The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) chief Thuingaleng Muivah on Friday said that “the Nagas will co-exist with India…but not merge with India”. As part of his “Naga Independence Day” speech, Muivah added: “Our political salvation lies in clinging to our national principle and saying no to the dictation of the enemies.”
Muivah also insisted that an “honourable solution” to the Naga peace talks was not possible if the Indian government did not accede to the group’s demand for a separate flag and Constitution for the proposed Nagalim area, comprising contiguous Naga-inhabited territories in Nagaland and adjoining states. “Flag and Constitution are ingredients of our recognised sovereign entity and the symbols of Naga nationhood,” he added. “The Nagas must keep their flag and Constitution.”
The peace talks had hit a roadblock after the NSCN (I-M) 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.
Muivah invoked the “framework agreement” to stake claims of “shared sovereignty” with India. While the agreement is not a public document, the outfit released it earlier this week to the press. According to the text released by the group, the agreement talks about “sharing the sovereign powers” and “peaceful co-existence of the two entities”. “Coexistence of the two entities is self-explanatory,” said Muivah. “It means the two peoples and nations will co-exist.”
For over six decades, Naga nationalists have fought the Indian state 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. Over the decades, the Naga armed movement split into several factions, often at war with each other. In 1997, the NSCN (I-M) 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.
Since then seven other groups have followed suit and the peace talks are said to have expedited under the Modi government with RN Ravi as the interlocutor.
But after the initial headway, the matters of a separate Naga flag and Constitution held up progress for a long period of time. While the other seven groups were agreeable to sign an agreement without these two entities, the NSCN (I-M) refused to, saying they were non-negotiable.
But on October 31, the NSCN (I-M), 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 (I-M)’s negotiation team had then told Scroll.in. “The flag and the Constitution will be pursued later.”
An agreement, though, was not signed as the nitty-gritty remained to be worked out.
But the relationship between the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre has strained yet again in the last few months, ostensibly after interlocutor Ravi, who is also Nagaland’s governor now, referred to the Naga armed groups as “armed gangs who question the sovereignty and integrity of the nation” by routinely carrying out alleged extortion and violence.
NSCN (I-M) has sharply reacted to these allegations, even going to the extent of demanding the removal of Ravi as interlocutor in its latest attack. “All the hard work of 23 years of Indo-Naga political talks having passed through six successive prime ministers is coming to nauseating end because of the mischief that keeps boiling in the hands of this interlocutor who has become more a liability than anything,” the group said in a press statement earlier in the week.