Tinakali Sumi DIMAPUR, OCT 6 (NPN) Against the backdrop of government of India mulling to conclude the ongoing Peace Talks with the Naga Political Groups (NPGs), the Working Committee (WC) of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) convenor, N. Kitovi Zhimomi, has categorically stated that WC was ready to conclude the talk.
In an exclusive interview to Nagaland Post, Kitovi pointed out that tribal hohos and civil society organisations based in Nagaland have expressed the desire for early solution.
He then asked, why should solution be kept on hold when there was “no problem between Government of India and Nagas of Nagaland?”.
Kitovi, who is also the ato kilonser of GPRN/NSCN, said: “There may be some problem between government of India and NSCN (I-M) but it must not hamper the Nagas of Nagaland.”
He said since integration of the Naga inhabited areas was not possible at this point in time, then Nagas should be left alone to settle their problem and that “ties between Government of India and NSCN (I-M) should not have any adverse impact on Nagas of Nagaland”.
Kitovi dismissed speculations that WC of NNPGs was negotiating only for Nagas living in Nagaland . “How can we ignore our people living outside the state of Nagaland?,” he asked. He said NNPGs in principle, have come into agreement with government of India to create separate Regional Territorial Council (RTC) of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, which would not be applicable to Assam at this point of time.
Excerpts of the interview with Kitovi
NP: What is the status of WC of NNPGs Talk with Government of India?
Kitovi: We started the negotiation since the last part of 2017 and so far we have had 52 rounds of negotiations. We have completed every issue and no issue has been left out. We are ready to conclude the Talk.
NP: What is the primary demand of NNPGs?
Kitovi: Nagas have been demanding sovereign independence and our initial demand has been that. However, government of India has made it very clear that it cannot afford to recognise Naga sovereign independence at this given situation. Keeping this in mind, we have agreed that this issue shall continue through democratic approach and that we will go for what is good and possible at the moment. We are demanding only the practical and good, with clear conscience, that anything that we are agreeing today will certainly benefit our people though it is not sovereign independence.
NP: Does your demand include territorial integration of all Naga inhabited areas?
Kitovi: This was also discussed initially but as we know, the government of India is not in a position to disintegrate neighbouring states to integrate Nagaland state. So, we have mutually agreed that territorial issue would be kept open and continued through democratic political process. It has not been totally ruled out by government of India, and we have not given up also.
NP: If both the demands of sovereignty and territorial integration are to be continued after signing the final agreement, will NNPGs continue the negotiation or pass on the baton?
Kitovi: We should not call it a final agreement but term it a solution. Final agreement will depend on Naga people. The aspirations for sovereignty and territorial integration should be continued through democratic process by the Naga people.
The issue is still kept open but it should be continued without any arm struggle, intimidation and threats. It can be achieved through mutual understanding and with maximum trust.
At present, Manipur state government has taken a strong position that not even an inch of Manipur state territory would be compromised, tomorrow they may not say that.
Whether there will be any territorial integration will depend on the Nagas and on how we deal with our neighbouring people, one day they may not object to Nagas wanting to live under one single political umbrella. We can create such situation only through democratic approach.
NP: There is a wide perceptive that NNPGs are only negotiating for Nagas living in the state of Nagaland. What do you have to say on this?
Kitovi: These are all the handiworks of some wishful thinkers, they are spreading rumours. How can we ignore our people living outside the state of Nagaland?
We have demanded extension of special provision under Article 371 (A) to all Naga inhabited areas. For Nagas living in Manipur, Article 371 (C) has clearly enshrined that there shall be a hill council for tribal people, but so far this has not been implemented. We have raised our concern to government of India on Article 371 (C) and have deliberated on it.
Our demand is for separate Regional Territorial Council of Manipur and Regional Territorial Council of Arunachal Pradesh. Nagas living in Manipur and Arunachal should have the power to legislate according to their customary practices and procedures, which government in both the states should not object but adopt it. As of Assam, the same is not applicable at this point in time.
RTC of both Manipur and Arunachal will have separate constituency to send representatives to both the houses (Lok and Rajya Sabha) of Indian Parliament.
Also Read: Nagas will not merge into the Union of India, but they will coexist with the Union of India as two entities: NSCN-IM
NP: You said NNPGs are demanding RTC for Nagas living in Manipur and Arunachal. As you know, Nagas living in the state of Nagaland have Article 371 (A), so what are your demands for Nagas living in this state?
Kitovi: Article 371 (A) is good for Naga people, but it is good for nothing since we are restricted to implement 371 (A) in toto.
Article 371 Clause C has provision for the people living in the Hill Areas. However, we have not seen any functioning of these provisions.
NP: You said that NNPGs is ready for solution. NSCN (I-M) have been negotiating for over 22 years without a solution. What made NNPGs come to a concluding stage of Talks in just two years?
Kitovi: There is no problem which cannot be solved. Every problem should be solved through its formula. And, to solve Naga problem we have to be realistic and pragmatic. Why two years, it could have been solved even within two weeks. However, until and unless we allow ourselves to be practical, the solution will evade us. What 22 years, it will go on even for 220 years but the problem will remain unsolved unless we are practical.
NP: Government of India position is “One Peace Process, One Solution”. However, both GoI and NSCN (I-M) have admitted that the Talk has stalled due to “differing positions” concerning latter’s demand for separate Naga national Flag and Constitution. As such, how do you envisage concluding the Talk?
