Sign accords but talk peace

In the weeks following the signing of the August 3 Naga Framework Agreement, the has focused on the belief that the process has now reached the stage of a dialogue from the earlier stage of negotiations. This is reflected in the statements of both R.N. Ravi, the government’s peace interlocutor, and National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) [NSCN(IM)] general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah.

The Naga internal consultative process has tried to be inclusive of civil society bodies, academia, student bodies, social organisations and armed groups since the 1950s. The three Naga Peoples’ Conventions (NPCs) from 1957 to 1959 resulted in the formation of the State of Nagaland, established in 1963. However, this process, inclusive as it may have been, failed to garner the support of A.Z. Phizo, leader of the Naga National Council (NNC), who by 1960 had shifted base to London. From London, Phizo wrote that nothing short of independence was acceptable to the Nagas based on their history and tradition. Phizo’s persistent writings from London fuelled dissent against the 16-point agreement that established Nagaland.

The latest agreement was signed with NSCN (I-M), and other Naga armed groups such as NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) and NSCN (Reformation) have either resisted or welcomed the agreement. NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) pointed out on August 22 at Dimapur that while they welcomed any initiative that recognises Naga history, ethnicity and culture, they do not rejoice at the framework agreement, as it was limited to just the NSCN (I-M).

Getting all actors on board

NSCN (Reformation) led by Wangtin Naga and P. Tikhak have applauded the peace initiative but have highlighted the importance of an inclusive base. Members of the Naga Hoho and others have volunteered to meet NSCN (Khaplang) in Myanmar to bring them into the consultative process.

On August 25, at a People’s Consultative Meeting on the accord, Mr. Muivah spoke about the criticality of getting the other Naga armed actors on board. While explaining the idea of a pan-Naga Hoho (a proposed statutory body as part of the framework agreement) that will enjoy independent executive and budgetary powers to look after the welfare of Naga inhabited areas outside Nagaland, Mr. Muivah again called for mutual understanding and dialogue among the Nagas. Niketu Iralu, a respected peace activist, present at the meeting, highlighted the significance of consultation to bring on board those who remained sceptical.

This consultative aspect leads me to delve deeper into the changing language, from one of negotiation to one that stresses dialogue. While negotiation aims at finding a concrete agreement, dialogue aims at a changed relationship. Naga peace negotiations have been stalled for decades due to the rigid postures of the main parties — like the government’s position that India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty are non-negotiable and the NSCN (I-M)’s insistence that any resolution has to be outside the framework of the Indian Constitution and must include integration of all Naga inhabited areas.

According to Hal Sanders, from the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and the Kettering Foundation, “Dialogue is a process of genuine interaction through which human beings listen to each other deeply enough to be changed by what they learn. Each makes a serious effort to take others’ concern into her or his own picture, even when disagreement persists. No participant gives up her or his identity, but each recognises enough of the other’s valid human claims that he or she will act differently toward the other.” There are certain key components of a successful dialogue, namely, inclusiveness; joint ownership; listening, learning, and adapting; empathy and humanity; notions of ‘self’ and the ‘other’; understanding of context; transparency; and a vision for the future.

Dialogue aims to bridge the gap between the notions of ‘self’ and the ‘other’ and the constructed realities based on that distinction. The participants in the dialogue must have an understanding of the historical context leading to the conflict, and be sensitive to the changing political and social context. Cultural knowledge and understanding of the ‘way of the land’ is critical. Any dialogue must have a long-term vision for the future propelled by the recognition that changed relationships hold the key to conflict resolution.

The primary participants in the Naga dialogue processes, besides the government, are listed in the table alongside. Besides this, ordinary citizens like businessmen, intellectuals, and church leaders must be involved. The Naga dialogues vary in participation from a minimum of 20 to a maximum of 10,000 people and the process ranges from two days to a month. The dialogues have been mostly facilitated by the Naga Hoho, the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) and the Joint Forum for Gaonburahs and Doibashis (JFGBDB). These civil society actors see the conflict as a response to the inadequate fulfilment of basic human needs in Naga society. Though they rarely believe that the NSCN (I-M)’s or NSCN (K)’s movements for an independent homeland will succeed, they support the violent struggle as a fight for justice and safeguarding ethnic life-worlds.

Such consultative meetings have been routinely held over the years to address issues pertaining to the Naga conflict. The test for the current consultative process is to absorb the principles of dialogue identified above, especially pertaining to inclusiveness, joint ownership, transparency, and a vision for the future. Resistance from the Khole-Kitovi, and Khaplang factions to the August 3 agreement has to be addressed within the framework of dialogue.

Moreover, the Naga intra-community dialogue participants must evolve an ‘inter-dialogue’ mechanism with conflicting ethnic groups like the Meiteis, and give a genuine hearing to their concerns of possible subjugation by the Nagas. Mr. Muivah indicated his desire to address the anxieties of other States in Northeast India on the Nagalim demand in his August 13 speech at Dimapur. An inter-ethnic dialogue on the Naga framework agreement across affected States in the North-east will be a good start to making it more inclusive.

( Dr. Namrata Goswami is Research Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).She was Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University, Melbourne in 2009 where she specialized on the theory and practice of dialogical conflict resolution. E-mail:

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 11:07:12 PM |

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