Naga talks under strain, interlocutor blasts state govt, ‘vested interests’
The altercation between the NSCN (I-M) and Nagaland Governor R N Ravi, that is threatening to disrupt the peace negotiations, is set to worsen, with Ravi blasting the state government and taking on the insurgent outfit in his Independence Day speech.
Also the long-standing interlocutor for the Naga talks, Ravi called Nagaland “the worst-performing state… on almost all significant indicators of human development”. In remarks seen as directed at the NSCN (I-M), he added, “Incongruously, a deeply entrenched network of vested interests has… misappropriated the dividends of peace and not (allowed) them to reach the people. There is mass scale mayhem and miscarriage of dreams and expectations of the people of Nagaland. It is unendurable and unacceptable.”
In his Independence Day speech, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio stressed on the need for “an early and honorable settlement of the Naga political issue”, and the state government’s role in the talks. “The Nagas have longed for genuine peace for decades and there is a deep desire for an honorable and acceptable solution that will pave the way for all-round progress and development,” Rio said, adding that the government was carrying out consultations with all sections of society.
The NSCN (I-M), whose leaders are in Delhi, has communicated to the Centre that talks can’t go on with Ravi as interlocutor. In a worrying signal, speaking on ‘Naga Independence Day’ on Friday, NSCN (I-M) leader Th Muivah asserted their commitment to a separate Naga flag and constitution as well as a Greater Nagalim including all Naga-inhabited areas — both contentious issues that could derail the talks.
Ravi said while the rest of India had surged ahead under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nagaland had got left behind because of “vested interests”. He said this was despite the state being rich in resources, and despite the peace that has prevailed in recent decades.
Urging people to unite against such elements, Ravi said, “People of Nagaland have a right (to) a dignified future…We have to break the vice-like grip of the vicious circle of vested interests and make way for a virtuous circle of peace, prosperity and happiness.”
Ravi said the rest of the Northeast, “until some years back known for endemic insurgencies”, had prospered. “The Northeast is emerging as an economic hub and is bracing to play a pivotal role in India’s Act East Policy. The region is emerging as a destination of choice for investors from the rest of the country and the world… Regrettably the waves of positive change and growth seem to have been bypassing our state, Nagaland.”
The Governor said the state lagged behind on everything from investments and jobs to agriculture, and the only jobs available were in the government. While the official literacy level in Nagaland is 80%, Ravi said, “In reality, those who have not even been to high school cannot be called functionally literate. One wonders what positive contribution they can make to their family, their village, their community and the state.”
Tension between the NSCN (I-M) and Ravi has been growing since June, when the Governor wrote to the state government about “armed groups” carrying out extortion and running “parallel governments”..