While the government and NSCN (I-M) missed the October 31 deadline to sign the final agreement on a Naga peace accord ending decades of insurgency, a mutual understanding has been reached and the dominant Naga insurgent outfit has agreed to continue talks with Nagaland Governor and peace talks interlocutor R N Ravi.
Sources in the NSCN (I-M) claimed the deadlock over demands ended after the government agreed to allow the use of a Naga flag only at cultural events. This is a departure from the NSCN (I-M)’s demand for a separate flag and Constitution — the government had said no to both but NSCN (I-M) sources claimed that the issue of a separate Constitution will be discussed in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the government made it clear Thursday that a final agreement had not been reached. “It is clarified that before any settlement is arrived at with Naga groups, all stakeholders including States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh will be duly consulted and their concerns taken into consideration,’’ it said in a statement.
“It is clarified that before any settlement is arrived at with Naga groups, all stakeholders including States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh will be duly consulted and their concerns will be taken into consideration.”
— Abhishek Saha (@saha_abhi1990) October 31, 2019
Late at night, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), a grouping of seven insurgent outfits which had so far been willing to sign a final agreement with the government, not only congratulated the NSCN (I-M) on its stand, but made a U-turn on its own stand on a separate flag.
“NNPGs appreciate the understanding arrived at between the Government of India and the NSCN (I-M). The WC, NNPG believes that the NSCN(I-M) leadership has opted for peace and adopted a practical and realistic approach in arriving at a conclusion of negotiations by acceptance the reality the time. In the course negotiations between WC and the GOI, the latter had also endorsed the usage of Naga emblem/flag specifically for cultural identity within Naga homeland. The Naga flag is a political symbol and cannot be confined to socio-cultural activities. Therefore, together in one voice, Nagas would pursue it politically and democratically. The flag, since the dawn of Naga political consciousness, has ever been an expression of our political identity and aspirations,’’ the NNPGs said in a statement.
Explained | Naga talks — Long road, issues
The NNPG had so far been more flexible in its demands, dropping the demand for a separate flag and Constitution, and raising instead the demands for increased seats in the Nagaland assembly, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, economic packages and accommodation for its cadres.
The developments prompted Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio to take to Twitter: “We extend our deepest appreciation to the negotiating parties of the peace talks for making the historic breakthrough.”
Former Chief Minister and senior NPF leader TR Zeliang congratulated the government for the breakthrough. “I congratulate PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah for having the resoluteness to solve the Naga issue. Also hearty congratulations to R N Ravi, the interlocutor and the NSCN IM and 7-NNPGs for arriving at a mutual understanding,’’ he tweeted, posting a photograph of Ravi, NSCN (I-M) chief Th Muivah with others.
As tensions mounted in neighbouring Manipur, where hill areas are dominated by Nagas, Chief Minister N Biren took to social media to address the people of the state. Stating that he held a meeting with Amit Shah Wednesday, Biren said: “Union Home Minister has categorically assured that nothing will come up without consulting stakeholders of AP, Assam and Manipur. The Centre will not take any concrete measures. I urge all civil society organisations to remain calm during this Indo-Naga Peace Talks.’’