Lending weight to apprehensions about a setback to the Naga peace process, the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), the influential civil society group in Nagaland, has said Nagas “are not optimistic about a breakthrough in the peace process”. But the Centre’s interlocutor for Naga talks and Deputy National Security Advisor, R N Ravi, denies that the talks have reached a dead-end.
In a statement issued Monday, FNR said: “Based on the current political narrative being articulated, the people at home — in Naga-Land (not to be confused with the Indian State of Nagaland) are not optimistic about a breakthrough in the peace process. The omission of the people at this crucial stage is short-sighted. It has contributed to this distrustful narrative.”
FNR also gave a call to “re-imagine the Indo-Naga Peace Process,” a call for a complete overhaul which signals a dead-end for the ongoing peace process.
Asked by The Indian Express if the Naga talks had reached a dead-end, Ravi said “it is not a dead-end and progress is being made in these talks”.
Sources said Ravi met representatives of both Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), comprising representatives of six influential Naga rebel groups, and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) or NSCN-IM in Delhi last week.
He has been closely associated with negotiations with Naga groups for decades, first in various capacities as an Intelligence Bureau officer and later as the Centre’s interlocutor in July 2014. He signed the framework agreement with the NSCN-IM in August 2015.
In what is being seen as a veiled criticism of reports that the Centre is angry over the political narrative being shaped by FNR, it stated that “The current presumptions being made in the public forum by second string actors (whether they are known or unknown to the Government) is akin to employing unhealthy Cold War approaches. Peoples living in a pluralistic world find it difficult to accept a definition that is imposed on them.”
Seen as perhaps the most influential group in Nagaland, FNR was formed in principle on February 24, 2008 as one of the outcomes of the Naga Peace Convention organised by the Naga Shisha Hoho in Dimapur. It was christened on March 25, 2008 at Kohima with the support of 39 Naga frontal organisations, including the Council of Naga Baptist Churches (CNBC), and with the support of Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) and the Nagaland Christian Forum (NCF). Reverend Dr Wati Aier, a Christian priest, is the convenor of FNR.
As reported by The Indian Express on January 7, talks between the Centre and Naga groups had not made any progress for nearly a year due to an intransigent position taken by the Naga side on ‘symbolic’ issues, such as a separate flag. The Centre believes ‘substantive’ issues have been resolved but the political narrative being propounded by certain Naga groups is responsible for the deadlock.