The move to unify the Naga insurgent groups, marked by a November 2007 ‘joint declaration,’ proved to be the spark for fratricidal killings among factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, engaged in a competitive pursuit of the common goal of “Naga sovereignty.” Cadres of the NSCN(Unification), an offshoot of the joint declaration, working in tandem with the NSCN(Khaplang), now confront those of the NSCN(Isak-Muivah). The bloodletting, which has taken a toll of 50 lives, compounds the travails of the people, who have lived through some six decades of insurgency. The separate ceasefire agreements the Isak-Muivah group (1997) and the Khaplang group (2001) had signed with the government have become virtually pointless. What is imperative at this juncture, as suggested by forums such as the Nagaland Joint Forum of Gaon Buras and Dubashis, is that the warring groups strike a ceasefire accord among themselves. Meanwhile, the government should act resolutely to strengthen the mechanism meant to monitor the ceasefire agreement entered into with the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang groups. Under the ground rules, the armed groups are supposed to confine themselves to designated camps, but they continue to roam around. The Centre should strengthen the hands of the State government in its effort to prevent kidnappings and put down extortion carried out in the name of tax collection. The NSCN (I-M)’s attempts to extend its writ to pockets in Assam and Meghalaya should be thwarted.
The talks between the Central government and the insurgents have to continue on the basis of a clearer understanding of the realities, and factoring in the changing dynamics. Logically, the NSCN (Unification) should also be brought into the picture. New Delhi should mobilise ground support in favour of a pragmatic, honourable, and mutually acceptable solution rather than give the impression of fishing in troubled waters. It should also move to hold a structured dialogue with Naga civil society movements while seeking to enlist public support for the peace process not only in the Naga areas but across the country. The Naga groups need to appreciate that the peace process can go forward only if they are agreeable to a solution within the parameters of the Indian Union and are ready to give up the notion of a greater Nagaland that would include parts of other States in the North East. New Delhi has repeatedly expressed its readiness to extend broad concessions to the Nagas, including the grant of maximum autonomy and freedom, once they accept this basic position.