Centre Push For Final Naga Accord: Interlocutor Ravi Says 'Hurry Before Govt Changes in 2019'
ITANAGAR: Two decades of talks between the Indian government and Naga separatist groups have failed to yield any concrete results. However, if comments made by the Indian government’s interlocutor, RN Ravi, during Monday’s meeting with Naga National Political Groups’ (NNPGs) Working Committee are any indication, the BJP government is aiming to pull a rabbit to boost its chances before the 2019 election.
Talks between the Narendra Modi government and the Isak-Muviah faction of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) led to the signing of what has been named as the “framework agreement” two years back. While details of the agreement have not been officially released, speculations over what it contains have been doing the rounds of news and social media ever since.
When the Modi-government began holding talks solely with the I-M faction in 2014, it widened fissures within the Naga nationalist groups including other factions of the NSCN and the various breakaway groups of the first separatist group, the Naga National Council (NNC) formed by AZ Phizo in the 1940s. Monday’s meeting marked a departure from that approach as it held talks with the NSCN (R) and GPRN/NSCN (both factions of the NSCN), and FGN, NNC (Parent Body), NPGN/NNC (Non-Accordist) and NNC/GDRN (Non-Accordist).
During the meeting in Nagaland’s commercial capital of Dimapur, RN Ravi, who is also the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, said that there must be a single solution to the issue and that the Kaphlang faction of the NSCN should also be part of the “peace process”.
The Kaphlang faction had unilaterally withdrawn from the ceasefire with the Government of India in 2015. Since the death of the iconic leader of the faction, SS Khaplang, in June this year, several cases of fighting between NSCN(K) cadres and Indian security forces have been reported.
Khaplang’s position as chairman was taken over by Khango Konyak, a Naga from Nagaland’s Mon district of the Konyak tribe. Speculation is that his elevation to the top post of the Khaplang faction may have given the Central government hope that it can convince it to come to the discussion table considering Khaplang belonged to the Hemi Naga tribe from Myanmar and not India.
In Dimapur, Ravi also made clear that the Centre does not wish to wait anymore and wants to reach a final agreement before the 2019 general election.
On Monday, Ravi said that the issue must be resolved “before the character of the government changes with the change in leadership”.
Nagaland is due to go to polls next year but there are already talks of postponement.
Imkong L Imchen, the Nagaland Minister for Health and Family Welfare on Sunday had said that the Centre should concentrate on finding a solution to the Naga issue before conducting the state elections next year.
The BJP is already an ally in the Naga People’s Front government in Nagaland and a settlement of the Naga issue can further help cement its position in the next election, should Naga-inhabited areas remain part of India in future.
While not many in Nagaland seriously believe that the BJP can come to power in the state on its own, sources in Nagaland echoed similar opinions (although refused to go on record), stating that the talks appear to be directed towards the Centre's political ambitions and aspirations.
Many fear that such an approach will lead to a dilution of the Naga independence issue and may lead to further complications.
One observer said that the rush to reach a concrete agreement is driven “not so much for the sake of a solution but to have something to show to the people”.