On 3 August 2015, the government of India signed a written agreement, called the framework agreement, after two decades of political negotiation with one of the largest Naga insurgent groups—the Isak and Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland. The agreement discussed the sharing of sovereign power between India and the Nagas. This agreement did not consult several other armed Naga nationalist groups, and left them wary.
N Kitovi Zhimomi heads six armed Naga-nationalist organisations—not including the NSCN (IM)—that came together under a single umbrella group, the “Naga National Political Groups,” in early 2017 to negotiate with the India government. The organisations of the NNPGs, although smaller, are breakaway factions of the original NSCN—similar to the NSCN (IM)—or breakaways of the Naga National Council, the oldest insurgent group in the state. Groups within the NNPGs and the NSCN have intermittently fought against each other for territorial control and legitimacy within the Naga nationalist movement.
In November 2017, the Indian government also signed a written agreement, called the “agreed positions,” with the NNPGs about the devolution of power to Nagaland. But the next year, the Indian government’s interlocutor, RN Ravi, informed a parliamentary committee that the “NSCN (IM) had threatened to pull out from the talks if any other group was engaged by the government of India.” Ravi justified the need for the agreed positions. “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 groups had come together and were engaged formally with the peace process,” he told the committee. The agreed positions mentioned, “The government of India recognizes the historical and political rights of the Nagas to self determine their future in consonance with their distinct identity … The two entities”—the NNPGs and the government of India—“have agreed to work out the details of a relationship that is honorable, enduring and inclusive peaceful co-existence with due regard to contemporary political realities.”
Zhimomi, born in 1958, led a Naga nationalist outfit for over two decades before coming to the negotiating table as the convenor of the NNPGs, in 2017. He is also the Ato Kilonser, or prime minister, of the civilian wing of his organisation. He blamed the Indian government in early 1960s for sowing the seeds of perennial mistrust among Naga nationalist groups. Zhimomi, however, believed that Naga organisations should accept the political reality of the day and be “pragmatic” in their demands, instead of asking for an “elusive dreamland.” In a two-hour long conversation at his residence in Dimapur on 15 August, he spoke to Sagar, a staff writer at The Caravan, about his thoughts on the demand for regional governments within Nagaland, the agreed positions and the framework agreement. Zhimomi’s phone was also likely targeted for surveillance with the Pegasus software, but he refused to answer questions about it.