With teams of insurgent leaders arriving in New Delhi to attend a high-level meeting between the Union government and Naga insurgent groups, most notably NSCN(IM), the government is pinning hope on the meet, scheduled for Thursday, to be the final phase of the 22-year dialogue with the IM and bring an end to decades-long insurgency in the state.
Sources said the government has also called leaders of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), an umbrella organisation of seven insurgent groups such as NSCN(K) and other factions of NSCN like Unification and Reunification, for the meeting.
“The government wants a final solution, and for that it was important to call all groups. This is despite the fact that IM has so far sought to be the only party involved in the talks,’’ a source said.
Although there is no official word yet on the signing of the long-awaited Naga peace agreement, Nagaland Governor N Ravi’s statement that the Union government is determined to conclude the peace talks with Naga insurgent groups have given indications of fresh developments.
Earlier this week, Ravi said that a mutually agreed draft comprehensive settlement, incorporating all substantive issues and competencies, was ready for signing the final agreement.
While the bone of contention between the Centre and IM has been over the outfit’s demand for a separate flag and constitution for Nagaland, sources said NNPG has been far more flexible in its conditions, giving up this demand. Instead, NNPG has demanded that seats in the Assembly be increased from 60 to 90, that the number of members from Nagaland in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha be increased, and that an “Upper House system’’ — with Members of Legislative Council – be introduced in the state.
NNPG has also demanded development packages and accommodation for both its leaders and cadres in the government.
No Compromise on separate flag and constitution.
Kilonser K Chawang, former convener of the ceasefire monitoring committee in IM, however, told The Indian Express over telephone from IM headquarters in Hebron: “There is no question of compromising on a separate flag and constitution. To us, the meeting is not a final meeting if the demands are not met.’’
He also said IM is not looking at abrogating the ceasefire agreement in place. “We are not looking at picking up arms again. But we will continue the talks,’’ he added.
A top government source familiar with the development said, “Efforts are still on to bring them (IM) on board with the final draft, as an agreement without it will not make much sense. The government is keen to conclude the agreement soon.”
Meanwhile, security across Nagaland has been tightened in light of the impending meeting as tension rises over uncertainty of its outcome.
Nagaland Governor Ravi, who is also the Centre’s interlocutor to the Naga peace process, has directed Deputy Commissioners and administrative officers to remain on duty and recalled all police personnel on leave. Nagaland DGP T John Longkumer has issued an order cancelling the police sports meet on account of “exigent and unavoidable circumstances”.
Leaders from ruling NDPP said measures have been taken to cover any kind of eventuality. A senior party leader said there is also speculation that the present state government may be asked to step down in order to accommodate leaders of NSCN-IM as well as commanders of other insurgent groups.
In Delhi, ruling BJP is equally concerned about repercussions of any agreement with the Naga rebel groups in neighbouring Manipur, where Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Senapati districts are expected to come under the Territorial Council for Naga-inhabited areas under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. “The move could trigger violent protests in Manipur. Several civil society groups are opposing this and have already warned against any such move,” a BJP leader said.—inputs from Abhishek Saha, Guwahati