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Naga peace talks to resume: Can we hope for a solution?

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Efforts are again being made in the direction of reaching an accord that does fair justice to the common Naga people who have all been victims of the dark days of the insurgency in some way or the other.

Undoubtedly, the issue of Naga sovereignty has been one among those which has remained unresolved for perhaps the longest period of time in post-Independent India. It may be recalled here that it was on August 14, 1947 that the Naga National Council (NNC) led by Angami Zapu Phizo had declared independence for Nagaland. For several decades thereafter, intermittent conflicts broke out in Nagaland between several Naga insurgent groups and the Indian Army.

It was only in the year 1997 that the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah)/NSCN (IM) entered into a ceasefire with the Government of India. It had aroused people's hopes for a final solution and settlement of the Naga issue, which has, however, unfortunately not been fulfilled till date. Although periodic talks have taken place between the Union Government and several Naga insurgent outfits, a Naga Peace Accord is yet to be signed.

Nagas during a protest rally demanding peace talks and repeal of Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA) in Nagaland

On August 3, 2015 NSCN leader T. Muivah had signed a Framework Agreement with the Government of India in the presence of PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and NSA Ajit Doval. The hope was that this Agreement would provide the main basis for reaching a Peace Accord in the near future. However, the NSCN (IM) soon joined hands with a militia organisation, viz. the United Liberation Front of Western South-East Asia, along with other terrorist groups of the North-East.

SIT records statements of Army soldiers involved in Naga OpSIT records statements of Army soldiers involved in Naga Op

Shortly thereafter, it broke off all peace talks with the Indian Government. But, the dialogue between the government, the NSCN (IM), and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) which is an umbrella organisation of different Naga outfits, including insurgent groups, was discontinued. This happened because of an impasse over the Union Government's inability to allot a separate Flag and a Constitution to Nagaland.

The NNPGs are of the opinion that they cannot, at any cost, compromise on the issues of a Flag and the Constitution. It is because of the reason that they consider the Naga National Flag as the symbol of a recognised separate Naga 'Christian' identity, and the Constitution as the final book and authority of this Naga sovereignty and separate identity. But, what has been the outcome of such a state of affairs? A state of uncertainty looms large over the status of the Naga peace talks and the eventual possibility of arriving at an Accord, which has been a protracted battle.

In this context, the decision of the NSCN (IM) to resume peace talks with the Central Government, as recently announced by Nagaland's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Chairman TR Zeliang, has brought in a fresh air of positivity, hope and optimism for the common people of not only Nagaland but also those Nagas residing in the neighbouring states of Manipur, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh. The common Naga people have always yearned for permanent peace to return through an expeditious resolution of the armed conflict in the Naga-inhabited areas of these states.

Zeliang also happens to be the co-Chairman of the state government's Core Committee on the Naga political issue. He stated that after the Central Government had instructed the core panel headed by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio to make an attempt at persuasion with the different Naga groups, the Naga outfit had been persuaded to change its mind about the resumption of the peace talks. Because of the undue delay and prolongation of the peace talks and the schisms that subsequently resulted between the various stakeholders, any chance of harmony and unity between the Nagas and the Indian Government remained elusive.

Army team probing Naga op gives investigating team access to soldiersArmy team probing Naga op gives investigating team access to soldiers

Most importantly, continued delay may lead to further complications which might become too difficult to be resolved as time passes. Many sections and groups of people and communities within the broader Naga society, in particular the younger generation, have, of late, been expressing their concern and impatience at the continued inability of the stakeholders to break the stalemate and finally arrive at a Peace Accord. Without any iota of doubt, the demands for a separate Flag and a separate Constitution, which have been the main bones of contention in the talks, cannot be granted by the Indian Government.

Yet, the fact that efforts are again beginning to be made in the direction of reaching an accord that does fair justice to the hopes and aspirations of the common Naga people who have all been victims of the dark days of the insurgency in some way or the other, signal a positive beginning. At this juncture, one can only hope that the process of dialogue and negotiations resume at the earliest and bring to a close the long drawn-out battle between the Indian state and the Naga insurgents.

(Ankita Dutta is a researcher from Assam. She has done M.Phil. and Ph.D. from JNU, New Delhi. Her area of specialisation is the culture and history of North-East India, with focus on recent socio-political developments in the region.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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