Despite 2015 'Framework Agreement', Nagaland set for another polls without a solution to 77-year-old conflict

While the NSCN-IM claims that the Framework Agreement agreed for "shared sovereignty," the Centre clarified that the Naga outfit's interpretation of the agreement was not correct.
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 17:09 IST
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 17:09 IST

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Guwahati: Vetilo Venuh was in the first year of his BA in Meghalaya capital Shillong in August 2015 when a 'Framework Agreement' was signed between Narendra Modi-led new government at the Centre and Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM. Modi, who attended the function in New Delhi, said the new pact would end the over seven-decades-long conflict and usher a bright future for youths in Nagaland.

Two years later, the Centre in 2017 signed another agreement with Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), a forum of six other rebel groups, separately, raising hope for youths like Venuh about an end to the Naga conflict. "Both the agreements came as a hope for most of the Nagas," Venuh, a resident of Nagaland capital Kohima told DH on Wednesday. But nine years down the line, Nagaland is going for another election, the second Lok Sabha polls since then, without a solution in sight to the country's longest conflict. "The Framework Agreement will turn a decade next year but the process for a final solution is being dragged for too long," Venuh, who later did his masters in conflict studies, said.

The Framework Agreement was to be the basis for finding a final solution to the Naga conflict but the contrasting interpretation of the 2015 agreement since then has kept the negotiation prolonged and the solution at a distance. While the NSCN-IM claims that the Framework Agreement agreed for "shared sovereignty," the Centre clarified that the Naga outfit's interpretation of the agreement was not correct.

NSCN-IM imbroglio

The NSCN-IM have several times made it clear that its "core demands" such a separate flag and Constitution (called Yehjabo) for the Nagas and "integration" of the Naga-inhabited areas in the Northeast, is non-negotiable. But the Centre categorically rejected the demands and offered the Nagas to only symbolically use their flag and constitution for reaching a final solution. The NNPG, on the other hand, agreed to sign the final agreement without insistence on the demand for the flag and Yehjabo.

"It seems the Government of India does not have the political will to settle the issue. Only some rhetoric was made or promised in the manifestos of the elections since 2015 but we don't see any hope given the attitude of the government," Ilu Ndang, former general secretary of Naga Hoho, an apex body of the Nagas, told DH on Wednesday. "It is a historic fact that Nagas were never part of India and will never accept a solution under the Indian constitution. By signing the Framework Agreement, Nagas agreed to live as two separate entities by accepting the concept of shared sovereignty. The Framework Agreement is still alive but we have not seen any concrete step towards finding a solution. The government is shifting its stand from the Framework Agreement. We are now convinced that the government of India is more into fragmenting the Naga people rather than going for an inclusive political settlement," he said.

Nagas had declared "independence" in 1947 and launched an armed movement in which hundreds of Nagas and security forces died in the conflict that followed. This violence continued till 1997 when the NSCN-IM agreed for a ceasefire agreement with the Centre and continued negotiations for finding a solution to the Naga conflict.

"Naga issue is a unique issue and Nagas are not fighting for autonomy under the Constitution of India or a financial package. Jawaharlal Nehru had given the statehood in 1963. But that did not bring a solution because Nagas did not demand statehood. Now why is Narendra Modi offering another solution under the Indian Constitution despite knowing that Nagas would not never accept that? It is also not that Nagas don't want development. But our political identity as Naga has to be honoured first," he said.

LS poll battle

Nagaland at present has an Opposition-less government with the BJP and its ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) leading it. Chumben Murry has been fielded as the consensus candidate of BJP-NDPP for the state's lone Lok Sabha seat. All 60 MLAs also extended their support to Murry. Congress, which does not have an MLA in the Assembly now, has fielded S. Supongmeren Jamir. In an apparent attempt to reap political benefits of the imbroglio over the Framework Agreement, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala on Tuesday promised that I.N.D.I.A. bloc would resolve the Naga conflict, if voted to power at The Centre. He called the 2015 Framework Agreement as another jumla of PM Modi. CM and NDPP Chief Neiphiu Rio has said that all legislators would pave the way (resign) for a political solution to the vexed Naga conflict.

Meanwhile, Eastern Naga People's Organisation (ENPO) in eastern Nagaland, which represents 20 MLAs, have decided to boycott the Lok Sabha elections to register their protest for not fulfilling its demand for a Frontier Nagaland Territory, comprising six districts.

Published 17 April 2024, 17:09 IST

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