By Namrata Biji Ahuja | Source: The Week
(File) Muivah remains the tallest leader to steer the outfit towards a final peace accord
Muivah, the 84-year-old Ato Kilonser (prime minister) of the Government of People’s Republic of Nagaland (GPRN) NSCN (IM), was admitted to a private hospital in the national capital on Monday (Oct 1) after he complained of abdominal pain.
Muivah, who signed the ambitious framework agreement with the Modi government in 2015 for a lasting solution to the decades-long Naga insurgency, is presently the most important figure in the Naga peace talks, which is in the final stages now.
Even as the government and the biggest insurgent group are concerned over his health, sources in the NSCN(IM) told THE WEEK that Muivah’s health has improved a lot and he will be back to work soon. “Ato Kilonser’s health has improved a lot. He will be back to work soon,” said a leader of the outfit.
There is also no succession plan in place in the outfit, sources said, adding that Muivah remains the tallest leader to steer the outfit towards a final peace accord.
In the last four years, the demise of two founding leaders—Isak Chishi Swu in 2016 and S.S. Khaplang in 2017—caused a setback to the militant outfit. It may be recalled that it was Swu’s failing health that prompted the Modi government to sign the hush-hush framework agreement as the first step towards a lasting solution to the Naga insurgency problem.
After Swu’s demise, Muivah has managed to keep the Naga movement going strong despite the differences between the Issac-Muivah faction (pro-talks) and Khaplang group (anti-talks). NSCN-K started operating from across the border in Myanmar in 2015 after the outfit abrogated the ceasefire pact with the government. Muivah has always batted for unity in order to achieve the goals of Naga movement and to ensure that the sacrifices made by the supreme leaders do not go in vain.
It is the strength of NSCN (IM) that forced the government to recognise them as the biggest insurgent outfit to be called for peace talks. The signing of the framework agreement with the NSCN (IM) alone did not go down well with the smaller insurgent groups who felt left out.
All eyes remain on Muivah to seal the peace deal with the Union government.
The fate of the deal, however, has become uncertain as the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are round the corner and the peace interlocutor R.N. Ravi has still not been able to convince the political leadership and the BJP hawks, about conceding to some of the demands of the outfit, including a separate flag, more autonomy and induction of its cadres into the armed forces among others.
The possibility of a new government at the Centre and the changing political dynamics post elections are something that is creating a sense of unease and rising impatience in the Nagas, who are also fed up of the multiple taxation they are subjected to by the GPRN NSCN (IM), other insurgent groups and the Nagaland government. “The people of the Northeast are fed up with the taxation. It is high time that the issues are resolved to bring a reprieve to the general population,” said an official posted in Nagaland.
The cadres of the insurgent groups also want that the government lay bare its cards and make an offer for a peace accord soon. They feel that the ball is in the Centre’s court as they have already listed their demands before the government.
While Muivah is in hospital, there is also fresh worry coming from across the border. The security agencies have got feelers from across the border in Myanmar of ousted NSCN-K chief Khango Konyak seeking a safe passage into the country. Sources in the security establishment revealed that they want Khango to clarify if he is willing to join the peace talks or chart a new course. “Let Khango make his position clear and we will take it forward from there,” said a senior security official. Whether Khango joins the NSCN (IM) or floats a new outfit, Muivah’s decision and his leadership will be the key to taking the ongoing peace talks forward.