When the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) ‘internationalized’ the Naga political issue by joining the Netherlands-based Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) on January 23, 1993, the then Congress government led by Narasimha Rao made peace overtures to the Naga group, leading to a ceasefire agreement in 1997.
After 18 years, the much hyped Framework Agreement was signed in 2015 between the NSCN-IM and the Government of India, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the talks have since stalled over the NSCN-IM’s demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution.
NSCN pushes towards ‘foreign intervention’
India, at this period, is also dealing with a security dilemma as the pro-Khalistan movement gains traction in Australia and Canada, and it looks like the NSCN-IM has restarted its drive to garner international attention to the Naga issue, which is apparently making the centre nervous.
The Naga-American Council, based in Washington, has been reactivated with the addition of two high-profile US citizens: strategist Dr Thomas Celluci and human rights attorney Nora Manjja, to advocate for the Naga cause overseas.
The council will “raise awareness about the plight of the Naga people in the Capitol Hill, the seat of the US government, as well as in the embassies of various countries based in Washington,” said the NSCN (IM) in most recent issue of its mouthpiece Nagalim Voice (March 2023).
Furthermore, the NSCN-IM acknowledged that after more than 26 years of political talks between the government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim, the Nagas are becoming restless and ‘looking beyond the border for third-party intervention’.
“The fluid situation as we find now demands that the rules of the game need to be changed, thereby promoting peaceful conflict resolution based on what has been agreed upon. Third-party can also help the Indo-Naga political talks move forward by building effective means to improve communication and provide an impartial perspective and build trust,” it noted.
Signs that the Center is nervous?
On April 4, coinciding with the G20 Summit in Kohima, the Naga Hoho, Naga Mothers’ Association, Naga Students’ Federation, and Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights collectively demanded ‘international intervention’ on the long-pending Naga political crisis.
This was followed by Germany Consul General Manfred Auster acknowledging the Civil Society Organizations, adding that it was a demonstration of the “maturity of Indian democracy.”
“The fact that the Government of India (GoI) was inviting us to Nagaland despite some ongoing demands from civil societies that we could have read about in the papers is a sign of maturity of Indian democracy,” the Consul General said. He added, “It is good that we are here and we are reading and learning from the Nagas about the situation here and the ongoing negotiations.”
However, following Auster’s address, a six-member delegation of the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), one of the frontal organizations in Nagaland seeking an equitable peace settlement between all stakeholders in the state and New Delhi, was banned from meeting with Auster.
According to a press release from the NMA, the association’s six-member delegation arrived at the Hotel De Oriental Grand in Kohima on April 6 at the invitation of the German Consul General’s office, which had requested a meeting with the NMA earlier on March 21.
However, as soon as they arrived at the hotel, according to an NMA statement, they were encircled by dozens of plainclothes police officers who barred them admission beyond the lobby.
The police informed the delegation that they had been directed not to allow them to meet with the Consul General and that if the NMA wanted to meet with the German Consul General, they should go to the Home Department or top police officials.
“We refused as we had been invited for the meeting and had not sought any appointment. Finally, the German Consul General Manfred Auster himself came to the lobby, apologizing for the government obstruction to the meeting. We were able to share our various concerns on the situation in the state, standing in the hotel lobby, surrounded by police and G20 staff,” the NMA statement said.
It is now speculated that the government might have prohibited the NMA team from meeting the diplomat since the NMA was part of a joint statement made by some of the state’s frontal organizations on April 4 demanding international intervention to find a solution to the vexing Naga problem.
Meanwhile, on April 6, the Centre also announced the prolongation for another year of ceasefire agreements inked with three Naga factions. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-NK (NSCN-NK), National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Reformation (NSCN-R), and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-K-Khango (NSCN-K-Khango) are among the organizations.