New Delhi, Guwahati:
A faction of Naga rebels, led by the most wanted leader Niki Sumi, has decided to revive its ceasefire with the Centre with immediate effect. In a statement, the NSCN-K — which revoked a 15-year-old ceasefire agreement in 2015 — said they have contacted the Central government for initiating peace talks.
A terrorist commander who stands apart for his long hair and fondness for gold jewellery, Sumi is seen as the mastermind behind the attack on Indian Army convoy in Manipur on June 2015, in which 18 soldiers of the Indian army died.
He is also wanted in connection with a case by the National Investigation Agency, which has announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head.
In a statement, a copy of which is with NDTV, Sumi said the decision was taken to facilitate the peace process in view of the desire of the Naga people, particularly the Naga civil society organisations and non-profits.
The NSCN-K, the statement read, is aware of the “sincere and genuine efforts” made by the Centre in the recent past to find a final and lasting solution to the Naga issue with the involvement of all stakeholders. The group said it expected the Centre to honour its decision as a confidence building measure in the larger interests of peace in Nagaland.
Sumi was appointed the commander in chief of the NSCN (K) in 2018, and in July this year, he and two other top leaders were expelled from the group. He later floated his own faction.
A senior Home Ministry official said, “This is the last group of Indian origin leaders and cadres operating from Myanmar and their joining peace process will give a boost to Naga peace process as the remaining chunk of NSCN-K is Myanmar-centric and is irrelevant to the government”.
The other dominant group — the NSCN-IM — had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Centre and has been engaged in peace negotiations, he added.
The NSCN-IM had signed a Framework Agreement on August 3, 2015 in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to find a permanent solution. The agreement came after more than 80 rounds of negotiations spanning 18 years. The breakthrough came in 1997, when the ceasefire agreement was sealed after decades of insurgency which started soon after India’s independence in 1947.
The talks with NSCN-IM, however, are not making any progress due to the group’s insistence on a separate Naga flag and constitution — a demand that has been rejected by the Central government.