The Naga National Political Groups that have been holding talks with the Centre since 2017 on Monday said state legislators must clarify their position on the dialogue between the insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaak-Muivah) and the government, PTI reported.

The talks hit a roadblock earlier this month after the Centre rejected the NSCN(IM)‘s demand for a separate flag and constitution. The government has set an October 31 deadline for a final settlement to the Naga dispute.

“Unresolved matters should be decided through political and democratic process,” the forum said in a statement. “The position and status of elected representatives of Nagaland cannot remain lukewarm. They cannot choose to hide behind the boulders blocking the way.”

The Naga National Political Groups said it was time for political parties in the state “to clear their stand in the interest of the Naga people”. They added: “If the political parties of Nagaland fail in their constitutional duties and obligations, they should resign and allow the Election Commission of India to derecognise the parties.”

The statement came two days after Hukavi Yeputhomi, a senior NSCN(IM) leader, along with 16 others, quit the rebel group, accusing it of being insensitive to people’s plea for an honourable solution to the problem, and joined the groups. Yeputhomi said the working committee of the groups had been more “practical and realistic” in its negotiations with the Centre.

Earlier this month, the government had accused the NSCN(IM) of delaying the negotiations. Naga talks interlocutor and state Governor RN Ravi accused some NSCN(IM) leaders of misleading people with “absurd assumptions and presumptions” about what they have signed with the Centre. He added that endless negotiations cannot be held with the insurgent group under the shadow of guns.

The Naga issue

Naga demands for sovereignty gave rise to the oldest armed struggle against the Indian state. Since the 1950s, Naga armed groups battled the government for a sovereign ethnic homeland that would include Nagaland as well as the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar across the border.

The NSCN (IM), which is currently the most influential Naga group on the Indian side of the border, signed a peace treaty with the Indian government in 1997 and started a political dialogue. But there was little headway until 2015, when the Modi government signed a “framework agreement” with the group. The talks have, however, stalled since then.

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