The Government of India’s (GoI) announcement of a ‘3-month deadline’ to conclude the Indo-Naga peace talks, if true, is now at its end stage with only a few weeks remaining. There is however a wide disconnect between what has been talked about—honorable and acceptable solution—and the ground reality, especially the way the proposed peace accord will be signed and implemented by the Government of India and the Naga Political Groups.
While some Naga elders have voiced out their concern on the proposed competencies, which is part of the peace agreement being worked out, The Naga Rising stands on the premise that this is also the time for our elders, intellectuals, tribe hohos and civil society take the onus on themselves and provide innovative ideas as to how to address the differences between the two Naga sides—the NSCN (IM) on the one hand and the Working Committee of the 7 NNPGs, especially when we are in the final stage for the talks to conclude, going on for 22 years with the NSCN (IM) and the last two years with the 7 NNPGs. The key question is the need for bringing all Naga National Groups as part of the peace process and address differences that exist among them
It may also be added that the mandate for political negotiation with the Government of India rests essentially with the Naga National Groups. This is a position that no Naga has questioned in the past and will not today.
The Naga Rising had written to the Prime Minister earlier through the Governor’s office with the proposal to appoint a Group of Naga Interlocutors who could mediate between the warring groups and help in facilitating convergence and conclusion of the talks.
Till date there has been no response from the Interlocutor to the idea of a Naga group playing the role of uniting the divergent Naga groups, although the Interlocutor has on record expressed concern over the prevailing division among the Nagas. Nevertheless, we continue to repose faith in the Interlocutor to take appropriate measures and to respond to the present situation when there are parallel talks going on.
Now therefore The Naga Rising wish to bring to light some of our concerns in the lead up to the October 31 supposed deadline and other related matters of public interest.
Recently it was officially notified in an order issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval has been allocated the issue of Naga talks. Likewise, it was reported that the Union Home Ministry has “rejected the demand of a separate flag and constitution for Nagaland”.
Here, two things need to be made clear to the Naga public by the Government of India. First is the nature of role being played by the Union Home Ministry, especially at this stage of the peace process when it is common knowledge that the present talks under the Narendra Modi government is under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister. So, where does the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) fit in?
Also, what is the exact role of present Interlocutor RN Ravi, also the Governor of Nagaland since with the latest PMO order, it is the NSA who has been allocated to handle the Naga talks. Will the Interlocutor now report to the NSA and not to the Prime Minister directly? Is Delhi going to downgrade the Naga case from a political one to a law and order issue?
The Naga Rising would like to state that the Indo-Naga peace talks cannot be held hostage to the security and military establishment and that the political leadership in the Government must intervene and take lead in resolving the Naga issue.
The political commitment and assurances as expressed through recognition of the ‘uniqueness of Naga history and situation’ ’ and the ‘historical and political rights of the nagas to self- determine their future in consonant with their distinct identity’, these must be honoured.
The other point that needs clarification is the reported deadline of October 31. On the contrary, some reports suggest that the ongoing peace talks is planned to be concluded by ‘the end of this year’. As recently as September 19, the ruling party’s (BJP) National General Secretary Ram Madhav did not mention the October 31 deadline but only gave a general time frame to conclude the Naga issue by ‘the end of this year’.
Is the reported ‘deadline’ therefore an attempt to force a solution? Will the solution within the ‘deadline’ be inclusive? If not the GoI will be contravening its own position that there is only one peace process and the Naga issue cannot be fragmented. Such a counter move will sow the seed of another cycle of violence and hostility.
While expressing the above concerns on the immediate challenges facing us, The Naga Rising wish to put on record our position that was conveyed to the Naga leadership during a close door interaction with the Emissary to the 7 NNPGs on September 19 and the public consultation meeting with the NSCN (IM) top leadership on September 21. The following points and concern were communicated to the Naga Political groups:
— We stand for conclusion of the present peace talks as the Naga public is desirous of an early solution
— We seek for convergence of the parallel negotiations taking place and a peaceful atmosphere to prevail both in the run-up to the signing of the agreement and thereafter.
In our earlier statements The Naga Rising had appealed to both the Government of India and the Naga negotiators to explore the full range of possibilities towards a peaceful agreement by exhibiting upmost flexibility and accommodation. Furthermore, India and the Nagas must look to understand each other’s needs and aspirations as the only way forward towards an honourable solution.
The Naga Rising also reiterates its earlier position taken that any solution must be mutual and agreed by both sides and it cannot be forced upon the other.
The Naga Rising demands that the Government of India must come out with an open and clear-cut direction on how it intends to sign and conclude the present negotiations against the backdrop of what it has already stated that “there is only one peace process…and eventually there will be only one agreement as we cannot fragment the Naga issue.”
After stating the Government of India’s position on the general contours of a possible agreement, including the 3-month time frame that was disclosed by the Interlocutor himself, RN Ravi, who is also the Governor of Nagaland, has remained silent on the future course of the peace process.
However we must give him the benefit of doubt with the hope that a clear roadmap is presented to conclude the talks along with some form of power and responsibility sharing arrangement among the Naga Political Groups. This will ensure a smooth and peaceful transfer of power and competencies based on the political arrangement being worked out.
The Prime Minister’s message to the international community at UN General Assembly on September 27 was “Harmony and Peace.” We hope the Prime Minister has the same message for the Nagas in finding a solution to the Indo-Naga peace talks.
The Naga Rising
Hukavi T Yeputhomi,
Moie Bonny Konyak,
Ngukato K Tsuipu,