New Delhi, May 20: The widening rift between Naga rebels has led to NSCN (Isak-Muivah) opting out of the reconciliation meeting to be held at Chiangmai in Thailand tomorrow.
The decision that NSCN (I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah will not participate in the meet was taken on May 14 and confirmed by NSCN sources on Friday. Albeit, sources in the Union government said they never expected Muivah to participate in the meet.
The reconciliation exercise is over 10 years old, initiated by the church in Nagaland and continued by civil society groups. Naga Hoho, the apex body of Nagas, was the prime mover for several years before the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) was formed. Though FNR’s efforts have borne some fruit, a complex web of inter and intra-rebel group politics along with the shifting policies of the Centre has made reconciliation a tough exercise. The forum has held several meetings for reconciliation at Chiangmai.
Today’s situation can be said to have its genesis in the split of the NSCN (Khaplang) last year when the group and its faction, led by his erstwhile ato kilonser (prime minister) Kitovi Zhimomi, fell out. While the Khaplang group had support in Myanmar or “Eastern Nagaland”, Kitovi primarily had pockets of support in eastern Nagaland districts and in Zunheboto. Kitovi’s senior, Khole Konyak, is also part of this faction that made Dimapur its base and agreed to reconcile with the Isak-Muivah faction.
However, during a joint meeting at the NSCN (I-M)’s Hebron camp, differences surfaced as Kitovi and Muivah spoke in different tones. These differences were accentuated after Kitovi expressed his willingness to talk to Delhi.
“We will hold negotiations with the government of India,” he had told The Telegraph during a recent visit to New Delhi. “After all, the charter of demands has not been shared with us,” he had said.
Close on heels, another detailed statement by the Sema leader worsened things between the two groups. This is one set of strain in the Naga imbroglio.
The other set constitutes Muivah’s negotiation with the Centre. After a decade-and-a-half of ups and downs in the talks, the NSCN (I-M)-Centre relationship at best remains shaky. While the NSCN leaders express “satisfaction” after meeting senior political leaders, the situation at the ground and operational level remains one of distrust.
The NSCN (I-M) has even “resolved” against Shambhu Singh, the joint secretary (Northeast) in the home ministry, proposing that the government should not entrust affairs of the Northeast to any officer from the region. Singh is an officer of Manipur cadre.
Therefore, while former home secretary G.K. Pillai hoped for a solution “within 2012”, the climate is not one of optimism.
The Union home ministry sees Muivah as “dogmatic” or “adamant” unwilling to give up some of his demands, particularly those relating to a solution for the Naga-dominated districts of Manipur.
For the sensitive politics of Manipur, Naga rebel politics is the fuel and vice-versa.
The home ministry had once stated that it would have a solution on the platter if the rebel groups reconciled.
However, before signs of rapprochement could be visible, the fast-changing dynamics of Naga rebel politics, which has resulted in further divisions, seems to have changed the equations once again.
As the rebels fail to reconcile, the government now seems to be in the mood to talk to more than one group.
The frequency of meetings between interlocutor R.S. Pandey and Muivah and between Pandey and Union home minister P. Chidambaram has also increased, signalling some movement.
Just three months ago, on February 29, however, various Naga rebel groups and organisations reaffirmed their faith in the four-year-old Naga reconciliation process in front of 30,000 people from Naga-inhabited areas of India and even Myanmar who had gathered at 4th Mile in Dimapur for the meet.
Another dose of uncertainty will be added when Nagaland goes to polls early next year.
The elections are influenced by the Naga rebels unfailingly and invariably, directly or indirectly.