NTIMES 18OCT: Lim not on menu for settlement
NEW DELHI, Oct 17 : The Centre and the formidable Naga militant outfit, NSCN (I-M) are inching towards a political settlement, ending over five decade long insurgency in the State. Political integration of Naga inhabited districts of neighbouring Manipur, Assam and Arunchal Pradesh are not part of the deal under negotiation.
The much elusive memorandum of settlement being worked out in consultation with the NSCN (I-M) includes a proposal to convert Nagaland legislature into a bicameral Assembly by creating a second House, autono- mous development councils, separate flag for the State, more autonomy, special status, formal recognition of the unique history of the Nagas, a slew of development pro-jects, among others.
The Naga militant group had demanded increasing the size of the 60-member Nagaland Assembly by 20 seats. The Centre reckons that bicameral legislature would take care of the demand to accommodate marginal tribal groups and sub-groups.
The only condition is that the Assembly would not be allowed to be called Parliament, as has been suggested, said sources.
The Government of India and the NSCN (I-M) entered into a ceasefire pact in 1997, following secret negotiations between intelligence sleuths and top leaders of the NSCN (I-M) in foreign countries.
Highly placed sources said that the other Naga insurgent groups including the rival Khaplang faction of the NSCN and Naga National Council are unlikely to be part of the settlement being worked out with the I-M faction.
The NSCN (I-M) had earlier submitted a 30-point charter of demand to the Government of India.
Meanwhile, under pressure the Nagaland Government and legislators, the UPA II is working overtime to hammer out a solution to the vexed problem by evolving a consensus among the three North Eastern States.
Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde has started consultation with Chief Minister, O Ibobi Singh and had advised him to respond to the proposal within a specific timeframe. The Manipur Chief Minister has so far not reported back, added sources.
The Centre was earlier scheduled to hold simultaneous discussions with three Chief Ministers, but started the consultation process with Manipur Chief Minister, where the opposition to integration of the hill districts is fiercest.
Shinde is now likely to meet Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.
According to sources, the possibility of political integration of Naga districts spread over the three neighbouring States has been ruled out and on offer instead is a proposal to create centrally funded autonomous institutions for safeguarding the identity and cultural preservation of Nagas in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
The demand for creation of greater Nagaland by integrating the hill districts in the three States had stalled the resolution of the vexed Naga problem.
The demand has met with stiff opposition from the three States, with Manipur Assembly even passing formal resolutions.
Assam has also opposed integration of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts, as has Arunachal Pradesh.
Sources said that the proposed autonomous bodies would take care of the concern about the safeguard of the identity of Nagas and preservation of their cultures particularly of the Nagas living outside the political boundary of Nagaland.
The Government of India has also agreed to amend the Constitution of India to facilitate the solution of the problem.
The NSCN (I-M) had demanded secession from India and creation of a separate country. The NSCN (I-M) has since dropped the demand and agreed for a solution within the framework of the Constitution.
Sources said Government of India, which is negotiating through its interlocutor RS Pandey has offered to absorb all the NSCN (I-M) cadres in Central para military force and even the Army.
The NSCN (I-M) had demanded a separate Naga armed force comprising the cadres, but a compromise has been struck, added sources.
Meanwhile, State Home Minister Imkong L Imchen, denied reports that NSCN (I-M) has given any written commitment to the Government of India.
The State Home Minister, who is part of the delegation of 20 Naga Legislator currently touring the national capital told newsmen that neither NSCN (I-M) nor the Centre made such claims.
Media reports said that NSCN (I-M) has given an undertaking in writing that the Naga militant group would accept the Constitution of India thereby implying that the demand for greater Nagaland has been dropped. -TSE/Assam Tribune