Naga Peace Accord: Centre misleading people, claims senior NSCN-IM leader as differences remain three months after deadline
The Naga issue faces an uncertain future with no progress being made on the Naga Peace Accord three months since the supposed conclusion of the peace talks between the NSCN-IM and the Central Government
Three months after the deadline (31 October 2019) to finalise the Naga Peace Accord ended, the Centre and the NSCN-IM have failed to work out their differences
Senior NSCN-IM leader and deputy kilonser Kehoi alleged that the Government of India is trying to 'mislead' the Naga people with no intent to work out the differences
Nagaland governor RN Ravi, who is also the interlocutor in the talks, recently raised some of the issues including attack on construction projects in his Republic Day speech
On the issue of taxation on trade and commerce in Nagaland, the NSCN-IM has maintained that 'legitimate taxation would continue by a legitimate government'
In Manipur, where the Nagas have a sizeable population, the Meiteis (Manipuris) have made it clear that the final Naga Peace Accord should not hurt Manipur’s interests
Three months since the supposed conclusion of the Naga peace talks between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland — Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), the Nagas face an uncertain future with no progress being made on the Naga political issue.
The Government of India had imposed a deadline to strike a deal with the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN — Nagaland governor RN Ravi had announced in July 2019 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi desired to conclude the talks within three months — however, the two sides are still negotiating to reach an agreement.
Drawing comparisons between Government of India’s policies and the recently signed Bodo Accord, C Singson, a senior leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland — Unification (NSCN-U), another faction of the NSCN, said that the Bodos could achieve their dream because the State of Assam did not object to the creation of ‘Bodoland’.
The Centre and Assam government on Monday signed the Bodo Accord with the four factions of the insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the All Bodo Students’ Union.
“Bodoland was given because people of Assam did not oppose, but we are still trying to convince the Meiteis in Manipur to let us have our Territorial Council in the state, which will uplift the economy of the tribal people without affecting the territorial integrity of Manipur,” Singson told this correspondent.
In Manipur, where the Nagas have a sizeable population, the Meiteis (the majority ethnic group in Manipur) have made it clear that the final Naga Peace Accord should not hurt Manipur’s interests. Earlier, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), the apex body of seven civil society organisations had called for a 'cease work agitation', and launched public alert rallies across the state, demanding disclosure of the Naga Framework Agreement signed between the Centre and the NSCN in August 2015.
“Almost 70 percent of land in Manipur belong to the tribal people. So, the Meiteis are naturally insecure… But, they must understand that there is no hidden agenda. It is for the welfare of the people. And if the territorial integrity is intact, I don't see what problem they have,” added Singson, indicating that the land factor is predominantly important for the Meitei community, and is another hurdle left to clear for the Nagas.
On Thursday, an 11-member team of NSCN-IM leaders led by ‘ato kilonser (prime minister)' and chief negotiator Thuingaleng Muivah met with the Naga peace talks interlocutor RN Ravi in Dimapur to discuss the issue. Sources said there will be more talks in the coming days. Though not present in the meeting convened on Thursday, senior NSCN-IM leader and deputy kilonser Kehoi said that the Government of India is trying to “mislead” the Naga people, with no intent to work out the differences.
“We have already submitted our final list of competencies, and discussing the points. But the Government of India is trying to betray its commitment to the Nagas and the NSCN government by avoiding core issue. If it cannot solve the Naga problem, we will stay away from India,” said Kehoi.
“The government will have to recognise the rights of the Nagas – the sudden appointment of RN Ravi as the Governor of Nagaland when he was already the talks interlocutor is a sinister idea and a policy of the Government of India. He had been meeting with civil society leaders and using them against us, but those in the grassroots support us. We have been fighting since the past 70 years, we cannot let anyone betray our rights,” he added.
It has been 22 years since talks between NSCN-IM and the government officially began in 1997. In August 2015, the Union government signed a framework agreement to seek a final solution with IM faction of the NSCN. The six Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) joined the talks later by signing a ‘Deed of Commitment’ with the government in 2017.
“The NNPGs have submitted their charter of demand to the Government of India – the talk was on, and it has been finalised. We have also shared the same with civil society (groups). There should be no confusion among the people,” said one of the NNPG members on condition of anonymity.
In November last year, 17 NSCN-IM members including one of its top leaders had quit the group to join the Working Committee of the NNPGs.
“The NSCN-IM was against the 1960 16 Point Agreement and the Shillong Accord in 1975 — they cannot repeat history. In the 21st Century, the political scenario is totally different. An armed confrontation will not bring any solution,” said a senior NSCN leader.
In his Republic Day address to the people of Nagaland conveyed through All India Radio and Doordarshan Kendra Kohima last Saturday, Governor Ravi said, “Some people, using guns, have tried to undermine the historical reality of the Nagaland state and its unique constitutional status. On this day, I remind them that violence has never succeeded and shall never succeed. Power through the barrel of gun is a proven failed ideology."
Terming "guns and corruption" as the"two evils that have taken an unacceptable toll on the Naga people", Ravi added, "In democratic India, the people are supreme. We resolve our differences through peaceful dialogue, not under the shadow of guns. I remind those with guns that any attempt to subdue the people with fear is doomed to fail and bound to recoil. I urge them to read the bold writings on the wall — and reformat themselves in tune with the reality before it is too late."
Governor Ravi also pointed out that “in order to ensure that our road projects do not suffer due to rampant extortion by gangs using guns, the state government has constituted a Highway Construction Protection Force in Nagaland Police. Also, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted for focused and determined investigation of extortion cases to bring the culprits to book”.
On the issue of taxation on trade and commerce in Nagaland, the NSCN-IM has maintained that "legitimate taxation would continue by a legitimate government".
In 2019, the NNPGs and the NSCN-IM have had as many as 18 meetings with the chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group (CFMG), Nagaland, Lieutenant General Shokin Chauhan. This year, meetings on ceasefire monitoring and other ground rules were held on 28-29 January between the NSCN groups and the ceasefire body. The recruitment of cadres in various NSCN factions was once again discussed — NSCN repeated that cadres have "willingly" joining the outfit and that there has been no forceful recruitment.
While asserting its commitment for 'territorial integration of Nagas under one political roof', the NSCN-IM had earlier said that the proposed pan-Naga Hoho will be a "common platform for Nagas to inculcate and foster the spirit of oneness and unity of all Nagas".
Observing the current situation in northeast India, a defence analyst said, “Such sandpaper agreements do not end anything. They will need another refinishing. The approach should be to find forever solution to the problems.”
Dingko, a Padma Shri awardee, is survived by his wife Babai Ngangoma, a son, and a daughter.
Dingko Singh endured a long battle with liver cancer and even fought COVID-19 last year.
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