The Naga Peace Process
For the first time since the signing of the Naga Framework Agreement of 2015, NSCN (I-M) said the Naga flag and constitution were non-negotiable.
• The Nagas are not a single tribe, but an ethnic community that comprises several tribes who live in the state of Nagaland and its neighbourhood.
• One key demand of Naga groups has been a Greater Nagalim that would cover not only the state of Nagaland but parts of neighbouring states, and even of Myanmar.
• The British had annexed Assam in 1826, in which they subsequently created the Naga Hills district and went on to extend its boundaries.
• The assertion of Naga nationalism, which began during British rule, has continued after Independence, and even after Nagaland became a state.
Peace talks in recent years
1975: A peace accord was signed in Shillong in which the NNC leadership agreed to give up arms.
1997: NSCN (I-M) signed a ceasefire agreement. Key agreement was that there would be no counter-insurgency offensive against NSCN (I-M), who in turn would not attack Indian forces.
2015: The Centre signed a framework agreement with the NSCN(I-M). This set the stage for the ongoing peace talks.
The government and the NSCN (I-M) have failed to agree on issues relating to a separate Naga flag and a constitution.
Since 2015, the engagement with other Naga groups has increased, even if the NSCN (I-M) is perceived as the major rebel organisation.
The differences between the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and the NSCN (I-M) are not insignificant.
The NSCN (I-M) still insists on a “Greater Nagalim” beyond the boundaries of Nagaland State besides seeking a flag and constitution.
Most of the NNPGs based in Nagaland on the other hand have sought to settle the issue without disturbing the State boundaries while keeping the “Greater Nagalim” question in abeyance.
Any moves to alter boundaries will intensify ethnic conflicts and insurgencies beyond Nagaland, especially in Manipur.
The Central government needs to take their concerns on board and reiterate its commitment to finalising the Naga accord while seeking to re-engage with the NSCN (I-M) without giving in to its arbitrary demands.
The Centre could do well to step back from its rigid position of forcing an agreement that a major political stakeholder is not willing to ink. The government will have to tread cautiously in tackling the situation lest a variant of the pre-1997 militancy returns to the State. That would be a retrograde development, especially given the last 22 years of hard-fought peace.