They have come a long way but differences still persist or there are hurdles. Some Naga groups from Manipur are yet to meet the leaders of umbrella organisation NNPG in Nagaland.
A few met and have endorsed the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) stand like the Zeliangrong Nagas an there is still another group which met but declined to issue a joint statement.
N Kitovi Zhimomi, 64, is a pragmatic Naga militant leader and is now clamouring for peace and a lasting solution to the Naga political imbroglio.
“Meeting our Naga brothers will dispel misgivings,” Kitovi told a meeting of Naga leaders from Manipur.
The Poumai Naga groups and others under the banner of United Naga Council (UNC) met Kitovi and other NNPG leaders in Dimapur on Tuesday.
“The meeting concluded with a strong emphasis on peace in our land and peaceful co-existence of all Naga neighbours,” says a statement from the Working Committee, NNPG.
The umbrella organisation of seven militant groups operating mostly in Nagaland had inked an agreed position paper with the Centre in 2017 and is now keenly awaiting a final peace pact.
During the last few days, mounting pressure on other players including a section of Nagaland state politicians who allegedly favoured status quo, the NNPG has managed ‘support’ to their cause and agreement with the Centre.
A number of Naga organisations from Arunachal Pradesh including a women-run body and Zeliangrong Nagas of Manipur and Assam have after separate meetings backed the NNPG giving the peace process and clamour for an early solution a mega push.
On the other hand, the NSCN-IM still remains firm about their demands for a Flag and a separate Naga constitution.
The Central government has categorically rejected the demand more than once.
Sources close to NNPG have said that as reports of the Pan Naga Hoho and the real intent came to light, the NSCN-IM stood “exposed”.
“They want to impose military dictatorship, Nagas now feel deceived,” one of the sources said.
The reference is to the reports that the Pan Naga Hoho as proposed by NSCN-IM, claims that ‘chairman’ would be the most powerful authority who can suspend a death sentence and who shall also become the executive head as well the Supreme Commander of Nagalim.
During Tuesday’s meeting with UNC leaders, Kitovi insisted that “it was appropriate time to meet Naga brothers, be it from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam or Nagaland because limiting oneself to just group or one leader will not be in the interest of Nagas today”.
The issues related to the Naga insurgency dates back to the 1940s. Nagaland attained statehood in 1963 after signing of a 16 Point Agreement in 1960. Originally led by A Zapu Phizo, the Naga National Council split a number of times especially after the 1970s.
The NSCN-IM faction was led by Late Isak Chishi Swu and Isak Muivah.
Swu, the former chairman of NSCN-IM, breathed his last in 2016.
On August 3, 2015, the NSCN-IM and peace negotiator Ravi had inked a pact in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was later described as the Framework Agreement.
A school of thought seeks to blame former Prime Ministers H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral for lapse in not keeping certain things in writing. Even country’s only communist Home Minister, the late Indrajit Gupta also gets his share of the blame.
The refrain is that had the agenda been ‘made public’ in the 1990s, one would not have had headlines screaming in 2021-22 that the Naga peace talks have hit a roadblock due to twin issues of Flag and Constitution.
(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”. Views are personal)