Naga leaders with Modi.

Naga leaders with Modi.

Centre silent on interlocutor for Naga peace talks after Governor’s transfer

Huge trust deficit between Ravi and Naga groups led to his exit from Kohima

Agency Report | Kohima | 10 September, 2021 | 11:00 PM

Political circles in Nagaland and other northeastern states are abuzz after Centre transfers Nagaland Governor Ravindra Narayan Ravi to Tamil Nadu, as he was the government's interlocutor for the much-debated Naga peace talks, which are now in the last stages of finalisation. A huge trust deficit between Ravi and the Naga groups reportedly led to his exit as he was crossing swords with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) for the last two years.

Though a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique late on Thursday night said that Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi has been given the additional charge as Nagaland Governor until regular arrangements are made, there is no official word yet about who would be the Centre’s interlocutor for the vital Naga peace talks.

Ravi, a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) official, has been transferred to Tamil Nadu at a time when his relation with the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) turned very sour.

The leaders of NSCN-IM, the dominant Naga group, had openly criticised Ravi, who on his part had slammed the outfit for its various demands, especially over a separate flag and constitution.

Ravi, a 1976 batch IPS officer of Kerala cadre, was appointed as the Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, immediately after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government took charge. He was appointed as the Deputy National Security Advisor in October 2018 before being named the 19th Governor of Nagaland on August 1, 2019.

Within a year, the government and the NSCN-IM signed the “Framework Agreement” on August 3, 2015.

Ravi and NSCN-IM also got engaged in a war of words over the collection of “tax” from the public by the Naga outfit.

The NSCN-IM had said that taxation is the legitimate right of every government of a nation state. “The Nagas declared their independent status as a sovereign nation one day ahead of India, and have defended their sovereign right thus far,” it said.

The officer-on-special duty (OSD) to the government of India and the interlocutor for the Naga peace talks, Gurmeet Singh, in a statement without naming the NSCN-IM had recently said that a Naga armed organisation engaged in the peace process has issued a statement, which has been carried by the media, saying that they have the right to collect “tax” from the people and further added that their right has been recognised by the representative of the government of India after having dialogue with them.

“Such an erroneous statement is likely to cause confusion among the people. Taxation is a sovereign function which can be exercised only either by the government of India or the state government. The government of India does not recognise any such right by any other entity.

“Forcible collection of money by any entity is extortion which is a criminal offence punishable under the laws,” Singh had said in his statement.

Last week, the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), an influential students’ body, had urged Ravi to “rise from his self-induced slumber” and “hold his tongue and act in the interest of peaceful co-existence” between the Nagas and their neighbours.

The NSCN-IM since August 1997 has held around 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre with NSCN-IM General Secretary Th Muivah leading the delegation of the outfit.

The NSCN-IM and intelligence sources said that while many of the 31 demands of the Nagas have been almost resolved during the talks with the Centre, differences remain over a separate flag and a separate Constitution.

Ravi had outrightly rejected the demand for a separate flag and a Constitution for the state as demanded by the NSCN-IM.

The Central government has also been separately holding peace talks with eight other outfits which came together a few years ago under the banner of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs).
In fact the Naga peace talks began to derail in early 2020 when (NSCN-IM) leader T Muivah refused to hold any dialogue with R N Ravi following a dispute over the framework agreement signed in 2015.

It was also alleged that he twisted the Framework Agreement (FA) and misled the Standing Committee of Parliament on the steps taken to solve the Naga issue. “The fact is that the Framework Agreement is outside the purview of Indian Federation/Constitution. But in his report furnished to the Parliamentary Standing Committee he manipulated in his own narrative that was far from the actual meaning as very unambiguously worded in layman’s language in the original copy of FA,” said a source.

“He, as an interlocutor, had signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM on behalf of the Centre on August 3, 2015, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and now he was tampering with its content,” a source in the Naga group said.

He also said that after this NSCN leader T Muivah sought his immediate removal as the government’s representative in the peace talks.

Recently, the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance in Nagaland led by Neiphiu Rio had also expressed its reservation about the Independence Day speech. The alliance in a statement said that Ravi’s statement was not well received by the people of Nagaland.

In his speech on August 15, Ravi had alleged that “a deeply entrenched network of vested interests has emerged during the period which has misappropriated the dividends of peace and did not allow them to reach the people.”

Following the deadlock between Ravi and the NSCN (Isak Muivah), the government sources said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah also opened other channels to resume talks with the NSCN(IM) and from then on it was expected that he will be relieved of his responsibility of interlocutor.

The NSCN (I-M) had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in 1997 and has held over 100 rounds of talks — within and outside the country — but nothing substantial came out as the Government could not allow them to have a separate constitution and flag.

Apart from NSCN(IM), the Centre is also separately holding peace talks with eight other Naga armed groups which came together a few years ago under the banner of “Naga National Political Groups” or NNPGs. (IANS)