Cong LS leader's criticism of Nagaland CM brings state's fragile peace back in focus (Opinion)

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) Peace has been like an illusion for Nagaland. After decades of violence and subsequent years of negotiations, reportedly a breakthrough was achieved when all stakeholders held parleys in October 2019.
 
Cong LS leader's criticism of Nagaland CM brings state's fragile peace back in focus (Opinion)

<br>However, serious hurdles came up in subsequent periods as the NSCN (IM) raised the issues of Flag and a separate Constitution for Nagas. The government of India obviously has rejected the demands.

On a day, Centre's representative A.K. Mishra landed in Dimapur for parleys with key stakeholders including Naga militant leaders, Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on April 18 (Monday) cited 'flip-flop' in the entire process and flayed Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio.

"Governor and Interlocutor in his address to Nagaland state assembly in Feb 2021 declared that talks have concluded. Assembly has adopted vote of thanks to the address. Thereafter, Chief Minister Shri Neiphu Rio moved a resolution demanding to resume talk instead of endorsing for implementation of agreements. This is what we call a flip-flop," Chowdhury wrote in a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

He said, "Stakeholders, after consideration of the agreed points, are demanding for implementation of the agreements" - and this he stated, "I request you to kindly implement the above mentioned agreements so that the Nagaland issue is resolved".

There have been differences between NSCN (IM) and the then interlocutor and former state Governor R.N. Ravi. Now, the new representative of the centre, A.K. Mishra is in Nagaland from Monday, April 18, to resume the stalled parleys.

Ravi has moved to Tamil Nadu as the Governor for quite some time now.

Mishra, a former Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), during his week-long stay in Nagaland, is likely to meet Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, other Naga leaders and the leaders of NSCN-IM and Naga National Political Groups (NNPG).

In the midst of this high profile action, one person is being missed, perhaps the 'Bible Baba' of Naga insurgency - Late Isak Chishi Swu.

Though Thuingaleng Muivah was the de-facto functional chief of the militant group NSCN (IM), even army officers and others among Late Swu's rivals would recall him as more of a 'Naga philosopher'.

The former chairman of the potent militant group was the unifying factor and an umbilical cord for Tangkhul Nagas and for NSCN(IM) general secretary Muivah in particular with the 'state of Nagaland'.

Swu expired in 2016 and certainly his demise makes a big difference in so many ways in the peace process.

When Swu expired, his detractors from other camps had stated that Isak Swu believed in Biblical verse (Mathew 6:33) seek "first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well".

Swu was known for his inclinations towards theology.

Analysts believe that right from the beginning, the Modi-led government is committed to talks with Naga guerillas.

But they also wanted to deal with a prominent Naga rebel leader from 'Nagaland state'. Hence, efforts were made to reach out to the groups operating in Nagaland especially after Swu's death.

Ultimately on Nov 17, 2017 an Agreed Position was inked between NNPG and the centre.

Ravi was the architect of this move and N. Kitovi Zhimomi emerged as a principal stakeholder.

Kitovi like Isak Swu is a Sema Naga - one of the major tribes in Nagaland and perhaps has control over 10-14 assembly segments in the 60-member assembly. As Adhir Chowdhury's letter points out Kitovi and his NNPG forum is insisting on early implementation of the pact.

Besides Semas, the state of Nagaland houses other major tribes - Angamis (of CM Neiphiu Rio), Aos (Of veteran Naga leader S C Jamir), Zeliangs, Chakhesangs, Rengmas, Lothas, Sangtams, Konyaks, Phoms, Khiamungians, Yimchungers, Pochuries and Tikhirs.

Muivah is a Tangkhul Naga and the tribe has a strong presence in Manipur hills.

Other than pressing problems faced by people in general and politicians in particular, there is yet another crucial element.

Left to him, officials indicate, incumbent Prime Minister Modi wants to leave a legacy of achievements that he should deliver peace in northeast India. Delivering peace in the next couple of months would also be rated highly internationally as elsewhere there are fighting and serious troubles from Ukraine to Sri Lanka and from Afghanistan to Myanmar.

There is yet another key facet. While the Naga movement was launched by A Zapu Phizo, an Angami Naga, in the present peace parleys his organisation NNC is hardly in the picture. Phizo's aging daughter Adino leads the group.

It would be prudent to reach out to this group and the leadership as well. Moreover, the NNC represents the broad Tenyimiya sentiment - a cultural and linguistic block of several tribes from Kohima, Phek and Dimapur region.

Chief Minister Rio himself belongs to the Angami tribe and is a powerful and eminent Tenyimiya face.

The Government of India has been showing faith in Rio's leadership for reasons more than one.

It would be good if the Tenyimiya factor is appreciated in the entire game plan.

Many say leaving the NNC out of the negotiation and reaching out for an agreement would not advisable in the long run since NNC is regarded a 'political institution'.

The Tenyimia comprises ten fraternal tribes. These are Angami. Chakhesang, Rengma, Zeliangrong, Pochury, Mao, Poumai, Maram, Thangal and Inpui. They are spread over the contiguous areas of Nagaland, Manipur and also Assam.

Reports suggest Village Elders (GB Federation) had reached out to NNC leadership earlier and got their blessings 'indirectly' for any measure that will bring peace. "They will not oppose anything good," remarked a source.

Centre's new negotiator Mishra has the toughest job at hands. The peace talks were stalled over the emotive issues of Flag and Constitution. He is perhaps expected to make last minute wrap up efforts.

What is apprehended is that things may soon end up into one-upmanship between various tribal groups.

The NNPG working committee has said earlier this year, "The political negotiations are over and to ensure that provisions of the agreement in respective Naga areas are meticulously and effectively implemented in letter and spirit, all Naga National workers, upon signing the political agreement, must return to their respective ancestral Naga inhabited areas to restrengthen and forge greater Naga historical and political identity".

A new set of challenges could start now.

The phrase "Naga national workers" refers to the Naga militants operating with bases in Nagaland state and outside, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and even Myanmar.

The "ancestral Naga inhabited areas" refer to respective Naga tribes' home districts.

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist and author of "The Talking Guns: North East India" and "Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth". The views are personal)

--IANS<br>nirendra/shs