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Peacebuilding strategies

Hope of a single peace accord with all the Naga rebel groups has dimmed with the Central government extending the ban on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang)

Central government

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  30 Sep 2020 3:00 AM GMT

Hope of a single peace accord with all the Naga rebel groups has dimmed with the Central government extending the ban on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) for another period of five years. The Central government is currently holding peace talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muvah) to resolve some pending issues. The government and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), a conglomerate of seven Naga rebel groups, have concluded their negotiations and are ready to sign the accord. The NSCN(IM) is still holding on to its hardened position that a separate flag and a separate Constitution should form part of the final agreement. This has led to a stalemate in the ongoing peace talks. The Naga faction is also insisting on "shared sovereignty" which the Central government has rejected as it cannot agree to any solution outside the Indian Constitution. The NNPG, on the other hand, is not insisting on either the flag or the separate Constitution.

A clear picture is yet to emerge until the government either brings the NSCN(IM) and the Working Committee of the NNPG to the same negotiation table or circulates a single draft of the agreement to both the groups. This is inevitable for the process to begin for the Government of India to sign a single accord with the NSCN(IM) and the NNPG. Even if the government manages to bring the NSCN(IM) and the NNPG on board for a single accord, the NSCN (Khaplang) will still be left out. The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its notification extending the ban on the Khaplang faction, states that the outfit has been continuously aiming to create a "sovereign Nagaland" incorporating the Naga-inhabited areas of India-Myanmar region by secession from the Indian Union. It also states that the Khaplang faction has been engaging in unlawful and violent activities, thereby undermining the authority of the Government of India and the Governments of Nagaland, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh.

The outlawed faction has been involved in 104 violent incidents in which seven security personnel and six civilians were killed and 75 civilians were abducted, the notification adds. Another reason cited by the MHA for extending the ban on the outfit as "unlawful association" is that the organisation may make fresh recruitment and indulge in violent activities. A faction of the NSCN (Khaplang) parted ways with the parent organisation and came forward for the peace process in 2018 after deserting the outfits' base in Myanmar and crossing the India-Myanmar international border. The NSCN split into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (Khaplang) in 1988. The NSCN (IM) signed a ceasefire agreement with New Delhi in 1997 and is engaged in peace neogitations since then. The NSCN (Khaplang) signed a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 2001 but the organisation withdrew it unilaterally in 2015. In November, 2015, New Delhi also called off the ceasefire with the outfit; and clamped a five-year ban on it for indulging in violent activities. The ban followed a series of attacks on security personnel including an ambush on the Assam Rifles in Mon district, and on the Army troops in Chandel district of Manipur in 2015. The MHA-2015 notification stated that the NSCN (Khaplang) "is active along the Indo-Myanmar border, Dimapur, Mon, Longleng, Phek, Kiphire, Zunheboto and Kohima districts of Nagaland, Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Tamenglong and Senapati districts of Manipur; and has been consolidating its position -- both organisationally and in terms of weapons and cadres -- to achieve the objective of a separate 'Sovereign Nagaland State'.

This explains why the Government of India cannot ignore a potential threat of the outfit regrouping despite several splits in the organisation and also decline in its influence. The extension of the ban is likely to followed up with intensification of the counter-insurgency measures against the outfit. India is also likely to urge the Myanmar government for stepping up the measures against the outfit in the neighbouring country so that the collaborative counter-insurgency measures on both sides of the international border yields optimal results. Retaliatory strikes by the outfit resulting in bloodshed disrupting fragile peace in Naga-inhabited areas cannot be ruled out. Outbreak of violent incidents may overshadow the ongoing peace process and create confusion. Civil society groups representing all Naga tribes have been relentlessly striving for reconciliation among all Naga rebel groups towards signing of a single final agreement. The civil society groups may have to make fresh attempts to prevail upon the NSCN (Khaplang) group to abjure violence and join the peace process so that the hard-earned peace is not shattered by any residual element of conflict. Extension of the ban on the NSCN (Khaplang) faction sounds a caution to all the stakeholders in the ongoing peace process. Rushing to any conclusion that the banned outfit is too weak to sabotage the Naga peace accord will be an unrealistic assumption.

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