NAGA TALKS IS ABOUT NAGAS NOT ANY PARTICULAR GROUP
Government of India’s Interlocutor to the Naga peace talks, R.N.Ravi has said that sovereignty and integration were among the subjects on the agenda of the NSCN (I-M) which were being deliberated during the past 17 years between government of India and NSCN (I-M).
In an exclusive interview to Nagaland Post at Dimapur Friday, Ravi said “sovereignty has many meanings and many shades” but it was still being discussed by both sides in order to move forward. He however made it clear, that if ‘sovereignty’ was to mean “total independence”, then it was ruled out. He also said the NSCN (I-M) has kept integration as its agenda and that both the parties are “just examining” on the “best possible way” to deal with it.
Ravi said “ I would not like to go into details( on the issue of integration) now, but yes it is an issue that NSCN (I-M) has as its agenda and we are talking about it”.
When asked if integration would be considered since ‘total independence’ was ruled out, R.N. Ravi said that it was not the question of government of India alone but a process of consultations and a constitutional and democratic process.
Asked why Nagas were kept in the dark about the issues being negotiated since it was supposed to be a Naga peace talk, Ravi said he had not knowledge of the past. However, he said his approach was to take the entire Naga society on board. He maintained that since the talk was on the Naga issue, he took initiatives to meet public leaders, Naga civil societies and intellectuals in order to reach out to them.
On the final settlement to be made with the NSCN (I-M), Ravi clarified that “there is nothing called settlement with NSCN (I-M) as it is a settlement of the Naga issue”.
Ravi explained that when he said “talk was between two equal parties”, he meant that the talk was between Nagas and government of India and “not NSCN (I-M) and government of India”.
“It is one thing that a beginning was made through NSCN (I-M) and we are talking with them and we have made sufficient progress…. this is a Naga issue”, maintained Ravi. He also elaborated that “equal partners are not NSCN (I-M) and government of India- it is the Nagas”. Ravi said the government of India’s Naga talks was with the Nagas, which he described as, a “gentlemanly talk” under the principle of equal partnership.
When asked how the talks can be termed as “Naga talks” when other Naga Political Groups (NPGs) were not party to it, Ravi pointed out that when NSCN (K) was offered a dialogue, it declined but placed a condition, that all other NPGs should also be taken on board.
Asked whether “alternative arrangement” for Nagas in Manipur as demanded by United Naga Council (UNC) and an interim government in Nagaland were proposals for an agreement, Ravi denied having any knowledge about the “alterative arrangement” . He said “I do not know what alternative arrangement is. This is a very vague concept and I am not very clear about it”.
On concept of an interim government in Nagaland by NPGs, Ravi replied “why would anyone want an interim government in Nagaland when Nagas have an elected government?. He asked , “how can you just throw away an elected government in Nagaland?”
On both these concepts, Ravi however said, “we have not reached the stage where we can talk along these terms”.
Asked if demobilisation of Naga armed cadres would be insisted, when a solution was agreed upon , Ravi made it clear, that as and when agreement or solution was reached, “there cannot be any private militia”. He went on to explain the legal position that the only persons permitted to carry weapons were people in the government and the license holders. Ravi reiterated “there cannot be any private militia”.
Ravi said currently, substantive progress has been made in the talks unlike in the past when it had not been clear as to what to talk and with whom to talk.
He claimed that progress has been definite as the contours of an agreement were beginning to take shape adding government of India would “keep everyone on board”.
When asked to explain how everyone would be taken on board especially after the NSCN(K) abrogated the cease fire, Ravi said he was surprised by the unilateral abrogation of the cease fire (signed in 2001) but added that he would “love” NSCN (K) to rethink on its position and reconsider.
Ravi also ruled out any time frame for solution to Naga issues despite reports that Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi had committed to solve Naga issue within 18 months of the NDA government coming to power at the Centre. The interlocutor said “I really wonder who reported” that the Prime Minister made a commitment for a time frame. Ravi said the instructions he received from the prime minister was to ensure that the Naga issue was settled “as early as possible”.
On the outcome of his interaction with Naga NGOs in Kohima, R.N. Ravi described it as “very positive and cooperative”. Ravi said during the meetings, when he had asked civil societies to spell out their expectations on the ongoing talk with government of India, some of the NGOs were able to formulate and clearly state their expectations. He said others said they would revert back to him. Ravi said his objective was to understand the expectations of the Nagas so as to try to accommodate them in as a formula for a broad-based agreement.
It may be mentioned that R.N Ravi was in Nagaland to participate in the 26th general conference of the NSF held in Khonoma village on May 14.