Insurgency politics and negotiations at various levels have some ruthless memories. A new reputation most often drives out an old one.
N. Kitovi Zhimomi joined the Naga National movement in 1987. He was 29. Now at 64, he is the convener of Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) and is waiting keenly for a Final Peace Agreement with the Government of India.
“A Naga revolutionary leader needs to be pragmatic, realistic and someone with utmost tolerance to build a platform for peaceful co-existence with Indian brothers and sisters,” he says.
He was in the national capital recently for ‘important works’.
In brief interaction with a select group, he said, “…three years after successfully settling all critical areas between the Government of India and the NNPG, the stalemate now over the signing and implementation is unacceptable”.
Zhimomi shed light on the shaping of the ‘table for Negotiations’ and stated: “The dialogue had to begin at home, to converge all the demands and aspirations to bring them under appropriate heads. It was a tough task for us to unearth and dig out some of the beads”.
“The Government of India is well experienced with negotiations on Naga issues. The working committee of NNPG thus had to steer through the precipitates strewn out from the protracted long years of Peace talks. The Government of India also hardened their stand at times. It was a tough task to bring matters on a plane where both sides — the Nagas and the Government of India — have equal stance and position, to start the dialogues on a clean slate,” he says.
His group and some others operating in Nagaland got back channel feelers in 2016.
“For every objection raised by the government of India, the working committee of NNPG found apt legalities and provisions within the constitution of India, which were convincing to the Government of India. After the Final Solution all these documents will be officially published both by the Government of India and the Tatar Hoho,” he says.
Zhimomi recalled his entry to the Naga national movement in 1987, when he was barely 29 years. He came into it in fact ‘succeeding’ his father, in the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).
“The very next year in 1988, the NSCN split into two and I joined the ranks and files led by S.S. Khaplang,” he recalls.
In 1991, Kitovi Zhimomi was elevated to the rank of Deputy Kilonser in charge of Defence and in 1999 he became the Kilonser of NSCN (K) emerging as the chief leader of the group with the rank of ‘Prime Minister of the Naga Government’.
Fielding a few questions, Kitovi Zhimomi points to the perils of the past — “We have seen the turmoil of five generations. What do we have for the future generations? Are we to leave them in a society with no space for growth and Progress? A situation where they have to go out of their home state knocking the doors for everything from higher education to job?”
These words only underline the clamour for a Final Solution and Agreement.
This is something that has been underlined lately by Naga Tribal Council (NTC) as well.
“The only task left at the moment is for the Government of India to take a call for signing the Agreement…,” the NTC said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 16.
Zhimomi knows some of the intricacies in the peace parleys too well and so he says, issues pertaining to political conflicts within the Union of India, the conflict between the political system, Intelligence and the executive and the conflicts between the military interests and political interests did come up and all of them were addressed effectively.
The Zhimomi-led umbrella organisation NNPG of seven groups operating in Nagaland had inked a Preamble agreement with the Government on November 17, 2017 and is now waiting since then for a Final Peace pact.
“The parleys had given us a big responsibility. I had to sit for negotiations with Government of India officials and interlocutors for hours. To start with, some of them were experts. But slowly I also picked up diplomatic tricks,” he says in a lighter vein.
Peace is a state of mind; perhaps it is more so for the Nagas. So, Nagas are keeping fingers crossed ahead of elections in Manipur; and also that the state Assembly polls in Nagaland to be held in early 2023 are also not far.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books,
‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’.)