The much awaited Naga peace accord is in its “final stages” and issues related to “autonomy” have been settled between the Centre’s representative and Naga groups, said Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio. “Only symbolic issues such as flag and passport” are to be resolved, Rio, who has served three terms as Chief Minister, told The Indian Express on the sidelines of the first NITI Aayog meet for the Northeast in Agartala.
Asked about the demand by Naga groups for Greater Nagalim, Rio said, “The Centre has acknowledged it to be a legitimate demand of Naga people but it has to be done through democratic process.” Greater Nagalim is among the contentious issues and in January, two people were killed in police firing in Assam’s Dima Hasao district following protests over an activist’s speech that the district would be part of the Naga solution.
A senior government official in New Delhi who is part of the deliberations said, “The demand has been opposed by adjoining states. We are consulting the leadership and political parties in these states (Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh) to find a solution.” The map of Greater Nagalim on the NSCN(IM) website comprising “all Naga-inhabited areas” shows 1,20,000 sq km across the Northeast and Myanmar. In June 2001, the area saw violent protests when the Centre first signed a ‘ceasefire’ with the NSCN(IM).
Refusing to elaborate on the exact details of the framework agreement, Rio said, “The elected government will not stand in the way of the agreement whenever it is finalised between Naga groups and the Government of India. The accord is for the same people.” However, he refused to fix a deadline for completion of peace talks. The framework agreement between the Centre and the NSCN(IM) was signed on August 3, 2015, in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rio added, “The armed cadre of NSCN (IM) will be taken care of during the agreement.”
Officials said that one of the proposals was to convert the armed cadre into Naga battalions which will be placed under the control of the state government while the Centre could fund and train them. However, a final decision is yet to be taken.
The Naga groups wanted a joint military grouping, which is to be supported by the Indian Army and the NSCN (IM)’s military wing, the ‘Naga Army’, the officials said.
On being asked about the possibility of partial removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state, the Chief Minister said, “This can only be done once the peace talks are over.”