Three years have lapsed since the 'historic' Framework Agreement was signed between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) [NSCN(IM)] on August 3, 2015. The promised Peace Accord has not yet appeared on the horizon. This delay has succeeded in causing divisions of opinion among the Naga people.
Read More: Indo-Naga Talks: The Difficult Road to Peace
On Thursday, the Naga Hoho – the apex body of Nagas – voiced their apprehensions over the process. According to the Morung Express they said, “Our last bet for signing the Agreement is during the ensuing Monsoon session of Parliament, however we are fretting that it is likely to vanish into thin air again”. The Hoho also berated the Government of India and the Naga leadership. “It is time for the Naga political negotiators to rethink whether to go ahead with the present system of negotiation without finding any tangible solution or will they continue sitting in their cozy confinements in Delhi, as we believe that India is not prepared for honorable political solution, but will try to buy more and more time blaming the conflict of interest among the Nagas”.
Read More: The Naga Peace Talks are Heading For a Rough Patch
However, the government in Nagaland has been optimistic over the process. On Thursday, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said that the talks between the Government of India and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) were at an advanced stage. The state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the same day reiterated the party's support for the process and the Framework Agreement.
Expressing similar optimism, the Tangkhul Naga Long in Manipur – Thuingaleng Muivah is a Tangkhul Naga – organised a programme in Ukhrul affirming their trust in the Framework Agreement. They also proclaimed their trust in the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland (NSCN(IM)) and the Government of India to arrive at a peace agreement. The programme ended with a memorandum being prepared and submitted to the prime minister. The memorandum reiterated the views expressed in the programme. Meanwhile, the Chandel Naga People's Organisation also drew up, and submitted a similar memorandum. However, not all the Nagas in Manipur have been as optimistic over this agreement.
Read More: Assam Rifles Accused of Using 'Human Shields'
The Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front (MNRF) has made clear their scepticism of the entire deal. They have accused the NSCN(IM) of jockeying to become an agent of the Government of India. According to the Imphal Free Press, they highlighted the doublespeak of the Naga leadership. They said that on the one hand, the Naga leadership promised to fight against the Indian occupation, on the other hand, they are willing to submit to the Indian Constitution. The MNRF ended with appealing to the people to unite Western South East Asia (WESEA). It appears that according to them, this is the only way all the problems and ethnic conflicts can be averted. Whether the appeal was aimed only at the Naga public or to the people of the region in general is not known.
Read More: Twin Pressures Towards Unifying the People of the Northeast
Other groups in Manipur also expressed their 'scepticism', but on a different note. On Friday, a combination of four civil society groups agitated for the resignation of all the Members of Parliament (MPs) from Manipur. The All Manipur United Clubs' Organisation (AMUCO), the United Committee Manipur (UCM) and the Committee of Civil Societies Kangleipak (CCSK) besieged the houses of the Rajya Sabha MP, Ksh. Bhavananda and Lok Sabha MP, Th. Meinya. Meanwhile the Kangleipak Students Association (KSA) stormed the offices of the BJP and the Congress party. The agitating groups demanded that the contents of the Framework Agreement be revealed. They also demanded that the MPs should speak on Manipur's territorial integrity and raise the Indo-Naga Framework Agreement in Parliament.
Read More: The Protests in Dima Hasao are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
Apart from civilian opposition to Naga integration, what has been a major obstacle in any negotiation on the Naga issue is the absence of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) (NSCN(K)) in the negotiations. After Shangwang Shangyu Khaplang passed away in 2017, he was succeeded by another veteran from the Naga struggle, Khango Konyak. Unlike Khaplang, Konyak was born in the Mon region of present day Nagaland, whereas Khaplang was a Hemei Naga from present day Myanmar. The Irrawaddy has reported that Konyak is ailing, and that the Tatmadaw – the Myanmar military – is allegedly not letting him travel outside the valleys of the Sagaing division for medical treatment.
These developments represent the fractured consensus of the Naga peace process. On the one hand, it has been alleged that the primary weapon the Indian State possesses regarding negotiations is time. Ceasefire Agreements tend to limit the movements of the cadres of the armed political groups. Thus, severing their connection with the people. Sustained operations and raids on the houses of the leadership may not be officially sanctioned, however, it erodes trust – which is necessary for successful negotiations.
Konyak's health may present as an opportunity to the Indian State to kill two birds with one stone. By offering him amnesty for medical treatment, they could turn him into a party to the Framework Agreement and the negotiations. This would end the armed activities of the NSCN(K) and subsequently cripple the United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW). However, if Konyak were to refuse any such deal, and choose to let his health deteriorate further, it could once again raise questions on whether a power struggle may occur in the NSCN(K) and the UNLFW over leadership. What direction these developments will take can be anyone's guess.