For the first time since the signing of the Naga Framework Agreement of 2015 with the Modi government, NSCN (I-M) chief Th Muivah said the Naga flag and constitution were non-negotiable and that the agreement included the idea of unification of all Naga-inhabited areas, across Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
The stance has the potential to derail the peace process as the government has earlier ruled out a separate constitution, and said Assam, Arunachal and Manipur would not be divided for a ‘Greater Nagalim’. A source said, “Though averments to this effect have been reported in the media in Nagaland, Muivah has never made such a public statement since the Framework Agreement was signed… Of course the government is not happy.”
The Modi government, which had flagged the Framework Agreement as a major success, had hoped to ink a peace pact with the NSCN (I-M) this year.
Sources in the security establishment said the NSCN (I-M) has also made it clear that Ravi, who had signed the 2015 agreement on behalf of the government, is not acceptable to them for any further talks.
While NSCN leaders are currently in Delhi, and have been holding informal talks with Intelligence Bureau officials, sources said Ravi arrived Thursday but went back to Nagaland.
Muivah made the claims in his address to the people of Nagaland on the occasion of the 74th ‘Independence Day’ of the ‘People’s Republic of Nagalim’, delivered from Delhi. An official said it was also unusual for Muivah to have made the speech public. “He has made speeches on ‘Independence Day’ earlier too… But these were never made public,” the official said.
Muivah said that the 2015 agreement was signed on the principle of ‘co-existence and shared sovereignty’. “The Government of India through the Framework Agreement recognises the sovereignty of the Nagas. The agreement also says, ‘Inclusive peaceful co-existence of the two entities sharing sovereign power’. By ‘inclusive’ it means all Nagas in different administrative units and political camps are to be included in the agreement. Co-existence of the two entities is self-explanatory. It means the two peoples and nations will co-exist,” he said.
He added that legal experts are agreed that the terms ‘co-existence’ and ‘shared sovereignty’ in the agreement apply to two entities, not one. “The Nagas will co-exist with India, sharing sovereign powers… But they will not merge with India,” Muivah said.
He also made it clear that the Nagas were not asking for a flag and constitution from the government — that, on the other hand, these were always there. “Recognise them or not, we have our own flag and constitution. Flag and constitution are the ingredients of our recognised sovereign entity and the symbols of Naga nationhood. The Nagas must keep their flag and constitution,” he said.
Muivah claimed that Ravi too had promised them the same. “On the 31st October, 2019, talks, Mr R N Ravi said, ‘We respect and honour your flag and constitution. We do not say the Government of India has rejected them, but let us finalise them at the earliest time’. We reiterated our stand, stating we see no honorable solution without a flag and constitution,” Muivah said.
Sources said the current discussions between Naga leaders and IB officials are focused on breaking the ongoing impasse. “Whether there will be a new interlocutor is a call the top brass will take,” an official said.
The relationship between Ravi and the NSCN (I-M) has been deteriorating since he wrote to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio recently criticising the law and order situation in the state, particularly the “rampant extortion and violence”. Ravi said “armed gangs” were running parallel governments.
On Tuesday, the NSCN (I-M) issued a five-page statement titled ‘Mr R N Ravi’s misdoings as interlocutor’. It said it had been keeping an eye on the Governor since he “twisted the Framework Agreement and misled the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the steps taken to solve the Naga issue”. In its report to the House panel, the NSCN (I-M) said, Ravi wrote that the Framework Agreement talked of a solution “within India” rather than “with India” —the position in preceding Indo-Naga talks.
The I-M also accused Ravi of “craftily” deleting the word “new” from the sentence that the agreement “will provide for an enduring, inclusive new relationship of peaceful co-existence of the two entities”.
-with Abhishek Saha, Guwahati