The General Secretary of the Nagaland Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM), Th Muivah, is set to arrive in New Delhi on 19 August to resume talks with the Government of India. This follows the arrival of seven members of the NSCN-IM Collective leadership (CL) in New Delhi. Reportedly, the members are: Rh. Raising, TT Among, Kraibo Chawang, Hutovi Chishi, Dr Kimong Lowang, Zeneituo Pienyu, and Mozamo Ngullie. Retired General VS Atem is also expected to join the negotiation rounds later.
This development is unfolding against the backdrop of ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur, which has further complicated the Naga talks.
The NSCN-IM has steadfastly adhered to their demands for a ‘separate flag and constitution’ and has frequently accused the Government of India of backtracking from the Framework Agreement. They assert that any group endorsing Article 371(A) cannot be recognized as a legitimate Naga Political Group. According to their perspective, aligning with the Indian constitution would equate to an alignment with state politicians and employees.
The NSCN-IM’s refusal to acknowledge the Indian constitution can be traced back to the 1975 Shillong Accord which they call ‘treacherous’. This accord acknowledged the supremacy of the Constitution of India and required “acceptance of the supremacy of the Constitution of India unconditionally,” surrendering their arms and renouncing their demand for the secession of Nagaland from India. However, from those days till date, the NSCN-IM continues to reject the Indian constitution and, as a consequence, distances itself from supporting Article 371(A).
In contrast, the Naga National Political Groups, led by N Kitovi Zhimomi, staunchly advocate for Article 371(A) and its comprehensive implementation. Zhimomi, speaking during the official induction of S Kiviho Zhimomi as the president of UNPG-NNC earlier this year in May, called upon the Indian government to fully implement Article 371(A), allowing Nagas to integrate fully as legitimate members of the Indian nation and cease experiencing a sense of step motherly treatment.
On the other hand, the Government of India (GoI) inked the Framework Agreement with the NSCN-IM on 3 August, 2015, and the Agreed Position with the NNPGs on 17 November 2017.
Significantly, the Naga National Council (NNC), which was once the singular Naga Political Group before the NSCN broke away from it after the 1975 Shillong Accord, asserts that “Solution short of 1951 Plebiscite is a blunder.”
Interestingly, the views of the NNC president align with the NSCN-IM’s perspective on the Shillong Accord. Keyho asserted, “Some few misguided comrades along with some educated traitors without any consultation with the NNC, committed the infamous and treacherous ‘Shillong Accord of 1975’ with the Government of India under the guise of an underground organization.”
However, earlier this year, Gen (Rtd) Thinoselie M Keyho, the President of NNC, declared that any proposed Naga solution or political settlement without respecting the 1951 Naga Plebiscite is considered blasphemous, treacherous, and utterly condemnable. He disputed the standing of both the ‘Framework Agreement’ and the ‘Agreed Position,’ dismissing their credibility in adhering to the foundational principle of the 1951 Naga Plebiscite.
Simultaneously, other political entities like the NSCN-K (Niki, Khango, Yung Aung, and Ang mai) persist in their beliefs in Naga sovereignty and Naga integration, with formal agreements yet to be signed with the GoI.
Naga political talks and Manipur violence
Amid this intricate political landscape, the ethnic violence between the Meiteis and the Kukis in Manipur, coupled with the Kuki demand for separate administration, has significantly intensified tensions. The potential implications for Manipur’s territorial integrity are profound, particularly as the NSCN-IM’s Greater Nagalim proposition encompasses the Naga regions of Manipur. Consequently, a decision by the Indian government to grant separate administration to both the Kukis and Nagas would substantially limit Manipur state to the Imphal valley alone geographically.
Anticipating these challenges, reports suggest that Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s government is likely to introduce a resolution during a special session of the Manipur assembly on 21 August. The resolution aims to safeguard Manipur’s territorial integrity, thereby contradicting the Kuki-Zo MLAs’ demand for separate administration. However, in light of security constraints and the assembly’s location in Meitei-dominated Imphal, ten tribal MLAs from Manipur have announced their decision to abstain from the upcoming assembly session.
Before this, 32 MLAs from Chief Minister Biren Singh’s government submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, urging the Union government to dismiss the ‘separate administration’ demand of the Kuki community. Interestingly, among the 32 MLAs, eight Naga MLAs also signed the memorandum, which elicited condemnation from the United Naga Council, the NSCN-IM, and NSCN-K (Niki).
In the midst of all these developments, a heavy gunfight broke out at Thowai (Thawai) Kuki Village in the foothills of Manipur state, under the jurisdiction of the Litan Police Station in Kamjong district, on Friday morning, 18 August.
Regrettably, three Kuki village volunteers were reportedly killed in the encounter by unidentified armed miscreants. According to a report from the Ukhrul Times, the armed miscreants are suspected to be Meitei/Meetei armed groups.
Meanwhile, the Tangkhul Naga Long, Kuki Inpi Ukhrul, and Kuki Chiefs of Litan, in a joint meeting held on August 8 at the TNL Office, Ukhrul Headquarters, have reached an understanding. They have concluded that no permanent structure or Semi-Permanent Relief Camps shall be allowed in Naga areas and subsequently the Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) has submitted a memorandum to the Government of Manipur on the same issue.
Instead, they have appealed to the concerned authorities to formulate a roadmap for the “permanent resettlement” of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in their places of origin.
The intricacies of these events highlight the volatile and multifaceted nature of the ongoing developments, underscoring the challenges of achieving a sustainable resolution in the complex Naga political landscape.