Views & Reviews
Naga Peace Talk: Political Imperatives
Naga people’s search for recognition of their rights to live as an independent entity has almost reached a century. The first memorandum was submitted by the Naga Club to the Simon Commission on 10th. Jan 1929.
The then British India administrator Sir Robert Reid, Governor of Assam and Sir Reginald Coupland a British constitutional expert successively proposed creation of Crown Colony comprising of Naga hills, areas bounded by NEFA and Chittagong Hills of East Bengal and the adjoining areas of Myanmar. Though the plan could not fructify, the rights of the Nagas to live together as a people was registered and recognised by the then British India Government.
The government of India’s effort to solve the Naga issue once and for all by granting statehood to some sections of the Nagas in 1960 through the signing of the 16 Point Agreement between the government of India and the Naga Peoples Convention could neither solve the Naga issue nor bring peace to the Naga homeland.
Violent armed confrontations escalated in all the Naga areas even after the creation of Nagaland state. Prominent church leaders Rev. Longri Ao and Kenneth Kerho intervened as peace brokers between the FGN (Federal Government of Nagaland) and Government of India and through their relentless efforts, Peace Agreement was signed on 6th September 1964. A three member Peace Mission was also set up, comprising of Mr. Jay Prakash Narayan, renowned politician, Mr. B. P Chaliha, former Chief Minister of Assam and Rev. Michael Scott a British missionary to negotiate peace between the warring parties. Through their initiative Peace talk was started in 1966. The Peace Mission submitted a Peace Proposal containing 17 points was submitted on 20th December 1964 to both the parties for consideration. However, the Peace Talk between Government of India and the Naga leaders failed to yield any positive result as both the parties were not ready to budge from their respective stance. Consequent to failure in the Peace Talks, the hard earned ceasefire also abruptly ended in 1967 without any constructive result.
After a lapse of about eight years a Peace Accord known as the Shillong Accord was signed between some representatives of the Federal Government of Nagaland and Mr. L.P Singh, the Governor of Assam in Shillong. The news about the signing of Peace Accord was not only rejected but was also considered as an act of treason by the Naga rebel leaders who were still stationed in Myanmar.
The top Naga leaders namely Mr. Isak Chishi Swu, Vice President of NNC, Mr. S. S Khaplang, Vice President of NNC and Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah took a resolute stand to continue the struggle for freedom and formed a new organisation known as the NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagalim) with Mr. Isak Chishi Swu as the Chairman, Mr. S S Khaplang as the Vice Chairman and Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah as the General Secretary in January 1980. All the cadres who had faith in Mr. Isak, Mr S S Khaplang and Mr. Muivah joined them in the continued mission.
The split of NSCN into two groups in 1988 gave birth to two NSCN factions, one led by Isak and Muivah and the other by Khaplang. The split was followed by hunting down of the cadres loyal to Isak and Muivah which compelled Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah to leave their camps in Eastern Nagaland.
On 23rd January 1993 the NSCN led by Mr. Isak Chishi Swu and Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah was admitted to the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations Peoples Organisation) at the Hague in the Netherlands.
After NSCN made an unprecedented foray into international politics, the government of India was compelled to do a soul searching, particularly in its dealing with the oldest insurgency movement in South East Asia. Late Prime Minister Mr. PV Narasimha Rao had a secret meeting with Late Mr. Isak Chishi Swu and Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah in Paris on 12th June 1995, which broke the ice and laid the ground for subsequent Indo Naga peace talks.
On 3rd February, 1997 former Prime Minister Mr. Deve Gowda met Mr. Isak Swu and Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah at Zurich in Switzerland. It was the magnanimity of Mr. Deve Gowda, which changed the course of the Naga struggle for their rights from war to the path of peace. Subsequently the Ceasefire Agreement between the NSCN and the government of India was signed on 25th July 1997.
The Ceasefire Agreement was signed based on 3 basic conditions.
