Like a bolt from the blue, the government of India announced the appointment of RN Ravi, the interlocutor for Indo-Naga peace talks, as the governor of Nagaland on Saturday, triggering debates and speculations among the people of the state and beyond. This is because the Nagas are hungry for a permanent solution to its several decades old political issue, even to the point of losing patience. The sudden change of guard has prompted many to ask: What will happen to Indo-Naga peace talks after Ravi leaves as the interlocutor? Will the move derail the peace process? What could be the intention of the Indian government to take such a dramatic move? Who will step into his shoes? Is the Centre taking the Nagas for a ride?
It is natural for the Nagas or any concerned citizens of the country to raise such questions for the simple reason that no Indian government interlocutor has taken the Naga peace process this far as Ravi has done and stalling it or even delaying it after reaching the pinnacle of talks could prove costly. The fact is that Nagas have confided in him and he has become a household name in this part of the country over the years because of his enthusiasm to solve the issue that’s long overdue. When the Indian government and the NSCN (IM) signed the Peace Accord, a framework agreement for Naga peace, on August 3, 2015, it appeared as though the solution to Naga political issue was at arm’s reach. Ravi was instrumental in taking the talks thus far. When the man, who the people thought was the right person to bring a respectable permanent solution, is taken away from the chair, it is only natural for the stakeholders to question the intention of the Indian government.
Modi government may appoint an official who is familiar with the history and socio-cultural fabrics of the Nagas, and the complex geographical problem to take the peace talks forward but it can take years for a new person to understand the complex nature of the Naga political issue. There are possibilities of the peace process being delayed or even getting lost in translation. If such a scenario arises, Ravi should step in and ensure that his successor begins from where he ended. Having held several rounds of consultative meetings with almost all the civil society organisations and prominent personalities in all Naga-inhabited areas to find a possible consensus that could be acceptable to all, he knows both the protagonists and antagonists, the bottlenecks and the possible consequences if the final deal is sealed. This makes him the perfect person to guide whoever steps into his shoes. He will now get the chance to work more closely with the Nagas as the governor but the public expect nothing less than a “permanent solution” to the Naga political issue from him. The Indian government could have given him the new assignment for a purpose – to continue to work for the Nagas till their aspirations are fulfilled. With almost all the insurgency groups having joined the negotiation table and the views of the common people heard under his tireless efforts, it has finally come down to political will to solve the Naga issue. Now, he should ensure that the peace talk is not derailed and be remembered as the “Peace Agent” of the Nagas by sealing the final deal under his guidance. The show must go one till a solution is arrived at.