Govt firm on Naga talks deadline

The Asian Age.  | manoj anand

India, All India

The Centre has outright rejected the demand for a separate flag and constitution for Nagaland.

R.N. Ravi

Guwahati: The Government of India has set October 31 as the deadline for all Naga rebel groups, including the NSCN (I-M), for final consent to signing the peace accord and suggesting a convenient date for the surrender of arms.

Disclosing that the ministry of home affairs has sent a very strong message to all Naga rebel groups through the Nagaland governor and interlocutor R.N. Ravi, authoritative security sources in the ministry of home affairs, told this newspaper that the central government has outright rejected the demand for a separate flag and constitution for Nagaland.

Asserting that the central government has made it clear that talks at gunpoint are no longer acceptable, the security sources said that the NSCN (I-M) and NNPGs (Naga National Political Groups) have also been asked to suggest a convenient date for the surrender of arms.

Security sources, however, asserted that the ongoing peace talks have reached an advanced stage with the NSCN (I-M) and the working committee of NNPGs, succeeding in creating consensus on a majority of issues.

Informing that the Government of India has agreed to create the upper house – the state legislative council of the Nagaland state Assembly besides increasing the number of seats in the state legislative Assembly to accommodate and facilitate political representation of all Naga tribal groups, security sources said that consensus has also been created on forming a "pan-Naga cultural body" which will deal in all culture, language and tradition related issues of Nagas living all over the world.

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Pointing out that consensus has also been created on forming an autonomous council for the Nagas, one each in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, security sources said that the working committee of the NNPGs and NSCN (I-M) have agreed on these issues.

Indicating that a faction of the NSCN (I-M), led by its general secretary Th. Muivah, is insisting on a separate flag and constitution for Nagaland, security sources said that another faction within the NSCN (I-M) is prepared to go by the opinion of civil society that a peace accord be signed without further delay.

Pointing out that a road map for the execution of the peace accord is also ready, security sources said that the transfer of power will be held under the governor’s rule. The representatives of Naga rebel groups may be given a chance to exercise their political rights via representation in the upper house; security sources said that they will have to take over the political leadership only through electoral victory.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of the deadline given by the Government of India to conclude the over 22 years of the Naga peace process, Mr Ravi Friday had a consultative meeting with tribal heads, society organisations, and the church at Kohima to apprise them of the developments in the ongoing peace talks.

The meeting was crucial in the backdrop of the NSCN (I-M) publicly announcing that the talks could not be concluded due to "differing positions" on the demand for a separate national flag and Constitution for Nagaland. Mr Ravi apprised the consultative meeting about the stand of the Government of India.

The NSCN (I-M) has accused the Government of India of backtracking on the August 3, 2015, "Framework Agreement" and has taken a firm position that it will not compromise on its demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution.

Despite several rounds of informal and formal meetings between the two negotiating parties in the last few weeks, security sources claimed that the meetings remained inconclusive.

In what is an indicator of a division between the Nagas from within and outside Nagaland, the NNPGs convenor, N. Kitovi Zhimomi said that there may be some problem between the Government of India and the NSCN (I-M) but it must not hamper the Nagas of Nagaland.