Maharaj Bodhachandra and Chief Minister Biren
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah wants to end the Naga deal here and now, somehow. The question now is what they are going to offer as a compensatory gesture to the NSCN-IM
Controversies aside, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have decided to a closure of the protracted talks with Naga groups which began in 1997, which is why top officials in the Indian security establishment are burning midnight oil to find a solution acceptable to all the groups.
The official word now from Government of India is that the talks are at an advanced stage or moving forward and nothing more is revealed as usual, although all kinds of speculations are doing the rounds. However, the NSCN-IM General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah is so frustrated with the pace and direction of the talks that he recently came out in the open for removal of the GOI interlocutor and Nagaland state Governor RN Ravi. He accused Ravi of tampering the Framework Agreement signed on August 2015 between the group and GOI and engaging more in divisive politics among the Naga Groups, and even threatened to pull out of the peace talks.
On the other hand, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), a conglomerate of the other Naga underground factions are openly supporting RN Ravi and talking of leaving out NSCN-IM in the signing of the peace accord if it continues to press its ‘impossible’ demands. So far, the stated ‘impossible’ demands of the NSCN-IM is the Naga Flag and the Naga Constitution while the (publicly) unstated demand is some sort of arrangement for the Nagas of Manipur who had been in recent times disowned by the mainstream Nagas as in the past. It is an open secret that, the mainland Nagas has been resenting the dominance of Manipuri Nagas more particularly the Tangkhuls in the Naga underground hierarchy all along.
Nagaland Governor and the GOI interlocutor RN Ravi has in recent times successfully divided the Naga society with regard to the age-old issue of Naga insurgency or for that matter has successfully isolated the Nagas of Manipur from the mainstream Nagas of Nagaland state. While some may dispute the logic, RN Ravi’s specific mission as a Governor of Nagaland state turned out more or less an attempt at doing just that thereby weakening the hold of NSCN-IM in Naga society. The Nagas have already been tired after years of negotiations which began in 1997 with no end in sight and the once indomitable Naga Army already softened by years of comfort outside the jungle, while the health of Mr Muivah is not that good now. The advent of such a weakened position is exactly why, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah wants to end the Naga deal here and now, somehow. The question now is what they are going to offer as a compensatory gesture to the NSCN-IM. Of course, the group will never be satisfied with the offer. However, they will surely press for a deal which could eventually be turned into a handle for any future struggle towards the ultimate goal.
Looking at the decades-old Naga insurgency from the 16 point agreement with a ‘mention’ of Naga integration and eventual Nagaland statehood to the 1970 Shillong Accord, the birth of NSCN and the split into two major factions and the infamous Bangkok Agreement, it was always moving forward.
And the 2020 agreement, if at all it materialises, is no guarantee that the Naga insurgency would end. History is testimony to that, as the second rung leadership of NSCN-IM are already questioning the impatience of Muivah in striking a deal during his lifetime. But, GOI would not let such an opportunity pass. We cannot say anything about how Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, both with BJP governments, would respond to any proposal from the Centre regarding GOI’s formula. We are mainly concerned with the response of the state Government here. It has already been reported that, Chief Minister N Biren Singh and Opposition leader O Ibobi have been invited to New Delhi for talks on the issue. While we all now the past and present position of O Ibobi regarding a Naga solution, we still do not know how Biren would respond to any kind of ‘arm-twisting’ from his bosses in New Delhi. Would he turn out to be another Maharaja Bodhachandra who had to sign the controversial Merger Agreement in Shillong?