KOHIMA, AUGUST 3: Nagaland Assembly witnessed a “killing two birds with one stone” situation on the first day of the Session when the members cutting across party line reviewed the Framework Agreement signed between the Union Government and the NSCN on August 3, 2015, Agreed Position with NNPGs in November 2017, the 16-Point Memorandum, Article 371(A) and adopting a political resolution unanimously in an ambiance indicating that the Assembly is inching towards opposition-less House.
On the sidelines of the 12-hour closure of shops and business establishments throughout Nagaland and adjoining States where Nagas are inhabited ~ called by the NSCN (IM) ~ the Nagaland Assembly today reviewed and deliberated on the Framework Agreement, Agreed Position, the 16-Point Agreement and Article 371 (A) of the Constitution of India and urged the negotiating parties not set aside the pre-condition and resume the talks. The Members, who took part in the discussion on matters of urgent public importance under Rule 50 on Naga political issue, took time to appreciate the collective efforts to push forward the Naga peace process.
Another significant aspect of today’s Session was the revelations some of the crucial assertions and statements of the Central Government on the Naga talks, such as completely ruling out Naga solution outside the Constitution of India, strengthening Article 371 (A), Pan-Naga Hoho and its flag for emotional integration of Naga people living in different States.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said the Centre has agreed for a flag for Pan-Naga Hoho for emotional integration adding that physical integration would be pursued democratically after the agreement is signed. He said more discussions are expected to be held on the issue of flag, while he was hopeful of deliberation on the NSCN (IM)’s demand for a separate Constitution. He further said the Government of India has not rejected three contentious issues ~ Flag, Constitution and integration, but they wanted these issues be pursued post agreement.
Rio also briefly highlighted about the Article 371 (A) wherein Nagas have been provided with special privileges and protection accorded to them through Inner Line Permit (ILP). He said through these provisions the uniqueness of Naga history has been recognized and protected. He also appreciated the successive Prime Ministers meeting the NSCN leaders and later recognizing the uniqueness of Naga history.
On the Framework Agreement and Agreed Position, he said both are almost similar and therefore Naga groups should come together and pursue the issue together. “There we are requesting them to come together”, he added.
Hinting about opposition-less Government, the Chief Minister said discussions are on with its ally BJP expressing hope that formula would be worked out soon.
“However looking at the current stalemate in the negotiations the Naga political groups and the
Government of India for final inking of an accord, it is of great concern and worry that should talks breakdown at this juncture after so much has been done and achieved all through these years, it is the people who would bear the brunt of it and ultimately draw us backwards while the rest of the world progresses ahead in time”, former CM and Leader of the Opposition TR Zeliang said.
He said NPF’s stand was that all groups reconcile and talk with the Centre. “The case in point, the Government of India was in negotiations with only the NSCN group, led by Isak and Muivah, and subsequently signed the Framework Agreement on August 3, 2015. Seeing that other groups were not taken aboard, I had personally intervened and requested the Interlocutor and other Central leaders to invite them for official talks. This did not go without hurdle as the Government of India as well as Isak Swu and Th. Muivah had to be convinced for this endeavour. Fortunately, after much persuasion both sides agreed and the Naga National Political Groups Working Committee, which then consisted only 6 groups were officially invited for talks leading to the signing of the Agreed Position on November 17, 2017”, he added.
Narrating about NPF’s decision to walk out from the erstwhile Joint Legislators’ Forum (JLF), Zeliang said how the Central leaders took note of the development and he and Rio were invited to New Delhi by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and a meeting was held on October 20, 2020, wherein they were told that a proposal was sent to NSCN ten days back but was rejected and that they were asked to convince the NSCN leadership for an amicable solution.
On the proposed opposition-less Government, the Leader of the Opposition said NPF had privilege to lead the opposition-less Government from 2014 to 2018 and having witnessed the immense stride that could be achieved in unity among the Legislators endorsed the concept of an opposition-less Government this time too. “While there are many who are skeptical of the NPF party’s intention, we have time and again made it amply clear that we do not have any hidden agenda nor we are doing so out of desperation to be in the Treasury Bench; the only reason and purpose is to help facilitate the Naga political issue”, Zeliang maintained. He further said the concept of opposition-less government should not be for cheap political gains but rather to strengthen the progress of the negotiations and also to fulfill the aspirations of the Naga people.
