Nagaland talks deadlock

Kashmir Times. Dated: 11/6/2019 12:28:14 PM

The talks between Naga rebels and NDA-government need to be carried on at all costs in the interest of peace

The roadblock hit by the talks between the Naga rebels and the central government after the October 31 deadline set for this purpose is over, needs to be resolved by both sides in the interest of peace and normalcy in Nagaland. The ceasefire in Nagaland continues to hold with the hope that peace deal with NSCN-IM would be concluded before the end of the deadline. But unfortunately at this stage there is no clarity as yet on an agreement between the two parties. But it is a welcome sign that all parties involved in the talks seem willing to wait and iron out the differences that appear to be holding them back from concluding a peace agreement. The talks between the Centre and Naga rebels, primarily the NSCN-IM group, have been held for 22 years and the parties have covered a long way over these years. The Naga civil society, which was the main driving force behind the efforts for restoration of normalcy, has also invested heavily in the peace process and prepared the ground for a negotiated settlement to what has often been described as India's longest-running insurgency. The rebels need to respect this sentiment for peace and the Centre must provide the negotiating space for the former to satisfy its constituency. The recent reports suggest that the deadlock is over the rebels' demand for a separate flag and constitution for Nagaland. They hint at the concept of 'shared sovereignty' that the NSCN-IM leadership had talked about soon after it signed the Indo-Naga Framework Agreement in August 2015. The details of that agreement have not been revealed, but the leeway for such conceptual innovations may arguably have reduced following the Centre's actions in J&K, which has been stripped off its special status under Article 370 of Indian Constitution. On August 5, 2019, the Narendra Modi government ended the special status accorded to J&K, which had allowed the state to have its own flag and constitution besides special provisions to Permanent Residents of the state. Such an action on J&K has already raised apprehensions in different states, which do not believe in the political ideology of BJP.
It is important to note that the Naga rebels have climbed down from their demand for full independence, but they have persisted with the demand for Nagalim, a territorial entity much larger than the present state of Nagaland and that includes Naga inhabited areas that fall in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. This meant reorganization of entire Naga belt into one state, which was to some extent agreed by the central government in its agreement with the Naga rebels in August 2015. This is a demand that can trigger unrest in Nagaland's neighbourhood in the adjoining states. Not only that, working out on such a demand in the North East Region can have a cascading impact on relations between the Centre and other states in the country. This is particularly important for the reason that many other ethnic groups have been seeking separate statehood within the Indian Union with more powers and autonomy for them. In fact, non-Naga populations in the region have warned of action if any attempt is made to redraw the existing state boundaries. Both the Centre and the NSCN-IM will have to nuance their positions if a peace agreement has to become a reality. The rebels will have to re-imagine the idea of a Naga nation and de-link it from territory. Otherwise also, the rightwing political party that is ruling the roost at the Centre does not believe in inclusivity of separate groups across the country. The Centre may have to respect the sentiments of political groups founded on notions of ethnic exclusivity and desist from imposing unitarian notions of nationhood. Peace is precious, it must be protected at all costs in the interest of the common masses.



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