Kitovi: Whatever is possible today will be possible tomorrow, and what is not possible and practical today may find problems later on, so it won’t make any sense to continue the struggle till that time.
14 tribes of Nagaland state, Nagaland GBs Federation and Nagaland Joint Christian Forum have all come out for early solution. They have made their demand clear that whatever is possible and agreed should be completed, and in case of any unresolved issue the matter may continue at the later stage. There is no problem for Nagas of Nagaland in solving the issue.
There may be some problem between government of India and NSCN (I-M) but it must not hamper the Nagas of Nagaland. Government of India has clearly stated that integration of Naga inhabited areas is not possible at this point in time. So then leave Nagas of Nagaland alone, let Nagas of Nagaland settle their problem.
Ties between Government of India and NSCN (I-M) should not have any adverse impact on Nagas of Nagaland. When there is no problem between government of India and Nagas of Nagaland, then what is the reason to keep the issue on hold?
NP: What is NNPGs position on Naga Flag and Constitution?
Kitovi: When government of India has clearly, time and again, stated that sovereign independence is not possible at this stage and mutual agreement is to conclude the issue through democratic process, now why are they talking about Flag and Constitution?.
What is Constitution and which Constitution are we talking for and who will make the Constitution? Are we demanding Naga Constitution from government of India?
We have to go step by step instead of jumping from one point to another. Government of India has agreed that we can use Naga flag in our customary, traditional bodies. However, Nagas shall have our common insignia which will be used all over Naga areas in the customary court and establishments and even in Nagaland Federal Hoho, which is purely a customary body.
We cannot say what kind of insignia will be designed by Nagaland Tatar Hoho but it will be called the common Naga Totem – it may be the present Naga Flag or we may adopt a new insignia.
As far as Constitution is concerned, Nagas have been practising unwritten Constitution as per our Naga customs. NNPGs and government of India has mutually agreed that Nagas shall have the right to legislate their customary practices and procedures. Besides that what more Constitution my counterpart NSCN (I-M) is demanding I could not digest.
NP: Is there any possibility of government of India bringing the two negotiating parties together before signing the agreement?
Kitovi: Since the position of government of India is very clear that there will be only one solution.
NSCN (I-M) are also negotiating with their separate agendas. As for NNPGs, we have completed all our agenda in the negotiation. Who knows our agenda maybe similar, and at last government of India may say that agendas which are being principally agreed, with both the groups, would be compiled and both the parties should sign it.
Our apprehension with NSCN (I-M) talk – What if there are some certain issues which may be good for Nagas of Arunachal and Manipur but not applicable or good for Nagas of Nagaland? There may be some differences in application but that can be sorted out.
If Nagas of Arunachal and Manipur get separate RTC with legislative power then it is good for them. Nagaland cannot go back to 6th Schedule, but it would be good for our people in Arunachal and Manipur if they are given separate autonomous power.
Nagas of Nagaland have already attained the full statehood since 50 years back, now if we want to attain something then it should be better, higher and bigger than the present state.
NP: So will NNPGs agree to sit down with NSCN (I-M) to iron out any issues before signing the final agreement?
Kitovi: To sit with NSCN (I-M) is not an issue, we can even sleep with I-M provided our stand is pragmatic. If we are not practical then sitting together, sleeping together have not benefits.
NP: Governor of Nagaland and Interlocutor to Naga Peace Talks, R.N Ravi has conveyed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to conclude the Talk within three months. Are NNPGs agreeable to it?
Kitovi: We (NNPGs) have prepared everything three months back. On our part we had completed everything in the month of July. So we were expecting to sign the agreement before 15th August. Two months have passed without any reason otherwise we could have signed before 15th August.
NP: What can Nagas expect if NNPGs sign final agreement with government of India?
Kitovi: Our people should expect, without any doubt, that the moment we sign agreement with government of India there will be absolute transparency, accountability and equal treatment of justice and opportunities.
NP: Please share your thoughts on your vision of developing Naga inhabited areas.
Kitovi: Naga people have seen disastrous and bitter days since we took up arms against India demanding sovereign independence. Our past experiences were very bitter, we realised that we can no longer continue the issue like this so we decided to find an alternative, which will be good for the young generation. This is the time to think something for younger generation, who are yet to be born.
After signing of this solution, every Naga should actively get involved to bring reformation, transformation in our political and social life. We are going to adopt a new dimension – from arms power to economy through peace and tranquillity. Therefore, we require the participation of every Naga in reshaping and rebuilding our future.
Not only bureaucrats, politicians or big muscle people, but it will certainly require the involvement of people even at the grass root level. Together we should shape our future. Every Naga must be mentally prepared for they will be instrumental in redefining the future of our Naga people.
NP: What is your message to the Nagas?
Kitovi: Naga people have been confused and mesmerised, but it is time for Nagas to clearly differentiate between the right and wrong, practical and impractical. We have to clearly know the difference between past and the future. Nagas should not be too ignorant. We should stop believing those who have been misguiding us.
People try to fool us, they will speak of so many untrue issues and we always succumbed to unreality and untrue stories.
At this juncture, I want to ask Nagas to learn from our past mistakes, believe in our self and educate other people.
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