> Society > Conflict  
Sushanta Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2015-08-06

The “framework agreement” signed by the Government of India and the insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) in New Delhi on August 3, and hailed by both the sides as “historic”, has not created euphoria in Nagaland while it stoked the embers of suspicion in the neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh as it has been shrouded in veil of secrecy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh witnessed the signing of the agreement, which came after nearly 80 rounds of peace talks between New Delhi and the NSCN (IM) over the past 18 years since the two sides signed a truce in 1997. Government’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks R.N. Ravi signed the agreement on behalf of Government of India while NSCN (IM) Chairman Isak Chisi Swu and General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah were the signatories on behalf of the rebel group. However, Mr Swu, currently undergoing treatment in a Delhi hospital, could not attend the signing ceremony due to his ailment.

As both the sides have remained tightlipped about the contours of the agreement, it was not immediately known if the contentious issue of integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeastern region covering Nagaland and neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, which was a key demand of the NSCN (IM), has been addressed and included in the deal.

Senior NSCN (I-M) leader V.S. Atem, when asked by Nagaland Post whether integration issue was agreed upon, stated that “everything was on board” adding “yes, integration will be in the agreement.”  

Former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio was quoted by IANS as saying that the "Demand for Greater Nagaland is part of the 16-point demand in the agreement by the NSCN-IM. I do not think it is going to be dropped. However, let's see what happens." Mr Rio, who is the lone Lok Sabha member of Naga People’s Front, the ruling party of Nagaland, further stated: "The demand for Greater Nagaland is the main demand of the NSCN -- irrespective of which faction it is. The question of dropping that demand does not arise as this is what the conflict is all about."

An official release from the Prime Minister’s Office issued by the Press Information states that “The sustained dialogue between the two sides, conducted in a spirit of equality, respect and trust, deepened their mutual understanding and confidence, and enabled the two sides to reach an equitable agreement. The Government of India recognized the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance.”

Nagaland Governor P.B. Acharya, who is also holding the office of the Governor of Assam, rushed to allay apprehension about any redrawing of existing state boundaries as result of the agreement and told media persons that territorial integrity of all the states would remain intact. “As per my understanding, as told to me by the prime minister there will be no territorial changes,” the governor was quoted as saying in the media. The Governor, however, clarified that he was not aware of the details of the agreement.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh while welcoming the agreement have reiterated that any changes in territorial integrity of their respective states would not be accepted and opposed tooth and nail. They have also demanded the Government of India to make public the details of the peace agreement with the NSCN (IM).  Opposition parties and organisations in the states too have voiced concern over the Government of India not making public the details of the agreement.

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, well aware of a possible fallout in Assam, where his party is dreaming of wresting power from the ruling Congress, in Manipur and in his own home state Arunachal Pradesh if the situation triggered by apprehension over the peace agreement was allowed to precipitate, asserted, while speaking to media persons in Imphal on August 5, that the sentiments of people of the states neighbouring Nagaland will not be bypassed while implementing the Naga peace accord.

The NSCN(IM)’s map of ‘Nagalim’ includes large areas in Manipur and parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. It overlaps the areas of Assam to which successive governments in Nagaland have been laying claim, disputing the existing boundary between the two states.

Eight days ahead of the signing of the agreement by Government of India and the NSCN(IM),  Nagaland Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on July 27 reiterating “the earlier resolutions of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly passed on December 12, 1964, August 28, 1970, September 16, 1994 and December 18, 2003, demanding integration of all contiguous Naga inhabited areas under one administrative umbrella, and to urge upon the Government of India to fulfil the same.”

On August 5 Activists of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad took to the streets of Guwahati holding placards with slogans such as “Central Govt. Don’t Hide Naga Accord”, “No tolerance of any harm of Assam in the name of the Naga Accord,” and demanding the Government of India to make public the clauses of the peace agreement with the NSCN (IM). More organisations are likely to take to the streets in the coming days in the states neighbrouring Nagaland to mount pressure on the Central government to make public the details of the peace agreement so as to convince the people in these states that the existing state boundaries were not going to be redrawn to solve the Naga problem.

Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang, however, hoped that positive situations would roll out of the Naga peace accord so that people would see the dawn of peace and development in Nagaland very soon. He also exuded confidence that all sections of Naga society would be consulted once the detailed modalities of the agreement were worked out.

However, in Nagaland a mood of cautious wait and watch prevails as the details of the peace agreement were still not known while there are five other insurgent outfits including the NSCN (Khaplang) led by Myanmar based Naga insurgent leader S.S. Khaplang are outside the ambit of the peace agreement between New Delhi and the NSCN(IM).  The Khaplang faction recently unilaterally called off the 14-year long ceasefire with the Government of India and indulged in attacks on Indian security forces giving rise to new security threats in Nagaland and neighbouring Manipur prompting the security forces to step up counter-insurgency measures against it.

The July 27 Nagaland Assembly resolution also urged upon the Government of India and the NSCN (K) to resume the ceasefire agreement to create a more peaceful and congenial atmosphere for the smooth progress of the Naga political dialogue which clearly indicated that the role of NSCN (Khaplang) and other groups will be critical for the peace agreement between New Delhi and the NSCN(IM) to yield the desired results. (ends)

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