Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 143, 19 August 2020

India's Northeast: The Naga Peace talks in trouble, with the new NSCN demands
Vaishali Handique

In the news
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaak-Muivah faction) has released the original copy of the confidential "Framework Agreement" (FA) signed by the Prime Minister of India in 2015 in the lines of achieving a peace settlement between the Naga separatist groups and the Republic of India. It has also accused RN Ravi - the Governor of Nagaland, who is also the interlocutor, of doctoring the FA and creating a rift between the Nagaland's political groups. 

On 14 August 2020, the NSCN Chief has stated never to "merge with India but coexist" during the Naga Independence Day celebrations on and fight till the wrong of the interlocutor is undone. 

The Prime Minister has asked the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to investigate, and channelize it with proper communication, and clear those unresolved issues.

Issues at large
First, is the growing mistrust between the NSCN (IM) and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs). The Naga separatist movement is no longer a monolith was the case earlier. The NSCN is working to bring back the consensus; one of the reasons to publish the confidential Framework Agreement stems from this. However, the NNPGs is on the opposite end while another Naga Kuki group was quick to request protection New Delhi regarding any possible 'genocide by the NSCN (IM).

The second issue is the difference between the NNPGs and the NSCN (IM) that includes the removal of the interlocutor cum Governor. Though the NSCN believes that Mr Ravi misled the NNPGs into a parallel agreement, the latter expressed clearly that they are concerned with the conclusion of the peace accord. The demand of the NSCN (IM) of having a separate flag and a constitution is proving to be a hindrance for other groups; for them, insisting on this demand is delaying the main objective.

The third issue is the protest against NSCN (IM) 's demand for a greater Nagalim in the rest of the Northeast. The governments and people in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are against the territorial expansion of Nagaland. They demand that New Delhi does not disturb the territorial integrity of the other States towards achieving peace with one State in the region.

The fourth issue is the strong position taken by the Governor of Nagaland, who is also the interlocutor of the Naga peace process. He considers the demands of the NSCN (IM) as "imaginary". He is against the NSCN demand for a separate "sovereign" with their own flag and constitution stating it to be impossible as Nagaland falls under the Indian constitution.
In perspective
First, the NSCN (IM) does not want to break the process and upset the trust established with New Delhi, but want a different interlocutor. The release of the original FA for comparison and analysis only proves the point. The NSCN has left the doors open for New Delhi's involvement.

Second, the NSCN (IM) is careful in blaming the NNPGs. It needs a consensus in Nagaland, hence shifting all the blame on the interlocutor. They realize that most of the NNPGs stand with the interlocutor and hence aim to gain back their trust.

Third, the NNPGs choosing the interlocutor's side is a game-changer. This makes the NSCN (IM) demand on 'sovereignty' weak, and impact their decades-long dream of a separate Nagalim. It is a brave move by the NNPGs and a practical approach to attaining peace in the State.

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