The controversy surrounding the Framework Agreement (FA) of August 3, 2015 is most unfortunate. As per an interview given to a leading local newspaper, the Government of India’s Representative and Interlocutor for Naga Peace Talks, R.N Ravi has accused the NSCN (I-M) of “indulging in delay tactics” and making “new and mischievous interpretation” of the already agreed positions. While the NSCN (IM) has issued a detailed response to the Interlocutor’s comments, this is not the first time that the two sides have been exchanging allegations and counter allegations. Regular misinterpretation of the so-called ‘agreed position’ is leading to trust deficit and here the Interlocutor must understand that the jury is still out as to which side is ‘shifting goalposts’.
As signatories to the FA, the NSCN (IM) and the Interlocutor, representing the Government of India, are accountable to each other and to the Naga people. They would do well to honour their word and commitment given to one another. On the contrary, it is becoming obvious that the one page FA is understood differently by each party. Both sides are making claims and counter-claims on what was hailed at the time of signing as a ‘historic agreement’. None other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a witness to the signing of the agreement that was broadcast live on national television.
The learned Interlocutor’s interpretation is that “the Framework Agreement does not [specifically] talk about flag and constitution”. Also, according to him, “there is no mention of shared sovereignty in it… [and] no mention of integration. There is no mention of Nagas as a separate entity”. The Interlocutor has perhaps failed to take into account the ‘spirit’ of not just of the Framework Agreement but the Indo-Naga peace process, which has successfully navigated the churning of Indian politics through the decades and seen continuity of several Prime Ministers and governments. This broad and sustained support towards the Naga peace process should not be undermined at this crucial juncture.
Prime Minister Modi did not miss on this important point when, during the signing of the Framework Agreement, he “complimented” the Naga Political Groups (specifically the NSCN) “for maintaining the ceasefire agreement for nearly two decades, with a sense of honour that defines the great Naga people”. The Nagas expect that the same ‘sense of honour’ should be reciprocated by the GoI. Hopefully all sides (GoI, NSCN-IM & NNPGs) can rise above any misunderstandings that may exist and work on the larger goal of a mutually acceptable and honourable solution that has defined the Indo-Naga issue since the beginning.
The Naga Rising urges all parties that any agreement, whether it is the NSCN (IM)’s Framework Agreement with the GoI or the Agreed Position of the NNPGs, must be interpreted and respected both in letter and spirit and not as per the convenience of the dominant party or entity. In this regard, a few concerns are raised for the benefit of all.
First, the Interlocutor has now clearly stated in public that there is no mention of Nagas as a separate entity in the Framework Agreement. If this is the case then what about the Agreed Position of the NNPGs, which is also believed to have mentioned the term “Separate Entity”? For instance the WC of the NNPGs is understood to have claimed the same position i.e. the recognition of Nagas as a separate entity. And according to them, this “political stand, as envisaged by the WC NNPGs in toto was accepted by the GoI”.
In fact the NNPGs are saying that the ‘agreed position of 17th November 2017 had reverted the stature of Nagas as a separate entity’. The Interlocutor may therefore clarify whether the recognition of Nagas as a separate entity in both the agreements as claimed by the Naga Political Groups is the correct or both groups are indulging in ‘mischievous’ interpretation.
Second, is the usage of the term ‘State’. Under the head ‘Matters agreed between GoI and WC, NNPGs’ of the Agreed Position of November 17, 2017, amendment to Article 152 of the Indian Constitution has been agreed upon wherein it will be incorporated that “…unless the context requires, the expression State (does not include Nagaland)”.
If true this is a major achievement of the NNPGs as the amendment technically accepts that Nagaland will have a status different from the other Indian States of the Union. Likewise, during a public consultation and discussion on Framework Agreement held at Camp Hebron on September 21, 2019 the NSCN (IM) took a similar line that there will be “no more Nagaland State like other Indian States”, although it went on to also state that Nagaland State will cease to exist, which led to a public outcry especially in present Nagaland.
These points need clarification of the Interlocutor.
The Naga Rising considers these issues of upmost public importance that need clarity before inking the impending peace accord. The terms of the final political solution should be clear and precise so that it leaves no room for misinterpretation or ‘imagination’ in future.
Third, the other concern pertains to reports doing the rounds that “all other unresolved matters” (between the Nagas and GoI) would be taken up through ‘democratic political processes’. Naga negotiators would know well that this same argument was put forward by Delhi at the last stage of negotiations in the run up to the 16-Point Agreement in the 1960s.
When Naga delegates brought up the demand for the inclusion of reserve forests and contiguous area inhabited by the Nagas, the GoI could not make any commitment at that stage and instead assured the Nagas that the matter would be kept open for future settlement under the provisions of the Constitution. More than fifty years have passed but the assurance remains only on paper.
Fourth, peace processes from around the world amply demonstrate that the success of political agreements depend on having clear timelines and institutional arrangements to implement agreements reached. Failure to provide mechanisms and institutions to execute specific provisions of the agreement is doomed to fail.
While the GoI will never agree to third party monitoring, The Naga Rising urges the Naga negotiators to demand written guarantees from the GoI to facilitate all other ‘unresolved issues’ through a sustained and continuous political engagement within a reasonable timeframe. The Naga negotiators must insist on such guarantees to hold Delhi to its commitments.
Fifth, the Nagas, for whom the solution is sought for and for the overall success of the peace agreement with the GoI, it is of outmost importance for the NSCN (IM) and the 7 NNPGs to sit down together and work out the final competencies before signing the agreement with the GoI. The Naga Rising believes that if the Naga political groups show the will to work together under a common platform, competencies will take care of itself.
Last but not the least, the Interlocutor in a public address after taking over as Governor of Nagaland expressed optimism that the long-standing Naga political issue would be resolved very soon-but under the condition that ‘Nagas stand united.’ He also made the following comments in an exclusive interview with Nagaland Post on July 7, 2017 at Chumukedima Police complex: Our position is clear that there is only one peace process, which is inclusive, and eventually there will be only one agreement as we cannot fragment the Naga issue…
While The Naga Rising is encouraged by the repeated commitment made in public by the Interlocutor that there will only be one agreement and that the Naga issue cannot be fragmented, the Naga public would like to know what visible steps has been taken by the Interlocutor to bring Nagas together and to help converge the parallel talks. As the person under whose watch the talks are taking place, the Interlocutor is as much accountable as the NSCN (IM), the NNPGs, the tribal hohos and the civil society in realizing and taking it to the logical conclusion.
The Naga Rising
1. Along Longkumer
2. Vitho Zao
3. Hukavi T. Yeputhomi
4. Amai Chingkhu
5. Tsukti Longkumer
6. Moie Bonny Konyak
7. Ngukato K. Tsuipu
8. Mar Longkumer
9. Joel Naga
10. Khriezodilhou Yhome
5th March 2020
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