The Naga political issue: Solution in sight?
Dimapur: The ongoing Naga peace negotiations between the government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) or NSCN-IM, the rebel group fighting for the liberation of the Naga people, are believed to be nearing a decisive phase, except for the questions of a separate flag and constitution.
Since the Naga revolutionary group entered its ceasefire with the government of India in 1997, peace talks between the two parties have seen many ups and downs trying to explore a genuine, acceptable and durable solution through bilateral talks.
During the last 22 years, several high-level rounds of talks have happened between the two parties, including the historic signing of ‘Framework Agreement’ in 2015 which was based on the unique history and culture of the Nagas.
However, the Naga Peace Accord, a framework agreement, as it has been termed, seems to have hit a roadblock to a final settlement since the BJP-led government at the Centre is not willing to negotiate on the matter of a separate flag and constitution whereas the Nagas feels that such symbolism demands are their legitimate aspiration and birthright.
Speaking with EastMojo, Thuingaleng Muivah, the octogenarian leader of the NSCN-IM, strongly stated: “We have every right of having our own constitution and the national flag. We cannot ask permission from the Indian government as we are the master of ourselves.”
“So, by virtue of our sovereign rights, we can have anything that we deserve so that we can be identified,” added Muivah, one of the longest-serving leaders of the largest Naga rebel group.
Recently, according to reports, RN Ravi, governor of Nagaland and the interlocutor of the Naga peace talks, had been asked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the decades-old Naga issue in three months’ time. The leaders of the rebel group believe that they were served an ultimatum to sign the agreement in three months’ time during the last meeting held.
RH Raising, a convener of the steering committee, remarked that the Indo-Naga issue is a principle-based politics, which calls for a principle-based solution and that, any kind of solution that betrays the principle is viewed as a roadblock.
“We have been looking for the genuine and lasting solution that can protect our sovereign rights, our territories, our identity and our future,” said Raising.
Recounting how the Nagas declared themselves a free people on August 14, 1947, a day before India announced its Independence Day from the British colonial rule, Raising also informed that the history of the Nagas is unique. And Nagas were never been conquered by any power on earth, including India and Myanmar governments, he said.
“Of course, the British came and occupied a part of Naga territory to which we offered resistance movement for 48 years but upon the departure of the British power, we declared our independence on August 14, 1947,” said Raising, who is also a member of the collective leadership of the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland/ Nagalim (GPRN), NSCN’s government-in-exile which interacts with formal and non-formal world bodies and media.
Talking about integrating Naga homelands for the Naga people, including Nagas living outside Nagaland, Raising further said, “Integration is one of the principles we have been talking about. And it is discussed in detailed and both the parties had agreed that integration is the legitimate right of the Nagas.”
Meanwhile, responding to a query on the NSCN-IM’s approach if in case the Union adopts a military approach, Raising reaffirms by saying: “Sooner or later, it has to be implemented through the democratic process. That is what has been agreed by both the parties and there is no point that the government of India will backtrack what has been agreed. I hope and trust that we will go forward even if there are oppositions at various angles.”
The signing of the Naga Peace Accord or Framework Agreement between the NSCN-IM and the Centre is not only endorsed by the six Naga nationalist political groups (NNPGs) but by the pan-Nagas, including Naga bodies like Naga Hoho and Naga Students’ Federation (NSF). Moreover, the Naga civil society groups are insistent on a peaceful path to a conflict solution.
Echoing the same spirit of other Naga leaders, Naga Hoho president HK Zhimomi questioned the government of India for their unitary stands on a separate flag and constitution and said: "What is honourable when your identity is not granted and not given to you?”
“Unless the flag and a separate constitution are granted, there is no point of the solution. Of course, we need an early solution, but for an early solution we should not emotionally accept the package — package is the package. But unless we get what we want, leaving aside our rights and accepting the package means -- it is nothing,” Zhimomi said.
Similarly, NSF president Ninoto Awomi feels that by realising the core issue, the government of India had recognised the unique history of the Nagas. “So separate flag and constitution would also mean a unique solution and only unique solution can bring lasting peace to the Indo-Naga issue,” said the student leader.
Moreover, in support with the ongoing peace talks between the NSCN-IM and the Union government, the NSF in collaboration with the Naga Student Union, Delhi (NSUD) recently staged a historic mass rally in New Delhi demanding the Centre to implement the Framework Agreement principles and bring a long lasting solution for both the parties.