1. The Peace Talks will be unconditional
2. The Talks will be at the highest level
3. The Talks will be held outside India
A significant achievement for the Naga freedom movement was made by the personal visit of Late Prime Minister Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Kohima in October 2003, where he met thousands of Naga delegates from different parts of the country including Myanmar and announced that the Nagas have a Unique History.
Former Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh during his tenure had said that the solution to the Naga problem has to be an out of the box solution and that the government of India will go extra miles for this purpose.
Successive Prime Ministers of India had accorded utmost sincerity and commitment toward finding a lasting and honourable solution to the protracted Naga Political movement.
The incumbent Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi as soon as he took over the top executive post of the country had personally demonstrated his statesmanship and firm commitment toward finding a lasting and honourable peace to the protracted Naga political struggle by signing the FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT on 3rd August 2015, putting an end to speculations that Indo Naga Peace Talk will never be able to see the light of the day as peace negotiation have been dragging on for eighteen long years since 1997.
Mr. R. N Ravi, the interlocutor who played a crucial role in signing the Framework Agreement was rewarded by his political bosses by appointing him as the Governor of Nagaland in addition to the existing responsibility as interlocutor of India.
After his appointment as the Governor of Nagaland, Mr R N Ravi unilaterally issued a deadline of 31st October 2019 for signing the agreement. He also threatened that if NSCN ( IM) refused to sign the Final Agreement by 31st October 2019 he would go ahead with other groups who are ready to sign the Final Agreement. The Naga people who have been yearning for return of peace for many years were shocked by the arm twisting tactics being played by the interlocutor himself against its negotiating partner.
Mr. R N Ravi unlike his predecessors who refrained from meddling into the internal differences among different factions, had taken full advantage of the situation to create confusions and hatred among the Naga people in general and among the Naga Nationalist groups in particular instead of bringing about reconciliation and unity among them.
In the name of inclusiveness, in spite of his promise that there would be only one peace agreement, Mr. R. N Ravi went ahead to sign a Preamble Agreement known as the AGREED POSITION with the NNPGs with the sole aim to neutralise the Framework Agreement.
The Naga people had looked up to Mr. Ravi as a peacemaker and man of noble heart who has special concern for the Naga People who have been fighting for their rights for almost a century.
However, on the contrary, the highly respected Governor of Nagaland who is also the interlocutor had shattered the hope of the Naga people by undermining the Political dialogue held at the highest level for the last 23 years.
Of late, there was serious allegation leveled against Mr. R N Ravi for breaching the trust by sharing the contents of the Framework Agreement which have been kept as a top secret document by both the parties and also doctoring the contents of the Framework Agreements. These unbecoming acts of Mr. Ravi have hampered the progress of Peace negotiation particularly with the NSCN (IM) as it has refused to continue Peace negotiation with Mr. R N Ravi.
Another highly disturbing action initiated by the Governor’s office was asking all the government employees working in Nagaland Government to declare the names and particulars of their relatives who are working with various insurgent groups. The state government was asked to implement the order in the month of June 2020. This controversial order if strictly enforced in Nagaland could create a lot of social unrest.
By terming the Naga Political groups who are engaged in Peace Negotiation with Government of India as “gangsters” and “extortionist” in his letter to Mr. Neiphiu Rio, Chief Minister of Nagaland on 16th June 2020 had angered every Naga not to speak of Naga Political groups.
It appears that Mr. Ravi as an interlocutor has failed to understand that the ongoing peace negotiation with the Naga Nationalist groups is aimed at ushering in an era of peace which will bring an end to all kinds of violence.
What the Naga people wants both Government of India and the Naga Peace negotiators to take note of is the fact that the Naga people have suffered too long for their rights and dignity, hence they deserve fulfillment of their rights in full and not a token solution. As the Shillong Accord of 1975 has demonstrated, coerced half baked solution will not bring lasting peace in this very strategic North East Region of the country but lead to resurgence of various movements which will be detrimental to the security and developmental concerns of the nation.
Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and his council of Ministers are urged to exercise utmost sincerity, sagacity and strong political will in bringing a final settlement to the protracted political movement.
Former Lok Sabha MP