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When Delhi’s Negotiator for Naga Talks Becomes Nagaland Governor

By EMN Updated: Aug 24, 2019 12:51 am

When the Naga people are wondering what would be the fate of on-going Naga political negotiations that have been going on between the NarendraModi Government and Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), the appointment of RN Ravi, Interlocutor for the Naga political talks, as new Governor of Nagaland has created a flutter in the minds of the Naga people. Even leaders of NNPGs and Nagaland lawmakers were taken aback by the appointment, worrying who will be the next Interlocutor for the talks.

There are mix-reactions on Ravi’s appointment as Governor of Nagaland. Some said it was a ploy of the Modi government to delay the settlement of the protracted Naga issue. They feel that being Governor of Nagaland, Ravi will not be able to hold political negotiations with Naga armed groups. He is constitutional head representing the President of India, and how will he be holding talks with the groups, they asked. He has been holding political negotiations with NNPGs ever since his appointment as Interlocutor by the Modi Government in 2014.

NSCN (IM) President Q Tuccu and General Secretary ThMuivah, in their recent letter to Prime Minister Modi, registered their displeasure on the unexpected shifting of Ravi from the interlocutorship to governorship. The two leaders also accused the Modi government of reducing the “Indo-Naga problem” to a mere Governor’s level.

They reminded Modi of commitments given by successive Prime Ministers of India on the “Indo-Naga” problem that “talks shall be at the highest level; venue of the talks shall be outside India (in a third country) and without any pre-condition.”

“We have come to India on the invitation of the Prime Minister of India and several rounds of talks have been successfully held and the 3rd August 2015 Framework Agreement (FA) was signed in your presence. However, we are surprised that the talk is now reduced to a mere Governor’s level,” the two leaders said in the letter. Their reaction is that newly appointed Governor, Ravi, will continue to hold talks with NNPGs for resolving the Naga issue.

Interestingly, there is no official statement from Delhi that he will continue to function as interlocutor for the talks nor is there any information from them for appointment of a fresh interlocutor.

However, many political leaders in Nagaland are optimistic that Ravi as Governor of Nagaland and also as interlocutor for the talks will be able to resolve the Naga issue soon.

RajyaRabha MP from Nagaland, KG Kenye said Ravi’s continuing as interlocutor should be appreciated by the people of Nagaland.

Unlike other Governors of the States in the country, “Nagaland Governor enjoys some special powers in the State,” the MP explained. “The role played by Governor here in Nagaland is little different from the rest of the States in the country,” he said.

On whether there would be conflicting roles coming in when the Governor started holding the talk with NNPGs, the MP opined that Ravi would be playing dual roles as Governor of Nagaland and as interlocutor for the Naga talk. In this, he would be discharging his duties as constitutional head while shouldering the responsibility of the previous post, the Interlocutor, for holding the talk. “But if his actions do not contradict the existing laws of the country, then for us, I think, it is ok,” Kenye, who is also secretary general of Naga People’s Front (NPF), said. “Man who heads the constitution here in Nagaland has to understand the real background and implications surrounding the Naga talk. Therefore, it is unique when Ravi has been appointed as Governor of Nagaland and also to continue as interlocutor for the talk.”

So given the experiences and rapport Ravi as Interlocutor had over the years with different NNPGs of all levels, civil societies, and public leaders, many believed that he would be able to play a positive role in finding a solution to the Naga issue.

He is credited for signing FA with NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015, at Delhi in presence of Modi. After this, he did not take rest as he was busy holding a series of “Consultative Meetings” with civil societies, student bodies, Mothers’ Associations and also lawmakers in Nagaland.

He also held “Consultative Meetings” with civil societies and senior citizens at Imphal, Manipur and later in 2016 with civil societies from Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh with regard to finding the settlement of the Naga issue.

Ravi could sign another agreement on November 17, 2017, with the Working Committee (WC) of NNPGs and thus successfully bringing them to the negotiating table.

But what surprises the most was his announcement to the people of Nagaland about Modi’s desire to resolve the Naga issue in three months. He disclosed this at a civic reception organised in his honour on August 16, 2019, at the Nagaland Baptist Churches Council (NBCC) Convention Hall, Kohima. If this is true, the Naga issue will be resolved within October this year.

But NSCN (IM) said issues such as a “separate Flag and a separate Constitution” as part of their political negotiations to settle the Naga issue are yet to be finalised, and expressed the surprise as to how Modi wanted to conclude the issue in three months without finalising them.

Ravi always said the solution would be “inclusive” and there would be no piecemeal solution.

At the civic reception, he also said there was a sincere attempt but lamented that inclusivity was missing. “By inclusive, I mean all the Naga armed groups, Naga tribal bodies, civil societies, senior citizens, elders, and of course, the Naga legislators, because the Naga political issue belongs to the Naga people. No organisation has franchise over it,” he explained.

Admitting that “all substantive issues have been resolved and nothing is left,” Ravi said the parties in talks had agreed that with Government of India recognising the unique history of Nagas, the “settlement is on the basis of power-sharing and peaceful co-existence.”

Interestingly, nobody knows the modalities they are working out to resolve the Naga issue. In fact, not a single legislator in Nagaland is aware of contents of FA nor has the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) ever discussed to urge the parties in talks to make the contents public.

NLA’s reiteration is any settlement to be arrived at between the Government of India and NNPGs should be honourable and acceptable to the people. What will happen when the settlement to be arrived at turns out to be not honourable and acceptable to the people? But how much can they do as they are not a party to it, besides playing only a “facilitator” to the peace process? Yet, should they not call a special assembly session to deliberate on new the Governor’s discloser to conclude the Naga issue in three months as desired by the Prime Minister?

Will the solution to the Naga issue really come within October this year? Many are still doubtful though they believe that a solution might come during Modi’s second tenure as Prime Minister.

Oken Jeet Sandham

By EMN Updated: Aug 24, 2019 12:51:23 am