Congress leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday criticised the Centre for the alleged lack of transparency in the signing of the Naga peace accord, PTI reported. The Congress leader said the party will oppose any agreement if the government changes the geography of Manipur or any other northeastern state.

Ramesh went to the state as part of a six-member Congress delegation to take stock of the situation in Manipur after the peace talks. Ramesh was accompanied by All India Congress Committee General Secretary Mukul Wasnik, former Union minister of State Jitendra Singh, MP Manickam Tagore, AICC Secretary Ranjit Mukherjee and Mohammed Ali Khan. The delegation was set up by interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi to study the problems of northeastern states arising out of the Naga Peace Accord, Citizenship Amendment Bill and the National Register of Citizens.

“There is no transparency regarding Naga peace talks on the part of the central government,” Ramesh told reporters at the Congress Bhawan in Imphal. “The progress in the ongoing Naga peace talks has not been disclosed.”

Congress party will strongly, steadfastly and stoutly oppose any accord in Nagaland which changes the geography of Manipur,” Ramesh said, according to The Indian Express. “Any agreement with changes of relationship of autonomous district council in Manipur with the government of Manipur will be opposed by the Congress party in state and nation.”

“During the tenure of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Centre had signed Assam, Mizoram and Tripura accords without changing the geography of any state,” he added. Ramesh advised the government to resolve the peace talks without affecting any community.

He said the contents of Indo-Naga Framework Agreement signed in August 2015 between the government of India and Naga groups remained a “complete secret”. “Even the then home minister Rajnath Singh, and chief ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh are not aware about it,” Ramesh claimed.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs had issued a clarification and said that all stakeholders will be taken into confidence before the Naga peace talks are concluded. It dismissed reports that the Naga accord has been finalised. However, had last week learnt that the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) has agreed to sign a peace accord without a separate Naga constitution and with a “conditional flag” that can only be allowed for non-governmental purposes. “We have agreed to finalise the agreement,” a member of NSCN (IM)’s negotiation team had told “The flag and the Constitution will be pursued later.”

The October 31 deadline set by the Centre for a final settlement with Naga armed groups ended on an ambiguous note. It is not clear when the agreement will formally be signed.

Naga peace talks

The peace talks had hit a roadblock after the NSCN (IM) remained firm on its demands for a separate Naga national flag and Constitution, which it claimed was committed to in the framework agreement it had signed with the Centre on August 3, 2015.

In 1997, the NSCN (IM) signed a peace treaty and started a dialogue with the Union government. There was, however, little headway until 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government signed a “framework agreement” with the group – a development publicised as a major breakthrough by both sides.

The scope of the talks has been broadened since October 2017, when six other Naga armed groups joined negotiations. Having signed ceasefires, these now called themselves Naga National Political Groups and operated as one bloc. They include the NSCN (Kitovi Zhimomi), the Naga Nationalist Council, the Federal Government of Nagaland, the NSCN (Reformation), the National Peoples Government of Nagaland (Non-Accord), the Government Democratic Republic of Nagaland (Non-Accord). Later, the Khango Konyak-led faction of the NSCN (Khaplang) also joined talks.

These groups have been more flexible with their position. Last month, they went public, expressing their intent to sign an agreement without a flag and a constitution – the issues holding up a final agreement between the NSCN (IM) and the Centre.

Also read: Why the Centre is playing down the breakthrough in the Naga talks

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