A solution to his heart somehow seems to elude the dream of NSCN (I-M) chief Thuingaleng Muivah, at the last minute. He has been negotiating with the Government of India through interlocutors since 1997 and still there is no end in sight. The secret parleys began in 1995, when the then Prime Minister PV Narisimha Rao met Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu in Paris on June 15.
The then Home Minister Rajesh Pilot again met them in Bangkok in November 1996. Several Prime Ministers, including HD Devegowda and Atal Bihari Vajpayee also met them at various locations outside the country secretly, besides scores of Intelligence and top officials of the Home Ministry, till it became official on June 14, 2001 when the then interlocutor K Padmanabhaiah signed the controversial ceasefire ‘without territorial limits’ with the NSCN (I-M) leaders.
Manipur took exception to the term ‘without territorial limits’ as it was linked with Muivah’s dream of a Greater Nagaland which seeks to bring in contiguous areas inhabited by Nagas in the neighbouring states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh under a single administrative unit called Nagalim along with the state of Nagaland.
After intense agitation in Manipur, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government backtracked on the Bangkok agreement and limited the ceasefire to the state of Nagaland only. It was not only Manipur, but both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh also protested against the agreement. That was Thuingaleng Muivah’s first tactical defeat.
In fact, the first interlocutor was former Governor of Mizoram Swaraj Kaushal. He was followed by K Padmanabhiah, RS Pandey and former Governor of Nagaland RN Ravi before he was shifted to Tamil Nadu. Now AK Mishra, a former IB official is handling the talks.
However, Ravi had declared that talks had already been concluded during his time as GOI interlocutor which Muivah disputed. It was after RN Ravi took over that the much touted ‘controversial’ framework agreement was signed on August 3, 2015, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, to arrive at a political solution to the vexed Naga issue.
Seven years have gone by, but a conducive solution is still far away. not everything seems to be going the way it was envisaged. As NSCN (I-M) began pushing for a change of interlocutor RN Ravi in 2020 June 16 wrote a three-and-a-half-page letter to Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphu Rio asserting his powers under Article 371A of the constitution, proposing that henceforth important law and order decisions like the transfer and posting of officials entrusted with maintenance of law and order will be after the approval of the governor.
The reason cited for that suggestion was the “unrestrained depredations by over half a dozen organised armed gangs, brazenly running their respective so-called ‘governments’, challenging the legitimacy of the state government without any resistance from the state law and order machinery” and “creating a crisis of confidence in the system”. The governor was referring to taxation of residents in the state levied by the NSCN (I-M) and some other groups on a monthly basis.
There is much more than the controversial letter. Since coming over as state Governor, RN Ravi had successfully isolated NSCN (I-M) from the other ‘Naga National Political Groups’ who desired to limit the resolution of the Naga problem in the state of Nagaland only. In fact, the general public in Nagaland want a settlement as soon as possible and one the main reasons is this issue of forcible taxation by several factions of the underground.
On the other hand, Muivah insisted on the Naga Flag and Naga Constitution as GOI had repeatedly rejected the demand for a Greater Naga Lim or a Pan Naga Hoho with political powers. As regards the Naga Constitution, GOI seems to have agreed to incorporate some new clauses in Article 371 but remained adamant against the use of Naga Flag in government functions or installations.
With state assembly elections in the horizon, the BJP government seems keen on a settlement of the Naga issue and has directed the Nagaland Parliamentary group to convince NSCN (I-M) and Thuingaleng Muivah. Question is, what is there for Muivah in the proposed solution?