The Prime Minister’s Office has expressed worry over the stand-off in the Naga peace talks – between the rebel groups and the centre’s interlocutor – which threatens to derail the key political dialogue.
A concerned Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now asked the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Arvind Kumar, to bring the apparently derailed talks back on track.
“Over the last six years RN Ravi, in his capacity as interlocutor, was talking to various Naga groups. However, since the past 10 or 11 months, things are not going well,” a senior ministry official said.
According to the official the PMO has tasked Arvind Kumar and IB Special Director Akshay Kumar Mishra with fire-fighting responsibilities.
The North East Division of the IB also has new officers. Mandeep Tulli, a 1999 batch officer who until now was posted in Manipur’s Imphal, back in Delhi as Joint Director (North East). Nagaland has also got a new SIB head in 1996-batch officer Ritu Mishra.
The centre is believed to be particularly perturbed by an emerging three-way feud in Nagaland – between the NSCN(IM), the largest of the rebel groups, RN Ravi and the new National Naga Political Groups (NNPG).
The fact Mr Ravi openly targeted the elected government in Nagaland, which is a BJP alliance partner, has also not gone down well.
Mr Ravi, in an Independence Day speech, had said: “Nagaland is endowed with one of the finest human and natural resources. Unfortunately, today it has the dubious distinction of the worst-performing state in the country, including the northeast region, on almost all significant indicators of human development”.
Meanwhile, opposition parties continue to target the Narendra Modi government over the framework reached with Naga groups in 2015.
“Delhi had promised new cultural identity for Nagas without changing territorial boundaries. But, as there are many tensions between tribes too, nothing substantial has come out so far,” an official explained.
However, the centre has refused to back down. “Talks will go on as the government cannot be threatened,” a senior bureaucrat declared.
Over the past 11 months the deadlock between RN Ravi and various Naga groups seemed to be widening.
“In October last year a consensus was to be reached but it did not arrive. The centre retaliated and launched crackdown on NSCN(IM) cadres and leaders. This upset Naga leaders,” an official said, adding that perceptions that the interlocutor was favouring the NNPG over NSCN(IM) did not help matters.
Last week NSCN(IM) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah said the centre had recognised the sovereignty of the Nagas through the 2015 agreement.
The surprising statement came days after the powerful rebel group, which has been part of the 18-year peace dialogue with the centre, spoke of a “roadblock” and asked for RN Ravi’s removal as the interlocutor.
On Sunday evening the group released a statement that said: “The interlocutor carries the mandate of the Prime Minister but, since RN Ravi created an imbroglio… the Prime Minister has given mandate to continue the talk to a team of IB (officials) as a fast-track channel…”
Meanwhile, Naga civil society and students’ organisations are divided in their loyalties. Most have aligned with their respective regions or tribes.