The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its Two Hundred Thirteenth Report under the title ‘Security situation in the North Eastern States of India’ was presented to Rajya Sabha on 19th July, 2018 and also laid on the table of Lok Sabha on 19th July, 2018
A separate chapter on the deliberations related to the Naga Peace Accord was presented in this report which is reproduced below by The Naga Republic:-
3.1.1 The Home Secretary informed the Committee that a Ceasefire Agreement was signed by the Government of India with NSCN-IM in 1997. Thereafter, ground rules of ceasefire were agreed upon and talks for a settlement have been going on since then. In 2003, three rounds of negotiations were held between the Government and NSCN-IM. During these rounds, ground rules for the peace talks were laid down.
The Government of India recognize the unique history and situation of the Nagas and both the parties agreed on the measures to ensure the continuation of negotiations. NSCN-IM subsequently dropped its long standing demand of sovereignty but continued it‟s another persistent demand of integration of all Naga inhabited areas with the State of Nagaland to create a greater Nagaland or„ Nagalim‟.
Issues like the unification of the Naga inhabited areas remained an obstacle in all the three rounds of peace talks held in 2007. However, an important development occurred in 2007 when both the Government and the NSCN-IM, decided to extend the ceasefire indefinitely.
3.1.2 The Committee was informed that in February 2010, Shri R. S. Pandey was appointed as the interlocutor, replacing Shri K. Padmanabhaiah, who had served as the government representative since the inception of negotiations in1997. The deadlock in the talks continued till the resignation of Shri R. S. Pandey in December 2013.
In August 2014, Shri R. N. Ravi was appointed as the interlocutor for the Naga Peace talks. On 3rd August, 2015, a Framework Agreement was signed between the Government of India and the NSCN-IM. It is an overarching agreement on broad principles and lays the foundation for a final settlement.
3.1.3 While briefing the Committee, Shri R.N. Ravi Interlocutor for Naga stated that the Government has been talking with NSCN (IM) for the last twenty 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. While the Government kept them engaged, they had continued their position that they will be with India on the basis of a negotiated agreement, and would not be ‘within India’.
3.1.4 During the course of the last several years, the Government started opening out and reaching out to civil society organisations, Naga Tribal bodies and other stakeholders to get the views of the stakeholders other than NSCN (IM).
In 2015, the Government reached an understanding with the NSCN (IM), which agreed for a settlement within Indian federation, with a special status. The Interlocutor informed the Committee that this was a departure from their earlier position of „with India, not within India‟ and the Government called it „Framework Agreement‟ and signed it.
3.1.5 Subsequently, the Government contemplated the details of the power sharing with the Government of Nagaland or with other stakeholders. The Interlocutor apprised the Committee about the broad status of the negotiations and submitted that the negotiations were proceeding towards a situation, where boundaries of any State will neither be changed nor altered. Initially the Nagas had stuck to the idea of unification of Naga inhabited areas, resolutely maintaining their stand of „no integration, no solution‟.
However, they had now reached a common understanding with the Government that boundaries of the States will not be touched. Instead, some special arrangement would be made for the Nagas, wherever they are. The negotiations were going on over some 19 symbolic issues, which are sensitive to both the Government and the Nagas as well, and attempts are being made to reach a common understanding.
3.1.6 The Committee observes that any final agreement will have some implications for the three States viz. Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, where Nagas are residing in certain areas. The Committee is of the considered view that any agreement that may be finally arrived at must allay the fears of the stakeholders in these States and the State Governments must be kept abreast with the emerging dynamics of the talks.
3.1.7 The Committee was also informed by the Interlocutor that while the Government was moving forward with NSCN (IM), the integration, of the other relatively smaller armed groups with the peace talks, was a challenge. NSCN (IM) had threatened to pull out from the talks if any other group was engaged by the Government of India. However, integration of these smaller groups was important as they were getting desperate.
