Ever since the Framework Agreement was signed between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), leaders of various Naga civil society groups had been urging the parties to make the contents of the accord public. Some concerned Members of Parliament even questioned the government for keeping the contents under wraps but the government replied that it was not proper to divulge them when talks were going on. In fact, no legislator from Nagaland knew about the contents of the accord. For the record, the Nagaland Assembly never passed any resolution to make the contents of the Framework Agreement public except urging the parties involved to expedite the peace process for an early solution that should be honourable and acceptable to the Naga people.
Soon after the Framework Agreement, interlocutor RN Ravi, however, held a series of consultative meetings with Naga civil society groups on 26 August 2015 in Nagaland and also with Nagaland legislators the following day. In all his statements, he made it clear that the government’s approach to the Naga political solution would be “comprehensive” and there would be no “piecemeal solution.” His consultative meetings with the civil society groups of Manipur at Imphal, and later with those from Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh, were noteworthy. It was very clear from his responses that some kind of “autonomy” would be granted to the Nagas of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur as part of the resolution of the Naga issue, though he did not elaborate the type of “autonomy.”
In the meantime, Naga people’s patience was running out as they didn’t see any sign of a resolution forthcoming even after two decades of the peace process. They became more agitated and restless when Narendra Modi’s first tenure as the Prime Minister was about to end.
They were worried since in politics, there is no guarantee that one will be coming back to power. Yet, Modi and other central leaders kept saying that the solution to the Naga political issue was at an “advanced stage”. Even President Ram Nath Kovind, while inaugurating the Hornbill Festival at Kisama in Nagaland on 1 December 2017, announced that the solution to the Naga issue was very near.
Ravi could also bring the six Naga National Political Groups to the “negotiating table” in 2017. In fact, the civil society, state government and political parties in Nagaland had been urging him to involve all the groups and stakeholders while working for a permanent solution to the Naga issue.
By the middle of 2018, it was clear that the National Democratic Alliance government wasn’t prepared to resolve the Naga political issue before the Parliamentary elections to the 17th Lok Sabha. Many were worried about the fate of the Naga peace process if Modi failed to return to power.
Their reckoning was that if the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government with Modi as the Prime Minister failed to come back, the peace process would suffer again. It is true that if another political leader had become the Prime Minister, he/she would have needed time to restudy the whole issue. Moreover, a new interlocutor had to be appointed for re-examining the peace process before the resumption of talks.
But Modi and his party came back to power earlier this year in emphatic fashion. The Naga people thought then that some kind of settlement would come with Modi at the helm of affairs at the Centre. They expected that the government would move closer to the solution after frequent talks with the NSCN (IM) and other NNPGs. They hoped that the PM would keenly watch the peace process with Ravi wrapping up talks for clinching the final agreement.
While the Naga people’s happiness on Modi returning to power is yet to go away, they were completely taken aback by the appointment of interlocutor Ravi as the Governor of Nagaland. Then news came in that he would also continue in the post of interlocutor and hold talks with the NSCN (IM) and other NNPGs.
But then, Ravi came to Nagaland with a message that shook up the NSCN (IM) and other organisations. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi desires to conclude the Naga issue in three months,” he informed the NSCN (IM) and the people of Nagaland. That deadline lapsed last week.
Ravi disclosed the contents of the Framework Agreement at a meeting with representatives of 14 civil society groups of Nagaland held at the Hotel Japfu, Kohima on 18 October. There, he criticised the NSCN (IM) for adopting a procrastinating attitude to delay the settlement by raising the “contentious symbolic issues of separate Naga national flag and constitution on which they are fully aware of the Government of India’s position.” This disclosure has created widespread discord.
NSCN (IM) President Q Tuccu, however, said that the Indian authorities dealing with the talks were also “well informed that the Indo-Naga political solution without the Naga flag and constitution is not conclusive and that will create a room for future headache.” If they had disclosed the contents of the Framework Agreement after a year of its signing, things would not have been as complicated. However, there is still room for understanding and that is the first step to find a middle path.
If the Government of India’s attempt to strike a final accord with the NSCN (IM) and the NNPGs after decades of political talks creates fear and anxiety in the minds of people, then it cannot be called a solution for peace. Their greatest fear is the differences that may likely emerge among the Naga groups. That is the reason why the Naga people have been urging Delhi to involve all the groups while resolving the issue. The Naga people truly want peace in their land. It is hoped that Delhi can give them that.
The writer is author of Narendra Modi and Naga Peace Accord, and editor of North East Press Service, published from Kohima.