Key to deadlock in Naga talks is ‘unity’, underlines Nagaland CM Rio

The Naga peace talks have reached a critical stage after prolonged discussions that were kicked off in 1997 during the prime ministership of I K Gujral.

Apparently, there is a deadlock now as the NSCN (IM) led by its general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah has stuck to its demand for a separate Flag and Constitution.

The Naga history has been unique and complex and thus to presume that a solution can emerge based on Kashmir strategies or the so-called Mizoram prism may be erroneous.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio was camping in Delhi for a few days post-a crucial consultative meeting of all the stakeholders
for the peace process.

“If Nagas as a people are to achieve progress and realise our aspirations as a people, we must come together. We must also accept
that our biggest challenge today is division. We all know that this situation is only leading to self-destruction,” Rio told this scribe.

He further says — “Our society is thoroughly divided, which has created many groups and organisations leading to different opinions and
voices”.

During his stay in the national capital, Rio met and interacted in detail with key leaders including Home Minister Amit Shah.

BJP’s pointman in northeast Himanta Biswa Sarma has been co-opted in the process by Shah, who also last month directed
the Assam Minister (also convener of North East Democratic Alliance) to ensure that states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh
are on board. Nagas in substantial numbers reside in few pockets in these states.
In fact, native village of Muivah himself is in Manipur.

Rio, state’s longest serving Chief Minister, has tried to drive home the point that any solution to the Naga insurgency should be worked out
“under the spirit of mutual respect and commitment for peaceful co-existence”.
It has been also underlined that a nation and its people stand to be all the more dignified only by resolving conflicts through ‘respect’.

Chief Minister’s Delhi visit was also to build a consensus between all sections – all Naga groups, civil society and the Government of India.

His focus has been clear – that there should be One Solution to the Naga political issue. On this Rio is on the same page with the Modi government. As it is, in political sense too, Rio’s NDPP is a NDA constituent and its lone Lok Sabha member Tokheho Sema
supports the central government.

The Chief Minister also met important NSCN (IM) leaders in Delhi and tried to pass on the Government of India viewpoints – vis-a-vis
the demands for Flag and Constitution.

He later told some of his associates and NDPP colleagues that — “Those who matter in Delhi were receptive of his suggestions and views”.

Sources close to the Chief Minister say, Rio has been categorical that any genuine peace would herald in Naga hills once there is “political solution based on Naga historical and political rights”.

Of course, it is understood that to treat the Naga issue at par with Kashmir or even Mizoram, where a peace deal was struck in 1986, would be
erroneous. The uniqueness of Naga issue is a factor.

It is worth mentioning here that Dr Visier Sanyu, president of the Overseas Naga Association, put it well during the Oct 15 meet at Kohima
that the Modi government in the centre has the “political responsibility and power” to make things move and show results.

However, there have been strong comments in the media by NSCN (IM) leadership and NNPG also.

While Muivah did not hesitate to dub other Naga leaders as “traitors”, the conglomerate of seven Naga groups has hit out at him for
describing other Naga leaders as ‘anti-Naga or traitors’.

“No Naga political leader till now has dared to call 14 Naga Tribes or sub tribes, GBs or other civil society as ‘anti-Naga or traitors’ for demanding early Indo-Naga political solution, honour and acceptable to Nagas everywhere. To tag or question the wisdom of Naga tribes and civil societies at this hour is very unfortunate,” the NNPG said in a statement.

Muivah in an interview had said that the NNPG leaders have been conducting themselves as “traitors”.

Rivalry between rivals has been the bane of the Naga insurgency legacy. These have only delayed the talks process and also given some advantages to the centre since the 1960s to use military power.

But it is true that the tribalism and ethnic differences have been a reality too.

“We must know what tribalism has done to Nagas,” says Naga intellectual Niketu Iralu. And thus concerned individuals in advanced tribes, he says, should start to take any resentment from smaller and hitherto neglected tribal groups.

Who can really unlock the deadlock that has been reached with regard to the Naga peace talks?

In more ways than one, experts say the Nagas are at the threshold of seeing a new dispensation. Here comes the relevance of the resolution adopted at the end of Kohima meet.

One of resolutions read: “Affirmed to relentlessly work in a collective and unified manner with one voice so as to facilitate the peace process and strengthen the negotiations for early realisation of the desired One Solution in a transparent manner which is acceptable and honourable”.

Of course, this vital point has been also highlighted that all Naga negotiating groups must come together.

The use of words ‘traitor and anti-Naga’ and an equally strong snub from NNPG shows that so called unity is far off.

Naga Hoho leader H K Zhimomi has said – everyone is talking about unity when there is no unity.

But while talking unity is easier said than done; the NNPG has made it clear that Muivah’s outburst that Nagas will not accept Indian constitution is like a circus.

“After 23 years of political talks, when a negotiator declared that Nagas do not accept the union of India or Indian constitution, it could only mean, political dialogue was a circus exercise for personal gains,” the NNPG statement said.

For his part, Nagaland Chief Minister Rio has in the ultimate diagnosed the malady well.
The biggest challenge today for Nagas is ‘division’.

The Nagas need to correct themselves; and on the part of the centre, New Delhi must review its policies towards the region.

In fact, some of it has been done by the Modi government. In diplomatic parlance, for instance, Indo-Myanmar cooperation is vital both at the
ASEAN and sub-regional levels. Recently, foreign secretary Harshvarshan Shringla and army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane visited Myanmar.
Naga groups are active in western Myanmar also.

Another active Naga sociologist, Rev Wati Aier says – what has not worked in the past should not be given a chance yet again.

That means ‘piece meal solutions’ are no solution to the problem of the Nagas.

The statehood for Nagaland came in 1963 following a peace pact of 1960 and since then a few more agreements were inked; some were controversial. The peace remains an illusion in Nagaland and some pockets in northeastern states.

About the Author:

Nirendra Dev is senior Journalist. He is a longtime northeast watcher and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’.

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