The government signed a peace accord with the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), one of the largest insurgent outfits, which has been demanding a unified Naga identity and a separate ‘Nagalim’ State for over six decades.
The details of the accord were not released by the government, and there is no clarity on the “sovereignty clause,” being demanded by the insurgent group.
Besides the IM faction, there are two more groups — Khole-Kitovi (KK) and Reformation (R) — which were not part of the accord.
They have signed a ceasefire agreement with the government till April 27, 2016.
In March this year, the Khaplang faction, led by S.S. Khaplang, broke the ceasefire with India and is suspected to be behind a series of violent attacks in Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, where 18 personnel were killed in an attack on an Army convoy.
R.N. Ravi, the Naga interlocutor, signed the accord with the NSCN-IM at a much publicised ceremony at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence. Besides Mr. Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval were present.
Naga problem was a legacy of British rule, says Modi
After the government signed a peace accord with the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other. It is a legacy of the British rule. The colonial rulers had, by design, kept the Nagas isolated and insulated. They propagated terrible myths about the Nagas in the rest of the country…They also spread negative ideas about the rest of India among the Naga people. This was part of the well-known policy of divide and rule of the colonial rulers.”
Joyson Mazamo of Naga Hoho, the apex body of the Naga tribes, told The Hindu: “Until and unless we see the contents of the accord, it is difficult to say anything. We were not involved in the talks with the government, though. The I-M group does not represent the entire Nagas but it has popular support.”
The group met Mr. Modi in June this year and demanded a lasting solution to the Naga problem. Mr. Mazamo added: “We want integration and want all arbitrary boundaries removed.”
The NSCN (I-M) has been fighting for an independent Nagaland, but later on demanded a ‘Greater Nagaland’ by slicing off parts of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to unite 1.2 million Nagas. The demand was opposed by the three States. In 2012, the UPA government formulated an agreement to be signed with the Naga groups, but it was shot down by Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh of the Congress.
After Monday’s accord, NSCN (I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, who signed the pact, said in a statement, “Better understanding has been arrived at and a framework agreement has been concluded, based on the unique history and position of the Nagas and recognising the universal principle that in a democracy sovereignty lies with the people.”
He said: “After decades of confrontation and untold sufferings, the Nagas decided to have political dialogue with the Government of India in view of the acknowledgement that the government will seek a peaceful solution, leaving aside the military solution.”
Though Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was present at the ceremony, sources said, the Home Ministry was kept out of the loop in the entire process. It is learnt that none of the senior officials of the Ministry, which is involved in the day-to-day operations in the north-east, was involved in it. The agreement was the culmination of over 80 rounds of negotiations spanning 16 years, with the first breakthrough coming in 1997 when a ceasefire agreement was sealed.
Before the agreement was signed, Mr. Modi spoke to leaders of various parties, including the former Prime Ministers, Manmohan Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda, Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh, Mayawati of the BSP, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
He also spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Tamil Nadu counterpart Jayalalithaa, besides Nagaland Governor Padmanabha Acharya and Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang and DMK president M. Karunanidhi.