Separate Flag, Constitution Key for 'Honourable' Peace Solution: Naga Group

The NSCN (I-M), which is in peace talks with the Centre, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

New Delhi: The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) [NSCN (I-M)] has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that no “honourable solution” to the drawn-out Naga peace process could be arrived at without a “separate flag and a constitution”.

On August 3, 2015, the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre entered a framework agreement to arrive at a Naga accord. Modi was present during the signing of the agreement in New Delhi.

The present apprehension of the NSCN (I-M) leaders is considered to have been aggravated by the recent scrapping of Article 370 and 35A for Jammu and Kashmir, as per which the state had a separate flag and constitution. On August 25, the flag was brought down from the Jammu and Kashmir secretariat in Srinagar.

Every August 14, the Nagas use the NSCN flag to celebrate their independence from the British. The flag, over the years, has also become a symbol of the long-standing Naga demand for a ‘political solution’ for themselves. Soon after Article 370 was read down, the Nagas were apprehensive about the status of Article 371A, which grants special powers to Nagaland under the Constitution. However, the government categorically said the article would not be touched.

Unofficial Naga flag. Photo: Wikimedia commons

As per the publicity department of the NSCN (I-M) this past August 24, the framework agreement signed with the Centre on August 2, 2015, recognised the “special history of the Nagas”. “However, what we are increasingly seeing is that the government of India is going slow on discussing the core issues; three years have passed since; the Nagas await the historic day when the final agreement will be signed,” it said.

Also Read: With J&K’s Special Status Revoked, Alarm Bells Ring in Nagaland

Though the agreement with the Centre was signed in 2015, the NSCN (I-M) had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the government in July 1997.

On August 17, speaking at a function in the state, R.N. Ravi, the present Nagaland governor and also the government’s interlocutor for the peace talks, said the prime minister had mandated him to wrap up the talks within the next three months and arrive at a Naga accord.

The NSCN (I-M) reportedly said, “When Modi tasked interlocutor R.N. Ravi to conclude the talks with the Naga negotiators within three months, it became all the more interesting as it was the third time when the Modi-led BJP government had come up with such an assuring tone.”

It, however, added, “The changing situation and other developments compel NSCN chairperson Q Tuccu and general secretary Th. Muivah to write a letter to the prime minister Narendra Modi about the doubt and confusion raised by the Naga people if an honourable solution can be arrived at.”

The outfit further said, “This is in reference to the core issues like Naga flag and Constitution which are yet to be agreed upon between the two parties. Without these two core issues solved, any solution would be far from honourable because Naga’s pride and identity is deeply entrenched here.”

Aside from NSCN (I-M), the Centre has roped in several other stakeholders into the ongoing peace talks, including the six Naga national political groups (NNPGs) and the breakaway faction of the Myanmar-based NSCN (Khaplang) comprising Indian Nagas.

R.N. Ravi takes charge as the governor of Nagaland. Photo: Rajbhavan Nagaland

The NSCN, through its information and publicity department, also flagged and “condemned” the heightened surveillance by the Assam Rifles across the state. It said the AR personnel, “for the last four months, have stationed themselves at Doyapur near the designated Hebron Camp (NSCN headquarters) and moving around in the nearby villages, frisking commuters and raising houses with cameras in hand…villagers are being harassed with uncomfortable questions. It is also doing unwarranted frisking operations across Dimapur.” Local reports quoting NSCN said, “The picture is almost back to ceasefire period with the ubiquitous AR showing up in aggressive postures.”

“Such manner of intensified operation by AR makes the whole scenario unbecoming of Ravi’s search for the earliest solution as advised by Prime Minister Modi. Conducive atmosphere without the belligerent AR is the desire of the people in general and NSCN in particular in this critical period.”

The government has, so far, not responded to the letter.