Naga peace talks The end of RN Ravi’s saga

Ravindra Narayana Ravi or RN Ravi in short is one man who would remain a key figure in the history of Naga peace talks. It is another matter that NSCN-IM, the oldest and most prominent negotiating party, does not have a very favourable opinion of Ravi who held the high office of Nagaland Governor till some days back. Now RN Ravi has been sent to Chennai as the 15th Governor of Tamil Nadu and at the same time, the Prime Minister’s Office has deputed AK Mishra, former Intelligence Bureau Special Director to hold or rather resume talks with the NSCN-IM. Reports say that RN Ravi who also served as Special Director of Intelligence Bureau has been removed from the post of Interlocutor too. With AK Mishra deputed directly by the PMO to hold talks with NSCN-IM, the saga of RN Ravi as the Interlocutor is coming to an end. Interlocutors come and go in the decades old Naga political dialogue. Some did take the dialogue forward and a few others were stuck in inexplicable stalemates. RN Ravi, as Interlocutor, did achieve some milestones and was also a subject of some very harsh criticisms from his adversaries, the most formidable being the NSCN-IM. It was in 2014 that RN Ravi succeeded RS Pandey as the Government of India’s interlocutor. From the very beginning, Ravi was ‘unpleasantly’ straight-forward and NSCN-IM made no secret of their disapproval of his appointment as Interlocutor and approach to the political dialogue.  On January 23, 2014, RN Ravi published an article in the Hindu where he wrote, “Delhi’s insistence on negotiating with only one entity in a process that has many stakeholders has driven the wedges deeper in Nagaland.” 
What infuriated NSCN-IM the most was Ravi’s questioning of the term ‘Naga’. He stated that “the term ‘Naga’ is a rubric for a host of over 25 distinct tribes inhabiting the Nagaland State and adjoining areas of north-eastern India and Myanmar. Their mutual differences far outnumber their commonness. Each tribe is culturally distinct and linguistically unintelligible to the others. In the not so distant past, contacts between two tribes were, more often than not, marred by bloodshed. Modern state, modern education and the Gospel have had a somewhat sobering influence on their world view”. True to his belief, Ravi successfully brought seven Naga rebel outfits, collectively known as NNPGs, other than NSCN-IM within the ambit of the political dialogue. At the same time, he held talks with Th Muivah and his party. It was RN Ravi who signed a Framework Agreement on behalf of the Government of India in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The other two signatories were Isak Chishi Swu, who died in 2016 and Thuingaleng Muivah who is leading the talk.  Though both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NSCN-IM leadership hailed the agreement as historic, very little has moved forward since then. Nonetheless, Ravi gave an inclusive character and spirit to the Naga peace process instead of dealing exclusively with NSCN-IM. Credit must be given to RN Ravi for making it clear before the whole world that the NSCN-IM is a part of a larger movement and not the whole. There are other groups involved in the process and without their voice, things cannot work out. The relationship between Ravi and NSCN-IM leadership got acutely strained when he was appointed Governor of Nagaland. He started openly deriding collection of taxes or extortion by NSCN-IM from traders, business houses, Government offices, employees etc. Perhaps it was his stiff opposition to such activities of NSCN-IM and inclusion of NNPGs in the dialogue process which cost him the post of Nagaland Governor and the position of Interlocutor. Yet, RN Ravi is also culpable if the accusation that he manipulated the Framework Agreement is true. Only time will tell how the political dialogue unfolds and the Centre’s new representative negotiates with NSCN-IM’s insistence on separate flag, constitution and (shared) sovereignty.