Nagaland: Caught between bitter past, complex present

Nagaland's flag

The Centre's hint about signing the "final agreement" with Naga groups without the rebel group NSCN-IM has left many in the Northeast sceptical about a permanent solution to the decades-old conflict and instead raised fears of a repetition of the troubled days that followed the signing of 16-Points Agreement of 1960 and the Shillong Accord of 1975.

With the NSCN (IM) sticking to its "core issues" for a separate flag and Constitution for the Nagas, the demands already rejected by the Centre, many in Nagaland believe that negotiations should continue for some more time for finding "a middle path" and sign a comprehensive agreement with all stakeholders to avoid the bitter past.

"There is fear and apprehension in the minds of the Nagas. If the agreement is not inclusive, instead of bringing peace, it will create more trouble. Both parties should understand the position of each other and hammer out a mutually negotiated solution. If the solution is much more than the past solutions, we believe that the Naga stakeholders might be able to come to terms," president of Naga Students' Federation (NSF), the apex students' body, Ninoto Awomi told DH over the phone.

Naga groups claim that Nagas were never part of India and had declared Independence on August 14, 1947, and subsequently continued "armed movement" led by rebel leader Phizo under Naga National Council (NNC). Nagaland witnessed protracted violence and in 1960, the Centre signed a 16-point agreement with moderates in NNC, who formed another group. Nagaland was made a separate state in 1963 but there was no end in insurgency despite the Centre's continuous military efforts. A section within NNC and a few other groups signed the Shillong Accord in 1975. But the NNC group led by Thuingleng Muivah formed NSCN in 1980 and continued the armed fight till 1997 when it agreed for a ceasefire agreement. Their cadres with weapons are still in their designated headquarters at Hebron near Dimapur. The NSCN (IM) signed a "Framework Agreement" on August 3, 2015, that according to the outfit, accepted Naga problem as a unique one. The group claimed that the Centre agreed for "shared sovereignty" but was now "stepping back" on its commitments. 

The Centre's interlocutor R N Ravi, who is also Nagaland governor now, said a comprehensive draft agreement was ready but the NSCN (IM) was unnecessarily dragging the framework agreement and was imputing "imaginary contents" to it.

Government sources said Ravi was willing to sign the "final agreement" with Naga National People's Group (NNPG), a forum of seven other rebel groups, which agreed to continue their negotiations for separate flag and Constitution even after signing the agreement. The NSCN (IM), however, contended that NNPG does not represent the Naga society and even charged some Naga leaders of taking money from the Centre for signing the agreement. 

"We have history to learn and the Government of India should open the pages of the past agreements like Shillong Accord and 16 Point Agreement. These agreements are the root cause of the present Indo-Naga political problem. Historical blunders should not be repeated deliberately," the NSCN-IM said in a statement on Saturday.

Meanwhile, police in Nagaland has sounded an alert citing intelligence inputs suggesting mobilization of the NSCN-IM cadres and shifting of their weapons from Hebron camp to carry out violence if the final agreement is signed without meeting its demands. 

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