Centre's interlocutor and Nagaland Governor, RN Ravi, had said last week that a mutually agreed draft comprehensive settlement is ready for signing the final agreement
Even as the October 31 deadline set by the Centre to wrap up the Naga peace talks looms, a solution to the decades-old conflict does not seem to be anywhere on the horizon.
News agency PTI reported that the central government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) held yet another round of talks on October 28 to hammer out the differences between the rebel faction and the government, but it did not yield any result.
Before we understand what this means, let us understand what the talks are, where and how they began, and what they entail for Nagaland and, indeed, the entire Northeast region.
What are the Naga peace talks all about?
The Naga peace talks refer to talks undertaken between the Indian government and the various stakeholders in Nagaland to resolve decades-old disputes.
Some of these issues date back to the colonial era. According to reports, the demand for a Greater Nagaland, or Nagalim— covering Nagaland, its neighboring states and even parts of Myanmar— has been an important part of Naga nationalism.
It's a demand being made for decades, and was first crystallized via the formation of a Naga Club in 1918. The Naga Club had reportedly told the Simon Commission that the Nagas should be left alone "to determine for ourselves as in ancient times".
On August 14, 1947, the Naga National Council (NNC) led by Angami Zapu Phizo declared Nagaland an independent state. Phizo also formed an underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and a Naga Federal Army (NFA) in 1952, which the Indian government sought to crush by sending in the Army in Nagaland and enacting the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, or AFSPA.
The resulting insurgency has, over the course of decades, resulted in the killing of thousands of people, including civilians.
How have the peace talks progressed historically?
Over the course of years, even as the insurgency continued in Nagaland, efforts were made by the government to bring the insurgents to the table.
In 1975, a peace accord between the government and the NNC was signed. Called the Shillong Accord, according to the agreement, the NNC promised to give up arms, but several senior leaders within the NNC did not agree with the agreement and broke away to float their own factions. One such faction was the NSCN, which later split to form the NSCN(I-M) faction.
In 1997, the NSCN(I-M) signed a ceasefire agreement with the government. The agreement ensured that while the government would not push for counter-insurgency operations against the NSCN (I-M) cadre and its leadership, the rebels on their part would not target armed forces.
In 2015, with the Narendra Modi government firmly in power, and PM Modi's push towards bringing an early resolution to the dispute, a framework agreement was signed, setting the stage for the ongoing peace talks.
What is the framework agreement?
Termed as "historic" by PM Modi, the agreement was signed after over 80 rounds of talks between the government and various stakeholders, but the exact details of the agreement haven't been revealed.
In a statement after the agreement was signed, the government said it has "recognised the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance".
According to a report by The Hindu, there was discomfort within sections of Nagaland after the government decided to bring other Naga armed groups on board under the aegis of the Naga National Political Groups (NNGP). The report states that certain sections in Nagaland suspect that this was done by the government to exploit existing divisions between the Nagas.
With the deadline in two days, what is the status of the talks now?
Reports are not very encouraging. The Centre's interlocutor and Nagaland Governor RN Ravi had earlier told The Hindu that the NSCN (I-M)'s demand for a separate flag and constitution would not be fulfilled, and had accused the organisation of delaying talks.
Ravi had said the NSCN(I-M) had taken a "procrastinating attitude" to delay the settlement.
On October 28, a team of the NSCN (I-M), led by its general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and Ravi met again to discuss the possible ways of finding an "honourable" solution by resolving the sticky issue of a separate flag and Constitution for the Nagas.
"The dialogue, which lasted for more than four hours, remained inconclusive and both sides agreed to meet again soon. However, a final agreement between the NSCN (I-M) and the government is unlikely to take place by October 31," an official privy to the development had told news agency PTI.
As talks were progressing with the NSCN (I-M), a group of seven Naga outfits pushing for an early solution to the Naga issue has urged elected representatives to avoid a "neutral stand" and make clear their position.
Ravi, in a statement, had said last week that a mutually agreed draft comprehensive settlement, including all the substantive issues and competencies, is ready for signing the final agreement.
How does this affect Nagaland's neighbours?
For one thing, the fact that the NSCN (I-M)'s idea of a Nagalim includes parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur has alarmed the states. Civil society organisations in the three states have stated that no compromise on their territorial integrity would be accepted.
But they have reasons to be wary, since NSCN (I-M) is considered to be one of the largest rebel groups in the sub-continent with access to sophisticated weaponry, its actions are bound to affect the states in a negative manner.However, reports suggest that for now, the respective state governments have decided to adopt a "wait and watch" attitude until the final peace deal is announced.Get access to India's fastest growing financial subscriptions service Moneycontrol Pro for as little as Rs 599 for first year. Use the code "GETPRO". Moneycontrol Pro offers you all the information you need for wealth creation including actionable investment ideas, independent research and insights & analysis For more information, check out the Moneycontrol website or mobile app.