Former Minister and NPF heavyweight, Imkong L Imchen, who also took part in the discussion, briefed the House how the talks failed in the past due to non-flexibility by both the parties. He said the first round of talk after the ceasefire in 1964, between the Government of India and Naga National Council/Federal Government of Nagaland, started with the Centre’s representative asking the Naga delegation join the Union of India on their own violation, which was not accept by the latter. Also the Naga delegation, in an effort to hasten the talk had proposed to invite NNC President, AZ Phizo, who was in London, but was not accepted by the Government of India citing reasons of passport and British citizenship. However the representative of the Government had failed to understand that absolute authority lay with the NNC President. He said the talk was shifted to Khensa in Mokokchung district, then to New Delhi where 6 rounds of talks were held when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister but with no tangible outcome.
The NPF leader, while lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the singing of Framework Agreement, said it has become an official document for the Central Government and the NSCN. So also Agreed Position signed with the NNPGs by RN Ravi. He said there has not be flexibility in the talks since when the talks started between the Centre and the NNC/FGN adding that rigidity by the negotiating parties has been the stumbling block in hammering out a solution. He proposed for a shared victory for both the parties by acknowledging each other. “There has to be shared winner”, he added.
Imkong said the current deadlock in the parley between the Centre and the NSCN was due to differences in interpretation of Framework Agreement. “Different interpretations emerging in different directions”, he said.
He also observed that there was no constitutional guarantee in both the Framework Agreement and Agreed Position, like that of 16-Point Memorandum. He said there was a constitutional flaw in the 16-Point Agreement.
On the demand for a separate constitution which would be built-in the Constitution of India, the NPF leader said there was Article 371 when the Naga People’s Convention (NPC) was having talks with the Government of India, and later A was inserted to the Article adding that today also same case could happen. He further said NSCN and NNPGs have recognized the suzerainty of India and therefore they are negotiating with the Government of India.
Former Home Minister and NPF Lawmaker Kuzholuzo Nienu said Naga people’s demand is for sovereignty and therefore any solution below sovereignty would not be a final solution. He said people want solution because of unwarranted activities by Naga outfits. He said in the name of Naga nationalism Naga people are being taken to ransom by outfits and therefore people want any type of solution. “We cannot tolerate such activities”, he said. He asked the Government to act hard on such elements.
Another NPF MLA, Dr. Chumben insisted that there should be symbolic gesture like flag should be offered to the Naga people to sign the agreement.
In the process of discussion MLAs have expressed their desire that solution should be hammered out before the next State election in 2023 stating that after the election it would be difficult for them to vacate the seats to pave way for any alternative arrangement.
BJP Minister for Geology and Mining Kashiho Sangtam said that before implementation of an opposition-less government, a proposed by NPF, the Core Committee of the Parliamentary Committee on NPI should approach the different Naga groups to come together as one for the sake of one solution.
Earlier, Minister Kronu initiating the discussion said that time and again the Members of the Assembly have discussed the political issue but even now time is very crucial as the Naga issue is not yet resolved.
“We cannot stop on half-way as we have given our commitment to the public that as facilitator we will pursue and try our best to bring solution”, he said, adding that the Common Minimum Programme and election manifestos of every political party have included that they will be a facilitator to the negotiations for an early solution.
He said negotiations are going with two main negotiators ~ NSCN(IM) and Working Committee of 7 Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) ~ with the NSCN (IM) focusing on Framework Agreement signed on August 3, 2015 and the other on Agreed Position signed on November 17, 2017 while the talks are going on separately with the Centre.
“We feel that we must bring the negotiating parties together so that they can have discussion with GoI with one goal”, he said.
“They (Naga groups) may have time but for us elections are nearing and we have to get back to the public and if the issue is not resolved it would hamper the entire system and also affect everyone of us”, said Kronu.
This is a crucial time and more efforts have to be made to renew the approach to the negotiating parties, he said.
(Page News Service)