Nagaland Governor and the Centre’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks RN Ravi on Tuesday said the Indian government has made it clear that there is only one national flag and Constitution in India, reported the Hindustan Times. Addressing the state on the eve of Nagaland’s 58th statehood day, Ravi said the territorial integrity was not open for negotiations.

“The Government of India is absolutely clear that there is and there shall be only one national flag and Constitution in India,” Ravi said during his address to the state on the eve of Nagaland’s 58th statehood day. “Anyone talking anything contrary is peddling preposterous lies. They are trying to confuse and mislead the people.”

The governor pointed out that territorial sovereignty is supreme. “The government of India has never ever talked, much less negotiated with anyone on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country,” he said. “Any misadventure to disintegrate this great nation shall not be tolerated.”

Ravi said that the Centre has already recognised the “uniqueness of the Nagas”, according to NDTV. He said that a “common understanding” was reached between the rebels and the Centre on October 31, 2019, but some people were acting as “a roadblock” to the aspirations of the people of the state.

“I urge these people to see the writings on the wall, to come out of their make-believe echo-chamber and listen to the voice of the people and in a true democratic spirit respect their wishes,” the governor said.

Lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his vision and leadership, Ravi said that the fundamental anomalies and distortions in the peace talks between the two groups have been rectified by making it truly inclusive.

He further maintained that the whole Nagaland political matter belonged to all the people of the state and not a single group. “Nagas have existed and survived through centuries through their customary and traditional institutions,” the governor said. “The traditional village institutions and the tribal bodies are the primary stakeholders in the Naga political issue. Their freely expressed wishes and decisions are paramount in any settlement. They have clearly expressed their mind.” He added that the people want the peace talks to end without any delay.

Ravi warned that disrespecting these primary stakeholders was an insult to the people of the state, and that attempting to intimidate or threaten them will invite punishment based on the laws of the land.

Rebel group criticises RN Ravi’s comments

The statement drew flak from the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland. The NSCN (IM), the largest Naga rebel group, has been demanding a separate Naga flag and a Constitution during their peace talks with the Centre.

The group issued a statement condemning Ravi’s comments. “Naga people are fully aware of the divisive, extraordinary involvement of Nagaland state Governor RN Ravi behind this commemoration program in order to justify his all out efforts to protect the 16 Points Agreement at all costs,” the statement said.

The rebel group said that the Nagaland’s political struggle is a testimony to the state being a brainchild of a few Nagas leaders that showed up in the name of Naga People’s Convention and “manipulated” the whole matter without the concern of the bona fide “freedom fighters”.

“The Convention without the consent, support and participation of the Naga people arrived at an agreement called the 16 Points Agreement that was responsible for the creation of Nagaland as the 16th state of the Indian Union.” the statement said. “This fragmented the Indian-occupied Naga territories by placing them into different administrative units of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.”

The background

The Indian government had signed a ceasefire agreement with NSCN(IM) in 1997 and in 2015 begun negotiations for a solution to the Indo-Naga political problem. Last year, Ravi had dismissed the insurgent group’s demand for a separate flag and Constitution and said it was delaying peace negotiations. The NSNC, however, had reiterated its demand. It had also called up Ravi’s removal as the interolcutor.

On September 12, 2019, the NSCN(IM) said that the Naga community will not merge with the Union of India, but will coexist with India as two entities. It also called upon the Nagas to “seize the opportunity” for a solution to the Indo-Naga political problem.

Earlier this month, the rebel group criticised the Centre’s move to launch counter-insurgency operations against its cadres in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The rebel group had further accused the Centre of using time and again the “sincere approach” of Naga people to suit the government’s “colonial divide and rule policy”. This reflected in the peace talks with the Centre, it added.