Is Naga peace process heading towards a murky end?

NSCN (IM) has reiterated its demands for a separate flag and constitution after the Governor rejected any possibility of conceding

The apex body of Naga tribes, the Naga Hoho, alleged that Nagaland Governor and Prime Minister's emissary R.N. Ravi’s 'entire utterances' are to create division among the Nagas. Photo: PTI file

The 23-year-old Naga peace process seems to be heading towards a murky end with two principal negotiating parties engaging in bitter war of words while digging in their heels.

Chairman of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) Q Tuccu on Friday (December 4) reiterated the outfit’s demands for a separate flag and constitution were “non-negotiable.”

“NSCN’s stand is clear enough before the Naga people. We strongly detest any kind of piecemeal solution, short of Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution). We have stood our ground on these two non-negotiable issues and we shall continue to stand till the last man standing,” Tuccu said in a statement.

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Tuccu’s assertion comes on the heels of Nagaland Governor and Prime Minister’s emissary for the peace talks, RN Ravi rejecting any possibility of conceding to the NSCN (IM)’s twin demands.

“The Indian National Flag and Constitution are the pride of the people of India. The Government of India is absolutely clear that there is and there shall be only one National Flag and Constitution in India,” Ravi said in his address on the eve of 58th Statehood Day of Nagaland.

Related news | Naga peace talks: Centre’s interlocutor rules out separate flag, constitution

“Anyone talking anything contrary is peddling preposterous lies. They are trying to confuse and mislead the people,” the interlocutor added, launching a veiled attack on the NSCN (IM).

“With common understanding having been reached on all the issues on the table and conclusion of talks on October 31, 2019, the people of Nagaland are anxiously waiting for the new dawn. However, there are some people who are standing as a roadblock to the aspirations of the people of Nagaland. I urge these people to see the writings on the wall, to come out of their make-believe echo-chamber and listen to the voice of the people and in a true democratic spirit respect their wishes,” Ravi said in his November 30 speech, which has evoked sharp reactions from NSCN (IM) as well as several Naga civil society organisations.

Clarifying the NSCN (IM)’s position, Tuccu said, “For the Naga people these two issues stand tall because they symbolize our political and national rights. The Government of India knows the political significance of these two issues for the Naga people but come short of giving official recognition to be a part of the final agreement.”

“This is the crux of the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks and the reason why the going is getting tough, leaving the NSCN negotiators with no option but to act tough,” he said.

Though for quite sometimes the peace process has been bogged over the twin issues, what stunned many was the language of Ravi’s latest speech, which has been perceived as “divisive.”

“Since 1980, the people of Nagaland have suffered enormously by the guns of people from outside the State, inspired by Maoist ideology and tactics,” the Governor said, a statement viewed as an attempt to wedge a rift in the greater Naga society.

Related news | Nagaland pushes for unity of warring militant outfits, silent on talks stalemate

For the context, the undivided National Socialist Council of Nagaland suffered a split in 1980, giving birth to two factions — one group is headed by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah while the other by Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang.

While Khaplang, who died in 2017, was a Hemi Naga hailing from Naga-inhabited Sagaing Region of Myanmar, Muivah is a Thangkul Naga from Ukhrul district of Manipur.

The split resulted in a long spell of fratricidal killings.

As expected Ravi’s statement triggered a controversy in the state.

The apex body of Naga tribes, the Naga Hoho alleged that Ravi’s “entire utterances are to create division among the Nagas in line with the regional and artificial territory.”

“The Naga Hoho cannot support such abusive statement from the interlocutor and therefore we outrightly condemn the statement made by him,” the tribal body said in statement.

Pointing out that Naga inhabited areas are spread across four Indian states and two countries, without their consent, the influential Naga Students Federation (NSF) in a separate statement said Ravi’s role should be to find a common ground for all the Naga people and not instigate further division.

It further stated that Ravi had undermined and belittled the very people he had been assigned to have a political dialogue with in order to “pave the way for a lasting peace and tranquillity all over the Naga homeland.”

The publicity wing of the NSCN (M) also dubbed the governor’s speech as “provocative” in a clear indication that the bonhomie witnessed during the signing of the historic framework agreement between the militant organisation and the Centre five years ago is long lost.

“The Government of India needs to reinvent a new approach towards NSCN setting aside any damaging policy in order to reconstruct trust rather than undo the over 23 years of fruition,” the NSCN (IM)’s news bulletin Nagalim Voice observed in its editorial on Friday.

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