Naga peace talks hit bump over Governor’s letter

NSCN-IM wants R.N. Ravi removed as interlocutor

Updated - August 10, 2020 11:24 pm IST

Published - August 10, 2020 10:17 pm IST - New Delhi

Security personnel after busting an illegal arms workshop, suspected to be run by NSCN (IM),  in Ukhrul, Manipur.

Security personnel after busting an illegal arms workshop, suspected to be run by NSCN (IM), in Ukhrul, Manipur.

The Naga peace talks have hit rough weather even as the leadership of NSCN-IM held a detailed meeting with two Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials in New Delhi on Monday.

The Isaak Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM), one of the largest Naga groups with which the Government of India signed a framework agreement on August 3, 2015, is reportedly peeved with interlocutor R.N Ravi, and has demanded that he be removed from the position. The agreement was signed by Mr. Ravi on behalf of the Centre in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr. Ravi, a former IB official was also appointed as Nagaland’s Governor in 2019.

A senior NSCN-IM leader told The Hindu that Monday’s meeting was led by NSCN-IM leader Thuingaleng Muivah, 86, who flew to Delhi last month.

Also read: Talks with NSCN-IM remain inconclusive

Mr. Muivah has reportedly refused to meet Mr. Ravi after the latter’s letter to Nagaland Chief Minister on June 16 that “over half a dozen organized armed gangs were brazenly running their respective ‘so called governments’ challenging the legitimacy of the State government.”

The letter was followed by another order on July 7 asking government officials to declare if their family members or relatives are members of any “underground organisation.”

NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in 2001.

A senior government official said, “The letter by Nagaland Governor alluding to the NSCN-IM as an armed gang was seen as an insult by the leadership. The movement is more than 70 years old and they feel that the trust they established with the interlocutor is now broken.”

The official said the security agencies were trying to end the stalemate and find a middle ground so that talks do not collapse.

“Since it is a tribal set up, most people are related to each other. The July 7 order asking government officials to declare if family members or relatives were members of underground groups seemed insensitive,” said the official.

Another source, however, said the talks were on track.

Mr. Ravi could not be reached for comments.

On August 8, V. Horam, an executive member of the NSCN-IM steering committee told The Eastern Mirror newspaper that “Mr. Ravi had portrayed Naga national workers as gangsters with an attempt to turn Naga issue into a law and order issue and not political as intended.” Mr. Horam also said the “agreement goes as such that Nagas will not be under Indian Constitution….but co-exist as two entities.”

Mr. Ravi had said last year that “endless negotiation under the shadow of guns is not acceptable” and that there will be no separate national flag or constitution for the Nagas as demanded by the NSCN-IM.

The final leg of discussions with NSCN-IM, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and other civil society groups was wrapped on October 31 last year.

Mr. Ravi signed a preamble in November 2017 with the NNPGs and made them a party in the Naga peace deal lingering on for decades.

The NNPG issued a statement on August 6 that the Working Committee “negotiated and agreed in principle the proposed political arrangements, entrenching distinct Naga identity in all Naga inhabited areas” adding that to suggest a new interlocutor at this time is to rewind the Indo-Naga issue back to zero.

NSCN-IM has been fighting for ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim — it wants to extend Nagaland's borders by including Naga-dominated areas in neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, to unite 1.2 million Nagas. Centre has however, said there will be no disintegration of States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur to merge the Naga inhabited areas with the existing State of Nagaland.

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