[Editorial Analysis] Naga talks: so far, what now

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security
Prelims level: Naga Peace talks
Mains level: Internal Security Challenges

Context:

• Recently, Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi is resigned as interlocutor for the Naga Peace talks.

• The govt is unhappy over handling the Naga peace process by Ravi.

• Many groups like NSCN(IM) have openly criticized Ravi and demanded his removal as interlocutor and Governor.

The Naga Peace Process and its history:

• Naga Peace process refers to the ongoing talks between the Indian govt and Naga insurgent groups such as NSCN (IM) since 1997 intending to sign the Naga Peace Accord.

The history:

• The Naga peace talks refer to talks undertaken between the Indian government and the various stakeholders in Nagaland to resolve decades-old disputes. Some of these issues date back to the colonial era.

• According to reports, the demand for a Greater Nagaland, or Nagalim— covering Nagaland, its neighboring states, and even parts of Myanmar— has been an important part of Naga nationalism. It’s a demand being made for decades and was first crystallized via the formation of a Naga Club in 1918. The Naga Club had reportedly told the Simon Commission that the Nagas should be left alone “to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”.

• The Naga Hills became part of British India in 1881. The effort to bring scattered Naga tribes together resulted in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918.

• The club metamorphosed into the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946.

• On August 14, 1947, the Naga National Council (NNC) led by Angami Zapu Phizo declared Nagaland an independent state. Phizo also formed an underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and a Naga Federal Army (NFA) in 1952, which the Indian government sought to crush by sending in the Army in Nagaland and enacting the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, or AFSPA.

• Nagaland achieved statehood in December 1963.

• In 1975, under the Shillong Accord, some factions of NNC agreed to give up arms.

• Some members led by Thuingaleng Muivah refused to accept the Shillong Accord and formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980.

• In 1988, the NSCN split into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) after a violent clash. The NSCN (IM) came to be seen as the “mother of all insurgencies” in the region.

• The Ceasefire Agreement (1997) was Signed between NSCN-IM and the government to stop attacks on Indian armed forces. In return, the government would stop all counter-insurgency offensive operations.

• The Indian Government recognized the unique history, culture, and position of the Nagas and signed a framework agreement for the Naga Peace Accord with the insurgent groups in 2015.

• But while both the govt and Naga groups said the talks successfully concluded on the 31st October 2019, no accord was signed. Relations between Ravi and the NSCN (IM) unraveled after the talks concluded.

How did things go wrong?

• Things went sour after Ravi realized that NSCN (IM) and the Indian govt have different understanding of the agreement.

• Even though the IM had softened its stance on the demand for a separate flag and constitution.

• Ravi in 2017 Nov signed an agreement with other 7 naga insurgent groups by leaving behind the main NSCN (IM) from it. IM accused Ravi of attempting to segregate the Naga civil society.

• After 2019 talks with NSCN (IM), Ravi said that the group had adopted a procrastinating attitude to delay the settlement by raising contentious issues.

• In response, the IM group hardened its position saying Naga Flag and constitution were non-negotiable.

• It also accused Ravi of twisting the document by deleting the keywords that suggested Nagaland would co-exist with India as a sovereign.

• Ravi continued to engage with the other Naga groups and declared that the Accord would be signed with or without NSCN (IM).

The Real Issues:

• The enthusiasm with which the framework agreement was announced led to unreasonable expectations of an imminent Accord.
• The NSCN (IM) hardened stand on Greater Nagalim, while the Indian govt cannot accept that demand.

• At the same time, govt in no way would accept a separate constitution for Nagaland.

• The move to appoint Ravi as Governor too did not go well with the IM and Ravi’s enthusiasm in matters of governance was taken by the state govt as interference.

Way forward:

• It is important to understand there cannot be an accord without the NSCN (IM).
• Govt needs to work on ideas to slowly bring the IM to accept what govt offers.
• The new interlocutor’s main task would be to delicately close the gap between the IM and NNPGs which shared the relationship with Ravi.
• Govt should iron out some of the demands like the bicameral Assembly and absorption of local armed cadres into paramilitary forces.
• Govt should set up an autonomous council in Naga-dominated areas of neighboring states.

Conclusions:

• It is high time for the Indian govt to weed out the differences among all stakeholders and strive to achieve a middle ground to sign Naga Peace Accord.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the ‘Namami Gange Programme’, consider the following statements:

1. It is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as ‘Flagship Programme’ by the Union Government in June 2014 with budget outlay of Rs. 20,000 Crore.

2. It aims to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

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