Interlocutor’s letter ended Nagaland poll impasse

‘New Assembly won’t scuttle final pact’.

February 11, 2018 10:12 pm | Updated February 12, 2018 12:46 am IST - New Delhi

 R.N. Ravi, Centre’s interlocutor for Naga talks. File

R.N. Ravi, Centre’s interlocutor for Naga talks. File

A letter written by the Centre’s interlocutor R.N. Ravi to the Naga groups, including the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), on February 3 helped to end the impasse over the Nagaland Assembly elections. Civil society groups and the NSCN(I-M) had called a boycott of the elections till a political solution was reached.

In the letter seen by The Hindu , Mr. Ravi assured the groups that the new Assembly would not come in the way of the final agreement.

Following this, they withdrew the call.

The Election Commission announced the poll schedule on January 19. The poll process started on January 31. February 7 was the last date for nominations. No nomination was filed till February 5.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, who is also the BJP’s in charge for the Nagaland elections, said the election process could be set in motion by “extensive lobbying and manoeuvring.”

“Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Mr. Ravi played a key role in bringing the parties concerned on board,” he said.

Deal almost done

A top source told The Hindu that the Union government and the NSCN(I-M) had almost sealed the final agreement a day before the Election Commission announced the schedule, but the outfit pulled out at the last moment. “Since a compromise on the territorial integrity is out of the question, the outfit was offered a socio-political body like the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. After agreeing to the terms, the outfit refused to sign the final agreement, leading to the impasse,” a senior official said.

The Centre has assured the groups that the Assembly will be dissolved as and when the agreement is signed. “They had apprehensions that the elections would delay the final peace agreement because a newly elected Assembly cannot be dissolved. We assured them that if a deal was signed in the next two-three months, the elections would be held afresh,” the official said.

The NSCN(IM) has been fighting for creation of ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim by extending the State’s borders to cover the Naga-dominated areas in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, uniting 1.2 million Nagas. Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, all under the BJP, have refused to part with any land. The Centre is yet to spell out the details of the agreement. An official said the talks were delayed by the death last year of Isak Swu, one of the leaders of the NSCN(IM). The other leader, T. Muivah, has been carrying on the negotiations on behalf of the group.

The official said the final accord was ready and the Centre proposed an auxiliary battalion for the NSCN(IM) cadre living in a camp at Hebron. They would also be asked to lay down their weapons.

On August 3, 2015, Mr. Ravi signed a “framework agreement” on behalf of the Union government with the NSCN(IM) to end the decades-old insurgency. It was signed at the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since then, the Opposition has attacked the government for misleading the nation as the final agreement is yet to be signed. On February 4, Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “August 2015, Mr. Modi claims to create history by signing the NAGA accord. Feb 2018, Naga Accord is still nowhere to be found. Modiji is the first ever Indian PM whose words don’t mean anything #CantFindTheAccord.”

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