) was done and it was submitted to the highest political leadership of India,” Horam told ThePrint over phone.
“(During the talks and after as well) They assured us that they are giving a serious thought on the flag and Constitution and all other sets of competencies… they assured that both sides should explore every possible way to resolve the issues,” he said, adding that “altogether it has been a very good progress.”
According to Horam, 35 rounds of informal talks took place between August and October.
The talks, however, were carried out without Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, the official interlocutor, as the rebel group has been at loggerheads with him after he wrote to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, expressing concern over the “precarious law and order situation” in the state.
The NSCN(I-M) even blamed the governor for creating a “huge trust deficit” with the government.
Talks held this year ‘insignificant’
Meanwhile, the working committee of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), an umbrella body of seven other rebel outfits that joined the talks in 2017, said negotiations held this year between August and October are “insignificant”.
“We are very clear that all the negotiations have been done and everything is in black and white… besides altering a few words here and there, the government cannot alter anything that we have mutually agreed upon,” said a representative of the NNPG’s working committee, who didn’t want to be named.
Unlike the NSCN(I-M), the NNPGs haven’t been as rigid on the demand for a separate flag or Constitution, and believed that “what is not practical at the present time will be pursued through a democratic, political process”.
The representative said: “There are issues like the flag and the Constitution that are being brought up by the NSCN(I-M). But according to the interlocutor, these are not on the table of the Government of India.”
“We have finished all our negotiations and the people are anxiously waiting for an honourable and acceptable solution,” he added.
The NSCN(I-M) and Naga Hoho, which is Nagaland’s apex tribal body, said Governor Ravi has been a “controversial” and “confused” interlocutor.
On the eve of the 58th statehood day on 30 November, Ravi had said that “no single entity” should claim sole franchise over the Naga political process, whose “primary stakeholders” are “the traditional village institutions and tribal bodies”.
Following this, the NSCN(I-M) in a press release said he should “not bite off more than he can chew”.
Horam told ThePrint that “Ravi the interlocutor and Ravi the so-called governor of Nagaland state” are at odds.
“Ravi is backstabbing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and all those Indian leaders. It is against the commitments and the (2015) Framework Agreement that had been declared by PM Modi,” he said.
The 2015 Framework Agreement is said to be the first “breakthrough” in the 23-year-long peace dialogue.
H.K. Zhimomi, president of Naga Hoho, echoed similar sentiments about Ravi.
“He is a controversial interlocutor… and the government of India has also wrongly let him continue as the interlocutor because (by) holding dual posts, he himself is confused,” he said.
The NNPGs representative, however, hit out at the NSCN(I-M), saying they keep “shifting the goal posts” of the talks.