The NSCN(IM) has hardened its stand yet again on the issues of Flag and Constitution, but said the militant group is committed to solving the age-old insurgency problem.
In a statement, the NSCN(IM) said: “We believe no problem is too big or too hard to solve if it is tackled through mutual trust and respect by the parties involved. This problem cannot be left to be solved by time or left to be exploded. That will be too costly”.
Speculation is rife in various quarters that the Government of India may take up the Naga peace deal during the forthcoming Budget session of Parliament that would get underway later this month.
There is of course a reconciliatory tone in the NSCN(IM) statement – “We don’t see room for fighting between the two parties as of now.” It also said – “there is no war situation herein Nagaland now”.
Last year, military operations were launched to keep the disturbing law and order situation in the state under control.
Opportunity for peace
Maintaining that some of the past agreements between Naga groups and the Government of India have failed as they were not inked based on basic ‘Naga issues’, the NSCN (IM), in its January 17/21 statement also said -“If this second chance is missed again, government of India and NSCN will be answerable to the people of both parties and the generations to come in particular and to the peoples of the world in general”.
While the NSCN (IM), which is in parleys since 1997, had signed a Framework Agreement on August 3, 2005 with the peace interlocutor R N Ravi; another deal Preamble Agreement with Naga militant groups operating within the state of Nagaland was signed on November 17, 2017.
There is some latent rivalry between NSCN(IM) and NNPG, the umbrella group of various Naga groups.
The NSCN(IM) has organisational strength in Naga dominated areas of Manipur.
All these have made the peace process complex though the parleys are at the final stage, but pending a final agreement since the last few months.
Flag and Constitution: The hard issues!
There have been a series of clash and harsh press statements between Nagaland Governor R N Ravi and the NSCN (IM) since the last few months and obviously the issues of Flag and Constitution as raised by the NSCN(IM) has delayed the peace process so far.
In the meantime, veteran S C Jamir, former Nagaland Chief Minister, who also served as Governor in Goa, Maharashtra, Odisha and Gujarat, directed his tirade against “some people who were nowhere to be seen” during formative years in the 1960s were now “unrealistically muddying the fountainhead”.
The reference is to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-Isak Muivah) faction. The militant group NSCN (IM), which is in parleys with the Government of India since 1997, said last year “For the Nagas, the creation of Nagaland state as a result of manipulation and treachery has been recorded as an act of insult to the freedom fighters in particular and to the Naga people in general”.
The strong statement came close on the heels of a rather unusual but assertive statement from the state Governor R N Ravi, who in his Statehood Day (Dec 1, 2020) message , had said “Nagaland state is an abiding testimony to the triumph of the politics of peace over the politics of bloodshed”.
Last week yet again old warhorse Jamir wrote an opinion piece in local papers stating that – “The fundamental issue for Phizo (founding father of Naga movement) and the NNC under him was the sovereignty of Nagaland, and not necessarily the accompanying paraphernalia of flag and Constitution that gave distinctive identity to their perceived sovereign nation. The logic as we understand is that an independent sovereign nation has its own national flag and national Constitution.”
In other words, Jamir had sought to make light of the twin issues of separate Naga Flag and Constitution.
Of course, no government in Delhi worth its salt can give away these two fundamental aspects especially in the backdrop of hardline nationalism pushed by the Narendra Modi government. In fact, the BJP-led government in 2019 abrogated Article 370 that had given some special powers to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now on Jan 17, 2021, Sunday, the NSCN (IM) in their statement renewed the demands rather hardening the stance. It insists – “the Indo-Naga conflict is a political not military or domestic problem of India”.
“Nagas are not begging for sovereignty from India. Nagas are also a sovereign people. Sovereignty is not a commodity,” the statement runs adding, “The Nagas are not asking for a flag from India or others. Recognize it or not, the Nagas too have their own national flag. Naga flag is the symbol of their recognized unique entity and sovereignty. Nagas are not praying to India for a constitution. The Nagas too have their own constitution called Yehzabo, the foundation and source of their laws through which they have been running their own government for centuries”.
However, there is no denying that the NSCN(IM) is also in a complex situation and faces some pressure to bring in peace.
Not long ago, former Mizoram Governor Swaraj Kaushal, who was negotiator in Naga peace talks in 1998, has said that the NSCN(IM) was not being ‘realistic’ by raising the issues of Flag and Constitution and thus should not press for these.
Last year, NNPG convener N Kitovi Zhimomi has said more than once that the conglomerate is ready to sign a peace pact with the centre “anytime”.
He has also spoken against the idea of Naga militants (that would obviously include NSCN -IM) going back to jungles if the talks fail or get detailed and said — “The general notion that is infused into Naga society is that ‘If the talks fail, we go back to jungles’. This is easier said. The resultant of this move would be disastrous to our Naga brothers and their families”.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphio Rio, state’s longest serving Chief Minister, has for his part tried to drive home the point that any solution to the Naga insurgency should be worked out “under the spirit of mutual respect and commitment for peaceful co-existence”.
(Nirendra Dev, is Delhi based senior journalist and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and writes on strategic and foreign policy issues)
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