Former Nagaland Governor Ravindra Narayan Ravi, also the Centres erstwhile interlocutor in the Naga peace talks, is still a formidable name even after four months of his transfer from this northeastern state to the gubernatorial post in Tamil Nadu. There also he courted controversies over various issues including skipping certain portions from the written text of his speech in the state Assembly.
According to political pundits, a huge trust deficit between Ravi, the state government and the Naga groups specially the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) led to the former IPS officer’s exit from the state.
Even after over 80 rounds of talks between the Centre and the Naga groups, dominated by the NSCN-IM, a stalemate continued over the contentious issue of a separate Naga flag, constitution and the integration of all Naga people inhabited areas in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
Ravi was the first top government personality who on a number of occasions rejected the NSCN-IM’s demands for a separate Naga flag and constitution leading to bitter relations between the leading Naga outfit and the Centre’s interlocutor.
After the Centre signed the important Framework Agreement with the NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015 in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ravi became very popular in Nagaland and among the Naga groups.
He was accorded a grand reception by the Nagas following his appointment as the Governor of Nagaland in July 2019.
But within a year, the sweet relations with the NSCN-IM led by Thuingaleng Muivah turned sour after Ravi pointed out those issues which are not favourable to the Naga body.
The peace talks with the Naga groups were troubled since early 2020, after the NSCN-IM refused to negotiate with Ravi forcing Home Minister Amit Shah to engage a team of officials from the Intelligence Bureau to continue the dialogue with the Naga group.
The NSCN-IM leaders also claimed that Ravi twisted the Framework Agreement (FA) and misled the Standing Committee of Parliament on the steps taken to solve the Naga issue.
The NSCN-IM forcefully requested the government to replace Ravi as the interlocutor for the peace talks.
Amidst his souring relations with the Naga outfits, in June 2020, Ravi in a strongly worded letter to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, expressed anger over the “unrestrained depredations by over half a dozen organised armed gangs”.
He pointed out to the Chief Minister the “illegal activities of the armed gangs” and suggested action against them.
He had also written a letter to the state’s Chief Secretary asking to create “a database of state government employees’ family members and relatives in underground organisations”.
In January 2020, Ravi issued an “order” recommending stern disciplinary action against those government employees who post “seditious and subversive” content on social media, “challenging the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country”.
When Ravi’s relations with the state government and the NSCN-IM worsened, the government transferred him to Tamil Nadu in September 2021 and he immediately resigned from his position as interlocutor in the Naga peace talks. His resignation was accepted by the Home Ministry.
Ravi’s transfer to Tamil Nadu has given relief to both the NSCN-IM and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), which has been leading the all-party United Democratic Alliance (UDA) government. With 12 members, the BJP is a part of the UDA government.
After Ravi’s departure, the Union Home Ministry appointed former Intelligence Bureau special director A.K. Mishra as the government’s representative to take forward the talks with the NSCN-IM.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is the convener of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), attended meetings on the Naga talks in Dimapur.
Alleging interference by the former governor in the state government affairs, a leader of the ruling NDPP said that the state government was very unhappy with the way Ravi functioned and dealt with the Naga peace talks.
Apart from the NSCN-IM, the Centre is also holding peace talks with eight other Naga armed groups which came together a few years ago under the banner of the “Naga National Political Groups.
The NSCN-IM had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in 1997 and has held over 80 rounds of talks — within and outside the country — but nothing substantial came out as the government would not agree to a separate constitution and flag.
Born in Patna in Bihar, Ravi, a 1976 batch Indian Police Service officer of the Kerala cadre, retired as Special Director, Intelligence Bureau, in 2012.
He was appointed chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee ) in September 2014, and subsequently made the interlocutor in the Naga peace talks. He was appointed Deputy National Security Advisor in October 2018.
In 2019, Ravi was appointed the Nagaland Governor replacing P.B. Acharya to further facilitate the peace talks.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)