Two and a half decades after the cease-fire agreement was signed by the largest Naga militant group NSCN IM, a final political accord that weans away militants from the gun and restores a degree of peace and stability in Nagaland is elusive. On August 03, seven years would have passed when the Framework Agreement was signed by the NSCN IM in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that was expected to usher in a final accord, however, hopes have receded.
The union government is also holding talks with Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) and an umbrella organization of seven groups since 2017.
The Centre signed a framework agreement with the NSCN (IM) on 3 August 2015, and also entered into an agreed position with the PGs in December 2017.
Talks between the Government of India through Central interlocutor at various times and the NSCN IM for a Naga accord have been held up since September 18, 2020. The breakup point has been a demand by the group for a separate Naga flag and constitution.
Now in the past few weeks there is speculation that a Pan Naga Hoho (PNH) may emerge as an option acceptable to the NSCN IM and the Government of India though as usual the contours of the proposal are shrouded in secrecy.
What is Pan Naga Hoho?
The proposal for Pan Naga Hoho is not new and has been under discussion for some time.
Prior to the August 2015 Framework Agreement, this was also known as, “Alternative Arrangement,” which had been worked upon by the former UPA government at the Centre.
On 25 August, after signing of the Framework Agreement which was reportedly done with a degree of urgency as then Chairman of the Group Isak Swu’s health was deteriorating, General Secretary of NSCN IM speaking at Chumukedima in Nagaland had outlined the proposal which was agreed upon.
The PNH was expected to look after the welfare of the Naga areas that were separated due to geography or their identity with other State entities.
The PNH was to be an independent entity or a statutory body with executive authority and a separate budget as a stakeholder in the Indo-Naga issues.
Muivah said that “this formula had been approved by the government of India to ensure the welfare of all Naga areas”.
"This is unique for the Nagas," he added.
The Pan Naga Hoho is reported to have been now revived by the Government of India through the principal representative for Naga political talks, AK Mishra.
The proposed Pan Naga Hoho discussed between Mishra and the NSCN IM is to be a cultural and social body to bring under one umbrella Nagas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh as per a report in the Economic Times. This has been undertaken to fulfil with the demand of the NSCN IM for integration of Naga inhabited areas across Northeast India.
This is expected to overcome apprehensions of the Northeastern states which have Naga populations of losing the Naga areas which have been historically and geographically weaved in their identities.
The PNH as per the NSCN IM did not undermine any democratic political institution as perceived by others. PNH will take into account the social, cultural, literature, identity and interests of the Nagas.
The Chairman of the PNH is expected to be an all powerful authority who can suspend even a death sentence issued by a court of law.
He will have the executive powers as well as be the Supreme Commander of Nagalim.
Then Government of India Interlocutor for Naga Talks, R.N. Ravi in an exclusive interview with Nagaland Post in 2016 had indicated that an interpretation of the PNH as,”a super-government is inconsistent with government of India’s position. We are trying to reach a convergence”.
What is the Approach of the NSCN IM?
In a recent report in the Nagaland Post the NSCN (I-M) has clarified that Pan Naga Hoho or PNH has not been formalized and is still under a discussion stage.
Public reaction to the PNH came from the powers of the chairman thus there was an immediate response from the group.
At the same time the NSCN IM has not relented on the demand for a separate flag and constitution.
The 8-member Core Committee on Naga Political Issue (CCoNPI) headed by the chief minister Neiphiu Rio also held a consultative meeting with a 10-member NSCN (I-M) delegation led by ‘lt. gen.’ (Rtd) V.S. Atem at Police Complex Chümoukedima.
The Centre is prepared to ink a broad-based agreement with all NPGs for one solution to the Naga political issue. NSCN (I-M) however said that the “Naga national flag that symbolize Naga political identity is not negotiable.”
