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Fate of Naga peace process hangs in balance as NSCN-IM rejects Centre's offer


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GUWAHATI: The fate of the Naga peace process hangs in the balance as the Isak-Muivah faction of the major insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagalim or NSCN-IM on Thursday said in clear terms that it would not accept the "Naga national flag" as a cultural flag as hinted by Government of India.

"It is unthinkable for NSCN to accept Naga national flag as cultural flag as hinted by Government of India. Naga National Flag that symbolizes Naga political identity is not negotiable," the NSCN-IM said in the editorial of its latest "news bulletin" Nagalim Voice.

The statement comes against the backdrop of reports emanating from Nagaland that the Centre has offered that the Naga national flag could be used for cultural purposes and there would be some reflection of the Naga constitution in the constitution of India.

The NSCN-IM said when the Framework Agreement was signed on August 3, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went "histrionic" by announcing he had solved the longest-running insurgency movement in the Southeast Asia.

"Today, the NSCN is watching how the same PM of India is going to handle Framework Agreement with NSCN and Naga people that he himself took so much pride and credit," the editorial reads.

The outfit expressed concern over the "habitual betraying" nature of the Centre.

"Such has the depravity on the part of the Government of India been that every good thing gained during the 25 years of Indo-Naga political talks is facing the risk of going down the drain," the NSCN-IM said.

The outfit added that the "unfortunate development" was tantamount to political blackmail but it was unnerved in the face of such brinkmanship.

There has been a sudden spike in political activity and whispers of a Naga settlement in Nagaland following the Centre's recent separate meetings with Naga leaders.

Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, former Chief Minister SC Jamir and the leaders of the NSCN-IM had met the central leaders in New Delhi.

The meetings followed Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton’s statement back home that some senior insurgent leaders do not want a settlement to the issue so that they can continue to enjoy the comforts of life at people’s cost. Such a hard-hitting statement by a Naga political leader is rare in Nagaland.

Upon his return from the national capital, Jamir warned of an impending “earthquake” in the state with the epicentre in Delhi. He did not elaborate on it.

On Wednesday, the Core Committee on Naga Political Issue, of which the state’s all 60 MLAs are members, met at the residence of Rio. What transpired there was not disclosed but sources said some members of the committee, led by the CM, would meet the NSCN-IM leadership, either in the state’s commercial hub of Dimapur or Delhi on May 28 or 29.

Kuzholuzo Nienu, who is an MLA, said it was a “take it or leave it” moment for the NSCN-IM. The process of peace started in 1997 and the Nagas at large are yearning for settlement.

The NSCN-IM has convened a meeting of its all top bodies on May 31. Delegates from all “Naga regions” are likely to attend it. The Nagas have sizeable populations also in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.

The developments left a section of the Nagas excited. However, others are not so optimistic. They viewed it as an election gimmick and pressure tactic by the Centre.

The Centre held parallel peace talks with the NSCN-IM and an amalgam of seven other insurgent groups which came together under the banner of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) in 2016.

The peace talks are over but the solution to the issue continues to hang fire due to the NSCN-IM’s demand for a separate Naga flag and "yezabo" (constitution). The groups under NNPGs are flexible. They say the contentious issues could be pursued post-settlement.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)