The Government was successful in achieving this and during the last one year, six Nagaland-based Naga Armed Groups had come together and were engaged formally with the peace process. However, NSCN (K), which had violated ceasefire in 2015, was not a part of the peace process.
3.1.8 The Committee was informed that the contours of the agreement had not been spelt out in the framework agreement. The framework agreement was just about the recognition of the uniqueness of Naga history by the Government of India, and an understanding that inclusive settlement will be within the Indian federation with due regards to the uniqueness of the Naga history. However, the Interlocutor stated that it was implied in the agreement that some special arrangement will have to be made for the Nagas.
3.1.9 On being asked what the special arrangement will be, the Committee was told that with respect to Nagaland, there is already a special arrangement. Article 371A of the Constitution makes it very 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.
3.1.10 The Committee takes note of the developments that have taken place in the last few years regarding Naga Peace Talks. While there have been positive outcomes, the Committee apprehends that the Naga groups and tribal bodies are becoming restless due to the delay in concluding the talks.
Recently the representatives of all political parties, following an appeal by the Core Committee of Naga Tribal Hohos and Civil Society Organisations, had signed a declaration that they will abstain from the election if it is held without concluding the Naga Peace Agreement. This is indicative of the growing unrest among the Naga Hohos. The Committee wonders as to why there is a delay in concluding the peace talks when all other stakeholders other than the Government appear to be eager to conclude it. The Committee apprehends that any further delay may harm the progress achieved during the last few years.
The Committee, therefore, strongly recommends that the Government should conclude the peace talks, at the earliest, based on a broad understanding over the most contentious issues. The Committee also recommends that the Government should tread carefully on the issues sensitive to the Nagas and not let vested interests highjack the peace narrative.
3.1.11 The Committee, keeping in view the historical dynamics of insurgency, wishes to remind the Government that the most important aspect of any agreement with insurgents is the adequate rehabilitation and settlement programme for the cadres of the insurgent outfits. NSCN (IM), being the largest group in the entire region would have thousands of cadres who must be adequately settled to make the agreement successful and to prevent the emergence of 20 any rebel splinter groups.
The Committee, therefore, strongly recommends that the Ministry should prepare a detailed and generous rehabilitation-cum-settlement scheme for the cadres who will surrender as part of the agreement. The Committee also recommends that the Government should, nevertheless, proactively stay prepared for any kinds of scenario that may emerge in the aftermath of this agreement, and keep the security forces and the intelligence agencies on the alert.
3.2 Status of Negotiations in Manipur
3.2.1 The Committee has been informed by the Ministry of Home Affairs that the Kuki groups are broadly divided under two umbrella groups: the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and the United Peoples Front (UPF). In 2008, a tripartite Suspension of Operations agreement was signed between the Government of India, the State Government of Manipur and various Kuki underground groups that are under the aegis of either KNO or UPF. This agreement is being extended periodically since then.
3.2.2 The Committee desired to know the present status of the talks between the Central Government, the State Government of Manipur, Kukis, Nagas and Meiteis. The Committee was informed by the Ministry that the talks were going on and the first round of Tripartite Talks between the Government of India, the State Government of Manipur and KNO/UPF, to discuss the political demand of KNO and UPF was held on 15th June, 2016 followed by two more rounds on 19th October, 2016 and 9th August, 2017. UPF and KNO have submitted their political demands. Presently, Interlocutor appointed by the Government of India is holding talks with KNO and UPF.
3.2.3 The Committee feels that the frequency and pace of the talks do not seem encouraging as during the last two years only three rounds of dialogue have taken place. The Committee understands that there might have been several bottlenecks that would have obstructed the progress of the talks; however, the bottom line is that the Government should ensure that the talks are held regularly and the issues are resolved gradually.
The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Ministry of Home Affairs should make sincere efforts to expedite the talks and hold them more frequently. The Committee also recommends that the Government should tread carefully on the political demands of the Kuki groups and ensure a congruity between the agreement being finalised with the Nagas and the arrangement that may be made for the Kukis.