The PMO is reportedly “disturbed” over the developments of the last several months, which have seen a breakdown of relations between Nagaland Governor RN Ravi (who is also the Centre’s interlocutor) and Naga groups like the NSC-IM, and hence handed the reins to the IB.
In addition to the Director, IB Special Director Akshay Kumar Mishra has also been tasked with playing a role, according to the report.
The NSCN-IM, which is the largest Naga group part of the talks process, released a statement on the evening of Sunday, 16 August, in which they stated that Ravi had “created an imbroglio in the talks process”.
The statement goes on to explain that the issue has arisen because Ravi has sought to limit the talks to the state of Nagaland only, while the Naga groups want it to cover political issues for all Nagas in all Naga areas outside the state as well. “This is not only a mockery of the Framework Agreement, co-authored by him while representing the Prime Minister of India, but an insult to Nagas as a whole,” it adds.
WHY HAVE THE TALKS HIT A DEADLOCK?
The move to put the IB in charge comes after several months of conflict between Ravi and the NSCN-IM, including a demand from the Naga group to remove Ravi as interlocutor for the Indian government, according to the Indian Express.
There had been a number of recent escalations of tensions.
In March, another Naga group called the NNPG had urged Ravi to sign on the peace talks with or without the NSCN-IM. The talks were supposed to yield consensus in October 2019, but this had failed to materialise, a government official told NDTV.
The Centre subsequently launched a crackdown on NSCN-IM cadres – this and the March developments had led to the NSCN-IM feeling that Ravi, as interlocutor, was favouring the NNPG over them.
At the end of June, Ravi had written to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, claiming “armed gangs” were running parallel governments in Nagaland, and that there were “rampant extortions and violence” in the state.
The state government denied these allegations, adding another rift to the political equation, this time between Ravi and the BJP-allied administration.
On 14 August, the NSCN-IM chief Th Muivah, made a controversial statement that the Nagas will not merge with India, but will “co-exist”. The NSCN-IM say that they cannot give up the Naga flag, and that the Framework Agreement agreed with the Centre in 2015 gives them autonomy to do so.
Ravi followed this up with his speech as governor on 15 August, Independence Day, where he said that despite its human and natural resources, Nagaland “has the dubious distinction of the worst-performing state in the country, including the Northeast region, on almost all significant indicators of human development”.
WHAT HAD THE 2015 FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT DECIDED?
After the Shillong Accord signed between NNC and Government of India in 1975 where NNC agreed to give up arms and the ceasefire agreement between NSCN-IM and the Centre in 1997, the Modi government signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM on 3 August 2015.
This was in line with the poll promise of Bharatiya Janata Party which claimed that it would work towards a permanent solution to the Naga issue. The move was described as historic and unprecedented and was believed to have opened the doors for further talks.
In August 2017 another armed umbrella outfit Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) joined the peace talks with the Centre,
The government refused to divulge any details regarding the agreement in public. However, in 2018 The Hindu published a report revealing details of the government’s statement to a Parliamentary panel regarding the framework agreement.
The report said that the government informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs that the framework agreement that was “just about the recognition of the uniqueness of the Naga history by the Government of India”, and some special arrangements will have to be made for the Nagas.
The Committee was told that with respect to Nagaland, Article 371A of the Constitution makes it clear that they are special and a special status has been accorded to them. A similar kind of status, with some local variation, and some change to the Nagas in the neighbouring states can be explored.
The report also said that while briefing the committee, RN Ravi, interlocutor for Nagas, stated that the government has been talking with the NSCN-IM for the last 20 years and their position from the very beginning has been that Nagas were exceptional, Nagas were not Indians, Nagas were sovereign and any settlement could be reached only on the basis of the fact that this is a settlement between two sovereigns.