|Major Events Vol. 3 Issue No. 21||February 7 - 21, 2005|
The Centre initiated a fresh round of talks with the top leadership of major Naga insurgent group NSCN (IM) which sought integration of Naga- inhabited areas, a demand that had sparked unrest in Manipur three years back and resented by Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Emerging from the hour-long parleys with Home Minister Shivraj Patil, NSCN (IM) General Secretary Th. Muivah said "we are demanding the land which belongs to us Nagas. We want to live in the territory that belongs to us. Who can stop us".
Voicing satisfaction that peace has been prevailing in Nagaland, Patil told the 11-member Naga delegation that the Government wanted the "atmosphere of understanding to continue" as it would help in arriving at an "honourable understanding".
Both sides said they looked forward to an honourable understanding on the vexed Naga issue with the leaders of the insurgent outfit stating that the level of talks will continue, as before, at the level of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Patil led the Central team at the "preliminary" parleys and was assisted by Union Ministers Oscar Fernandes, Prithviraj Chavan and S Regupathy, Government's emissary for the Naga peace process K Padmanabhaiah, Home Secretary Dhirendra Singh and Intelligence Bureau Chief E S L Narasimhan.
The Naga delegation was headed by Muivah and included the emissary of the outfit's collective leadership V S Atem and other leaders Q C Svu, A Shimrah and Rh. Raising. The outfit's chairman Isaac Chisi Swu was not not present at the talks Muivah said "we sought clarification from the Home Minister regarding the Government of India's stand on the issue of Naga integration."We were reassured by the Minister that his statement was mis-interpreted in some press reports and that there is no no change in the position of the Government that this issue remains on the agenda of the negotiations".
The Centre had to amend an understanding reached by it with the NCSN (I-M) three years back extending the ceasefire which had come into force in 1997, beyond the borders of Nagaland as it had triggered large-scale protests and violence in Manipur, and was strongly opposed by Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Replying to a volley of questions on the issue of "Greater Nagaland" and integration of Naga-inhabited areas in the North East, which had been strongly resented by the three states, Muivah said "we are not demanding the land that does not not belong to us...The Naga people have been living separately and we want to live together. This is not peculiar to the Naga people".
Observing that the Nagas were not not living in the land of Assamese, Arunachalese or Manipuris, he said "the land belongs to us" and that there would be "no no solution" without addressing the issue of integration of Naga areas.
When pressed for a response on the NSCN (IM) demand, Fernandes, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation, said the outfit had given a memorandum to the Government earlier and that all issues would be discussed.
About ongoing negotiations, which was also attended by National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Fernandes said "formal" talks with NSCN (IM) were expected to begin with the group of ministers "very soon".
"I don't think we will be able to resolve the issue in a day but we will definitely try to find a solution," Fernandes said, adding the Naga leaders could meet the Prime Minister at a mutually agreed time. Asked about the UPA Government's Common Minimum Programme which has categorically ruled out re-drawing of boundaries of states, he said "we are now having discussions. We are not in a position to announce decisions".Observing that NSCN (I-M) was not not for re-organisation of states, Muivah, however, maintained that boundaries had been "drawn arbitrarily".
Patil told the Naga leaders that with both sides determined to find a solution acceptable to all, nothing could come in the way, according to a Home Ministry spokesman.Responding to Patil's remarks, Muivah said the outfit would do its best to find a peaceful solution to the decades-old problem.
He said while the NSCN (IM) understood the difficulties of the Government, the Government too should understand its difficulties. "This kind of understanding would help arrive at an honourable agreement on all outstanding issues," he said.Muivah said the outfit had a "useful" discussion with Patil on the progress of the talks."We look forward to an acceleration and intensification of the negotiations in the coming weeks and months," he said.
This is the second time that Muivah and Chairman Swu have come to India to hold talks with the Central government. After three decades in exile, they had held parleys with the Vajpayee Government two years back.Swu and Muivah had come here over two months back and then gone to Nagaland where they held consultatons with a cross-section of people for their next round of talks with the Centre for finding a solution to the vexed Naga political problem. They returned here last Saturday.
The senior NSCN (IM) leaders, who have been in India at the invitation of the Prime Minister, were given what the leaders call a 'mandate' by a two-day Naga people's consultative meet on the on-going peace process at the organisation's headquarters 'Camp Hebron', off Dimapur recently. Before going to Nagaland, the two Naga leaders, who had arrived here from Amsterdam in the last week of November, had met the Prime Minister and the Home Minister and had held parleys with Padmanabhaiah and top officials.
The security forces and NSCN (IM) had reached a ceasefire accord in 1997 and this has been holding since then. The accord will come up for review in July this year. Naga Consultative meeting The 4th Naga Peoples' Consultative meeting was held with about eight thousand delegates ''pledging support to the ongoing peace talks''. The meeting adopted a four-point declaration after two days intensive interaction by the representatives and organisations from Nagaland and Naga inhabbitted areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam with Mr Swu and Mr Muivah.
The four-point declarations were adopted as to provide full support for an honourable solution to the Naga political issue on the basis of uniqueness of Naga history and situation. The declarations state that unification of all Naga areas is legitimate and therefore non-negotiable, the political solution should be funded through peaceful means and both the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim would uphold utmost honesty and sincerity towards finding a political solution. Mr Swu had stated that the declarations would form the basis of peace talks.
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