GUWAHATI: The Centre is most likely to go ahead with the signing of a peace accord “with or without NSCN(I-M)” on October 31 to end the decades-old Naga crisis, a top Naga leader has said.
NSCN(I-M), the first Naga organisation to initiate the peace negotiations with New Delhi in 1997, continues to be a stumbling block as it has refused to give up its demands for a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas, both of which the Centre has turned down. However, seven Naga organisations opposed to NSCN(I-M), together called Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), have expressed their willingness to negotiate on the two demands.
NSCN(I-M) has stuck to its stand even after suffering a major jolt on Friday as 17 of its members switched over to NNPG. In a statement released on Saturday, NSCN(I-M) said that the Naga civil society has pointed out to the Centre’s dialogue coordinator RN Ravi that “honourable and acceptable solution means honouring Naga flag and constitution” signalling that it will not compromise with its demands.
“The way they (civil society) made their position clear through the media is highly valued and appreciated. When the Government of India’s interlocutor Shri RN Ravi went too far enough to underestimate the Nagas in taking care of our legitimate historical and political rights, Naga civil society groups stood up boldly to prove him wrong and to show him to mind his language of divisive tone,” the statement said. This is the second erosion that NSCN(I-M) suffered in the past two months. Last month, 10 members in Yimchungru region had joined the NNPG.
On Saturday, Alezo Venuh, who coordinates with the Centre on behalf of the NNPG, told TOI, “The Government of India is very firm on wrapping up the negotiations. There is no question of whether it is NSCN-IM or NNPGs. Whichever party is ready, the government will sign the agreement with it.”
Venuh made it clear that NNPGs and the Centre have cleared all obstacles to sign a peace deal. “We (NNPGs) have resolved all issues, and the Government of India has decided to conclude the talks on October 31. We are prepared for it.”
He added, “It (signing of the deal) may happen any time, any moment. We are waiting for the NSCN-IM leadership to take a decision because there will be just one agreement and the government wants all the parties to be on board.”
On the issues of a separate flag and constitution, Venuh said, “We (NNPGs) have not given up the demands for a separate flag or constitution. But these things are not possible at this point of time.” He added, “We can’t just keep on talking or pressing for something which is not relevant at this point of time. There are other issues that will protect the identity of the Naga people.”
Venuh said, “We are doing everything in the proper way…it is an honourable negotiation. We have worked out everything that is best for the Naga people and that will not go against the interests of India.” Asked if such a peace deal justifies the nearly 70 years of armed struggle in Nagaland, he said, “This is the best we can achieve at this point of time and the Naga people have endorsed it.”