Haze over final agreement to end Naga conflict

Haze over final agreement to end Naga conflict

A group of Sikh people wave Naga flag in New Delhi seeking an early solution to Naga conflict. DH photo

The Centre's denial about a separate flag and a Constitution for the Nagas has left many doubtful about the possibility of signing a final agreement to resolve the decades-old Naga political conflict soon.

Nagaland governor and the Centre's interlocutor R N Ravi said last month that Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to complete the negotiation within November for the signing of the final agreement. But many in Nagaland fear that the final agreement is unlikely soon given the "tussle" between the Centre and NSCN (IM), the rebel group over the demand for separate flag and Constitution for the Nagas.

NSCN (IM) leader Thuingaleng Muivah on Monday categorically told a Guwahati-based news channel that the final agreement was not possible without meeting its "core demand" for separate flag and Constitution, indicating that it was not willing to accept "options" offered by the Centre. 

"The negotiation is now stuck between the demand for separate flag and constitution and the Centre's denial of the same. So things seem to be back to square one even as Ravi has been repeatedly saying that Nagaland is at the threshold of a historic moment or a final agreement," a source in NSCN (IM) said.

The source also expressed doubt about the Centre acceding to the NSCN (IM) demand given Modi government's tough stand to deal with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. "Although home minister Amit Shah promised that the Centre would not touch Article 371 (special provisions for Nagaland and a few states in the Northeast), it is very unlikely that Modi government will agree for separate flag and Constitution. NSCN (IM) will also not accept the options since only a separate flag and a Constitution will protect the unique identity of the Nagas," said the source.

Naga groups including NSCN (IM) do not consider Nagas to be part of India and have fought an armed fight till it signed a ceasefire with the Centre in 1997. After years of negotiation, the NSCN (IM) signed a framework agreement with the Modi government in August 2015, which accepted the Nagas problem as a unique one. 

NSCN (IM) said Nagas would never merge with India but agreed to "share sovereignty" given the complications involved in finding a permanent solution.

The influential Naga Students' Federation on Wednesday took out a rally in New Delhi and submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Modi with a request for an honourable and comprehensive solution.

"Naga people will never accept a solution that is imposed on us. We shall not accept a solution that is not honourable and ensure that dignity of the Nagas is respected. Any attempt to impose a solution without addressing the core issues will only plunge Nagaland into another phase of bloodbath and darkness," said the memorandum. 

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