The Centre and rebel groups in Nagaland are “pretty close” to finalising a peace agreement, the government’s interlocutor in the state, RN Ravi, told The Indian Express. The two parties have settled most of their disagreements, but have yet to reach a consensus on a separate flag for the state, the newspaper reported on Thursday, quoting unidentified officials.
The accord is likely to be signed before the Monsoon Session of Parliament, the officials said. The final draft does not change the state boundaries. It provides autonomous Naga territorial councils for Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, and allows a common cultural body for the Naga people as well as for specific institutions for the development of Nagaland, and the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the state.
The government has reportedly promised to take in the armed militia of the rebel groups – which will be disbanded after the peace accord – into central or state forces. Those who are not eligible will be rehabilitated by the government.
For decades, the Naga rebel groups have been fighting for Nagalim or Greater Nagaland, envisioned as a sovereign territory comprising Nagaland and “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, including parts of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.
The Centre has been talking to National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah), the largest Naga rebel group, since 1997. That year, the group signed a ceasefire. In 2015, the talks got a new lease of life after RN Ravi, as the Centre’s interlocutor, signed a “framework agreement” with the NSCN(IM).
Talks between Ravi and the Naga rebel groups are going on in New Delhi, and their next meeting will take place on Thursday. The Centre will sign only a single accord with all groups, unidentified officials told The Indian Express. The accord will need some Constitutional amendments, which the Parliament and state Assemblies will have to pass, they added.
The government has reportedly made it clear to the rebel groups that it will not be able to concede to their demand for a separate flag.