The decades-long insurgency problem in the North-East state of Nagaland has reached a new tipping point where the insurgents– perturbed by the Governor and interlocutor RN Ravi’s incessant attacks and refusal to cede to their demands– have asked for his removal.
RN Ravi, one of the Modi government’s close aide and a cornerstone in Ajit Doval’s North-East policy has taken the bull by its horns when he brought to light the illegitimate ‘tax/ extortion’ culture of Nagaland out in the open.
National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), or NSCN-IM is one of the major insurgent groups and has for long engaged in extortion activities in the state by terming it as ‘tax’ and collecting it from the natives on the pretext of being one of their kin and using it for their freedom movement.
As peculiar as it sounds, but, the small businesses, traders and even government employees have to regularly pay “tax” to the Naga armed groups. The governments at New Delhi have also known about the ‘Bollywood-Esque’ extortion culture prevalent in the state and other north-eastern states but owing to certain political calculations, have chosen to keep mum on the issue.
Insurgent groups like NSCN have been allowed to keep their arms under the 2015 Peace framework agreement and consequently, it becomes a life and death situation for the natives if they fail to pay the extortion.
However, Governor Ravi has had just enough of this menace and in June he shot down a letter to Nagaland chief minister Neiphu Rio and flexed his governor’s constitutional powers under Article 371A of the Indian Constitution to ask the government to seek his approval before the “transfer and posting of officials entrusted with the maintenance of law and order.”
A burning issue that most bureaucrats tend to look away from, Ravi looked right in its eye and expressed his annoyance over the culture of extortion and the collapse of law and order in Nagaland.
Ravi further mentioned in the letter that “over half a dozen organized armed gangs were brazenly running their respective ‘so-called governments’ challenging the legitimacy of the state government”.
According to The Print, the letter had an immediate reaction as the Nagaland government issued an order, dated 7 July, that asked the state officials to declare if their family members or relatives are members of any “underground organization’.
As a result, the rebel groups have sought Ravi’s removal from negotiations over a final peace agreement aimed at ending India’s longest insurgency.
Ravi is a potential threat to NSCN-IM who stands between the unreasonable demands of the rebel group and the government. NSCN’s impossible demands include having a separate flag and constitution; and Ravi is steadfast in his stance that it won’t happen in his tenure.
Further, the abrogation of article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir has put these armed groups on their toes and Ravi’s increasing verbal tirades are being seen as an indication that the Government can certainly look that way if the push comes to shove.
Ravi’s lexicon is increasingly terming the NSCN as law and order problem which if loosely interpreted means the New Delhi is seeing it as a threat to its plans of bringing peace in the region. Last month, six militants of NSCN were killed in a gun battle with security forces in Arunachal Pradesh’s Longding district and it insinuated that New Delhi would not tolerate any misadventures of the insurgent group in Nagaland or any of the north-east state.
Just the way it happened in Kashmir where the separatist groups and leaders were taken to the cleaners after the removal of article 370, a high probability is that the insurgents could be removed for good. Modi governments’ decision of doing away with J&K’s special status was a sign to the Naga rebels that the time for dialogue under the 2015 Framework Agreement was up.
Doval and Ravi are both from the Kerala cadre and have worked closely together in the Intelligence Bureau. Ravi has played a key role in the Naga peace talks and when the peace agreement is nearly in the home stretch, the governor is willing to take the odd-risk to bring the resolution home.