NSCN (I-M), in monthly news bulletin “Nagalim Voice”, said “It is unthinkable for NSCN to accept Naga national flag as cultural flag as hinted by Government of India,” after reports emerged that Centre was not averse to allowing the Naga national flag for cultural purposes and also incorporate a mutually acceptable part of the Naga constitution in the Constitution of India.
“How can we forfeit Naga national flag and Naga constitution in the name of a political solution?” NSCN IM chairman Q Tuccu said after holding a emergency so-called national assembly on May 31 thus putting at rest any speculation that the organisation will compromise on the issue for the sake of the Accord.
NSCN (I-M) insists, that the Framework Agreement it signed with the government of India’s then Interlocutor R.N. Ravi on August 3, 2015 was inclusive of flag and constitution.
Then Government of India Interlocutor for Naga Talks, R.N. Ravi in an exclusive interview with Nagaland Post in 2016 on the separate flag and passport for the Nagas said “these are issues of sentiments”. He virtually rejected the demand stating, “the government of India respects the sentiments; however, these can only be addressed within the realm of the possible.”
Approach of Other Naga Groups
The other Naga group in the overall discourse is the Working Committee (WC) of the NNPGs an umbrella body which comprises of generally non-NSCN IM groups which have been in discussion with the Central Government interlocutor based on an separate agreement that was made in November 2017. WC NNPGs completed the political negotiations with all Naga groups on October 31, 2019.
The WC of NNPGs is also active promoting its point of view and has been holding meetings with parallel Naga groups and related organisations such as the United Naga Council (UNC) Manipur on June 7 at Dimapur as per Nagaland Post.
Similarly leaders of Zeliangrong civil society organizations (CSOs)– Zeliangrong Baudi (Assam, Manipur, Nagaland), Zeliangrong Youth Front (ZYF) Assam, Manipur Nagaland; Zeliangrong Students’ Union, (Assam, Manipur, Nagaland) and Zeliangrong Baudi Manipur have expressed “full support and endorsement of WC, NNPGs Agreed Position and urged the WC to bring honorable solution at the earliest.”
Working Committee (WC), Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and Tirap Changlang Longding People’s Forum (TCLPF), Tirap Changlang Longding Women’s Association (TCLWA) and Tirap Changlang Longding Students’ Federation (TCLSF) held a consultative meeting on June 4 as per Nagaland Post.
Naga People’s Front (NPF) working committee resolved to reiterate the party’s stand that Naga solution should be honourable, acceptable and inclusive. This resolution was unanimously adopted at a meeting of the NPF working committee held at the party central office, Kohima on May 24, 2022 as per Nagaland Post.
Niki Sumi-led NSCN/GPRN (K) held a coordination meeting with a delegation of Dimapur-based Southern Naga civil society organisations (CSOs) comprising Southern Naga Union, PoumaiHoho, Tangkhul Naga Long, Mao Naga Union, Maram Naga Union, Lamkang Naga Union, Maring Naga Union, Moyon Naga Union, Thangal Naga Union and Anal Naga Union at the ato kilonser’s office as per Nagaland Post.
There is speculation that the Chinese agencies may be involved in ensuring that a final accord between the NSCN IM and the Indian government is not reached. This is envisaged to be a part of the larger India-China competition cum contestation in the region per se which has increased after the standoff in Eastern Ladakh since April 2020.
Brief Note on Naga Militant Groups
The various Naga group are - NSCN IM – the largest and most heavily armed. Working Committee (WC) of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) – Seven groups- Neokpao-Kitovi faction of NSCN (NSCN-NK), NSCN-R, and four factions of the Naga National Council (NNC). The four NNC factions were the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN), NNC-Parent Body, National People's Government of Nagaland (NPGN) and Government Democratic Republic of Nagaland (GDRN),
NSCN (Khaplang-Yung Aung) – who is in Myanmar
NSCN Niki Sumi (NSCN NS) Faction– Recently defected from NSCN K to India
NSCN R – Akato Chophy recently split