After many twists and turns, efforts to reignite the Naga peace process are once again underway. On 11 June, the Nagaland government issued a notification declaring the constitution of a parliamentary committee—including all 60 members of the state assembly and the state’s two MPs—tasked with playing the role of a facilitator in the thorny, decades-old negotiations. At their first meeting in Dimapur, in July, members of the core committee appealed to Naga rebel groups and the centre to “resume Peace Talks” by “setting aside pre-conditions” with the aim of finding “a political solution at earliest time possible.” One of the core contentions has been the demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution, led largely by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). The NSCN(I-M), one of the largest groups in the negotiations, fought the Indian government in an attempt to establish a sovereign state until a ceasefire was announced in 1997.
Six years ago, in August 2015, Narendra Modi boasted about the signing of a “historic” peace agreement with the NSCN(I-M), calling it a sign of mutual “equality and respect, trust and confidence.” Relations, however, soon began to nosedive. They deteriorated especially with the centre’s appointment of RN Ravi as governor, in July 2019, and have been characterised by increasing distrust. More recently, it has been reported that the list of targets for surveillance using the Pegasus spyware included NSCN(I-M) leaders. Their numbers were added to the list in 2017, two years after Modi spoke of trust, and also in 2019. Under the Modi government, the Naga conflict has acquired new dimensions.
The peace process has survived several governments and has been subject to several resolutions. However, the current phase is marked by more subterfuge than seen before. For one, unlike any other past accord, the content of the 2015 agreement, called the “Framework Agreement,” was kept secret until the NSCN(I-M) decided to make it public when it accused Ravi of doctoring the original agreement.