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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Naga peace talks: At Camp Hebron, Centre’s interlocutor meets NSCN-IM’s Th Muivah

It is the first time that peace talks were being held with a Government of India representative inside Camp Hebron.

Written by Tora Agarwala | New Delhi |
Updated: April 20, 2022 7:06:11 am
NSCN-IM's Th Muivah (L) with Centre's interlocutor A K Mishra (R) at Camp Hebron on Tuesday. (Credit: Special Arrangement)

The NSCN-IM leaders, led by General Secretary Th Muivah, Tuesday met Centre’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks A K Mishra at the outfit’s headquarters Camp Hebron near Dimapur.

“We had an informal meeting with A K Mishra,” an NSCN-IM leader confirmed to The Indian Express. He added that it was the first time that peace talks were being held with a Government of India representative inside Camp Hebron, describing it as “significant.”

Thirty five kilometres from Dimapur, Camp Hebron in the Jalukie-kam area of Nagaland’s Peren district, has housed the headquarters of the NSCN-IM ever since the ceasefire agreement was signed between the rebel group and the Centre in 1997. It is located about 100 km from state capital Kohima.

The NSCN-IM leader said that the discussion on Tuesday lasted for a little more than two hours. “It was a closed-door meeting just between two of them (Muivah and Mishra),” he said.

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Former special director of the Intelligence Bureau, Mishra, who replaced R N Ravi as the interlocutor last year, arrived in Nagaland on Monday to discuss the vexed Naga political issue. He is expected to meet the state government’s core committee as well as the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) during his stay.

The meeting comes a week after Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, Deputy CM Y Patton and former chief minister T R Zeliang met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi to discuss the status of peace talks, which have hit a roadblock since 2019.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Patton said that while Tuesday’s outcome of the discussion had not been disclosed, it was likely to be a “fruitful” one. “We will also be meeting with A K Mishra within a day or two,” he said, adding that the recent meeting between the Nagaland government and Shah and PM Modi was “positive.”

“The topic of the Naga flag is an issue, but we are hopeful that it will be hammered out soon during talks,” he said.

The Naga movement is considered India’s longest-running insurgency. In 1997, the Centre had signed a ceasefire agreement with the NSCN-IM. In 2015, renewed negotiations had begun between the NSCN-IM and the Modi government. Since then, seven other Naga armed outfits, under the banner of Naga National Political Groups, have joined the talks.

While formal talks have been over since October 2019, a final agreement remains elusive, with the NSCN-IM holding on to its demands for a separate Naga flag and Constitution.

The peace process started flailing after relations between the NSCN-IM and then Naga interlocutor R N Ravi soured in 2019-20, with both engaging in a war of words. In September 2020, Ravi resigned as Naga interlocutor and was transferred to Tamil Nadu, where he is currently the Governor.

Earlier this month, the NSCN-IM had once again blamed Ravi for his “confusing handling” of the “Indo-Naga talks.” In a press statement issued on April 10, NSCN-IM denied that the talks had been concluded on 31 October, 2019.

October 31, 2019 was “actually a day of ultimatum served to the NSCN to sign the agreement under the Indian constitution without the Naga flag and the Yehzabo (constitution),” the NSCN(IM) stated.

“Ravi threatened the NSCN with dire consequences and declared that with or without NSCN, an agreement has to be signed on or before 31 October, 2019…” The outfit also accused Ravi of resorting to “psychological warfare”.

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