So what is the status of the ongoing talks with the government of India? It actually seems to have hit a deadlock
· Centre: Clinch the Naga deal by the end of October.
· Nagas: Timeline amounts to an ultimatum.
· Centre: Peace interlocutor has now become the governor, so talks should be smoother and faster.
· Nagas: Prime Ministerial-level talks (via interlocutor) have been reduced to governor level
In between these two scenes stand 22 years of negotiation, a framework agreement and unresolved central yet symbolic issue of the separate flag and a separate constitution for the Nagas.
There is no ambiguity that Delhi wants to end the Nagaland problem by October. The buzz is all around and can be felt. From the top bosses of MHA to the top executives of ONGC/OIL, all are hoping that after October Naga deal is on.
The Oil India Limited (OIL), meanwhile, is even making preliminary inquiries about the fate of the long-abandoned Wokha oil fields with a hope that it could be activated after the peace accord.
But the Nagas are less than enthusiastic. There is some sort of uneasiness all around even as all know that most of the pending issues of the framework agreement sans flag and constitution behave either resolved or about to be resolved.
But Central Government is tightening the grip, no separate flag no separate constitution, which is the heart of the Naga's share sovereignty concept.
Post Article 370, the Union government is not going to commit anything which after 50 years create a Kashmir-like situation.
When governor RN Ravi addressing the first civic reception in his honour after becoming the governor announced that the Prime Minister wished to conclude the peace process within three months, the gentle Naga crowd sitting in front of him was not very amused.
Rather the NSCN (IM) did not like the three months’ time period and viewed it as some sort of indirect deadline to force a solution.
National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) chairman Q Tuccu was quite forthcoming. He bluntly accused the government of India of backtracking from the August 3, 2015 Framework Agreement signed by the two entities in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Tuccu is also the ‘Yaruiwo’ of the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland/Nagalim (GPRN).
"Since time immemorial, Nagas were independent. We have never been subjected by anyone. Before the British left India, Nagas expressed our rights to live independently. Naga leaders in the past and present have been fighting for our Independent right. Under the banner of NSCN, Nagas have entered a political dialogue with the government of India. NSCN will continue to fight for the Nagas till our objective is fulfilled," he said.
So what is the status of the ongoing talks with the government of India? It actually seems to have hit a deadlock.
For the GPRN, the agreed position between the government of India and NSCN was shared-sovereignty. That means, neither India will be under Nagas nor Nagas under India, but we will coexist based on "shared-sovereignty".
The phrase apart, now the government of India was not comfortable with the blue Naga national flag and the constitution, that is where the Naga issue is now struck. India is afraid that any such concession will take the shape of Article 370 in 50 years from now as in Nagaland already it has Article 371.
The Union home ministry has developed cold feet that if a flag and a constitution were accepted now, this could trigger a demand for separate nation 40-50 years from now.
But then what was being discussed in the past 18 years?
NSCN-IM chairman Q Tuccu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah have written to PM Modi about the doubt and confusion raised by the Nagas on whether an honourable political solution could be arrived at.
"We signed the Framework Agreement after 18 years of negotiations. The Nagas have sovereign rights. So, why not we coexist on the basis of sharing sovereign power?" said the new NSCN chairman.
The Nagas are very proud of their history and that is why they named it a "unique history". The famous line was often cited by AZ Phizo in a letter to India’s first governor general C Rajagopalachari. "Nagas must know what India wants, and India must know what the Nagas want and make a settlement," Phizo wrote on November 22, 1948.
Moreover, it might be a natural decision to make Naga peace interculator R N Ravi as Governor of Nagaland for every one of India. But Nagas are not so happy especially those who are closely following the progression of Naga peace process.
"Earlier it was a Prime Ministerial level talk through the peace interculator. But now it got confines to Governor only" said the Naga Rising a non government organisation had stated that the Centre should not see the demand for a Naga separate flag and constitution as outlandish but rather India should be able to demonstrate both ingenuity and innovation in addressing the unique special case of the Nagas thereby reconciling Naga aspiration with the larger vision of a strong India.
Meanwhile, Manipur is already on the edge. Any decision, which of the Naga accord having an impact on the geographical territory of Manipur, is not going to be taken easily in Manipur.
This is a very complex issue as the Naga territory is outside of Nagaland given the overlapping nature of ethnic homelands. This trouble is likely to be most explosive in multi-ethnic Manipur. Much of what the Nagas consider as their ancestral land is also the homes of Kukis and other tribes.
So there is every possibility that nothing much actually comes out in the next few months as all sides are going to toughen their stand.
The Naga demand for independence began when the British introduced a limited and partial system of rule. As India’s independence in 1947 approached, the Nagas feared they would become subsumed within India’s political setup. The then Naga leaders Phizo and Sakhrie met Mahatma Gandhi too, and Gandhi sided with Naga's sentiment. But post-Gandhi, Delhi bulldozed over Naga's dream, and rest is history as a long protracted insurgency kept the entire region hot for the next 50 years.
There was the Shillong Accord of 1975 and now the Framework agreement and in between lie thousand of bodies of Nagas in their prime who laid their lives either fighting with Indian army or in the fratricidal killings of various groups and subgroups of Naga insurgency, who spent generations fighting against each other for territorial domination.
(The author is a senior journalist and writer. Views expressed are his own. He can be contacted at email@example.com)