In a historic moment, the Indian Government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (I-M) (NSCN-I-M) on Monday signed a landmark peace accord in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was also present at the occasion.
Government&’s Interlocutor for Naga Peace Talks, R.N. Ravi, signed the Agreement on behalf of the Government of India. Isak Chishi Swu, chairman and Th. Muivah, General Secretary, were the signatories on behalf of the NSCN.
With this accord, the two sides successfully concluded the six-decade-long dialogue on the Naga political issue.
"The Naga political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of our people," said Modi. He admitted that "unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other".
Modi spoke of his vision for the transformation of the northeast region and expressed confidence that the agreement will open "a glorious new chapter for the Naga people to build a bright future for Nagaland".
The Naga agreement was the second major initiative in the Northeast — after the peace accord between the government and the Mizo National Front in 1986.
NSCN(I-M) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, signing the accord said, "I thank god for this momentous occasion.”
Speaking on behalf of the NSCN in honour of Indian leaders in his brief speech, Muivah said,”Naga people have great respect for Mahatma Gandhi." He also said, "We appreciate the statesmanship of Atal Bihar Vajpayee ji."
Also, expressing his appreciation and gratitude to Modi, Muivah said, "Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have come close to understand each other and worked out a new relation between the parties.
“Nagas will forever remember you (Modi) for your statesmanship," he added.
The entire top leadership of the NSCN (IM), including all members of the “collective leadership”, has fully endorsed the agreement and was present during the signing of the accord.
This agreement will end the oldest insurgency in the country. It will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the Northeast. It will advance a life of dignity, opportunity and equity for the Naga people, based on their genius and consistent with the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions, according to an official release.
Muivah, 81, is a key leader of the NSCN-IM which has been in talks with the central government since 1997 after a ceasefire was signed.
NSCN-IM chairman Isak Chishi Swu, who had also signed the agreement, could not make it to the ceremony as he is unwell and undergoing treatment at Fortis hospital in Delhi. His son Pasheto was, however, present.
Apart from NSCN-IM, there are three more major factions involved in insurgency in the state. These are NSCN-K, NSCN-U and NSCN-KZ. They are unlikely to accept this peace accord.
The Naga peace accord took many by surprise, with the prime minister making a dramatic tweet: "I will be making a special announcement at 6:30 PM from RCR."
The accord comes almost two months after 18 army soldiers were killed in a major ambush carried out by Naga militants in Manipur’s Chandel district. Following this, India had carried out an operation in Myanmar.
Nagaland became India’s 16th state on December 1, 1963. The mostly mountainous state is spread over 16,579 sq km and is home to 16 major tribes, each with distinct customs, language and dress.
Christian-dominated Nagaland is home to around 20 million people. It’s official language is English and Nagamese.
NSCN-IM claims to speak for the Nagas and has also been demanding a separate Greater Nagaland for themselves by carving an area which includes parts of Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
The entire top leadership of the NSCN-IM, including all members of the "collective leadership", has fully endorsed the agreement and was present during the ceremony.
The governemnt statement said it will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the norteast. It will advance a life of dignity, opportunity and equity for the Naga people, based on their genius and consistent with the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions.
Attempts were made from time to time to resolve the issue through discussion with representatives of the Naga people. A fresh attempt for a comprehensive resolution was initiated with the NSCN in 1997.
The new government on assuming power in May 2014 accorded highest priority to this lingering problem.