Guwahati: With growing concern over the lack of progress in talks between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) and the central government, a consultative meeting was convened Thursday by Nagaland Chief Minister Nephiu Rio with the 14 apex tribal hohos and other civil societies, political parties, NGOs as well as church associations.
Hohos are bodies representing the various tribes in Naga society — each of the tribal hoho chiefs were present in Thursday’s meeting.
Besides expressing the desire for an early solution and an inclusive agreement, the tribal hohos also submitted a memorandum to the chief minister stating that contents of the Framework Agreement and its ‘competency clauses’ must be disclosed to the Naga people.
It has been over 23 years since talks between NSCN (I-M) and the government officially began in 1997. In August 2015, the Union government had signed a Framework Agreement to seek a final solution with the NSCN (I-M). Seven Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) joined the talks later by signing a ‘Deed of Commitment’ with the government in 2017.
The latest talks that were held in New Delhi amid the Covid-19 pandemic have been inconclusive, with both the central government and the NSCN (I-M) sticking to their respective stands, and the outfit remaining steadfast in its demand for a separate Naga national flag and constitution.
“It is our right to ask for transparency in demands taken up with the Government of India. Because it is for our welfare, our future and the future of our children. We need to know before a settlement what is in the competency clauses,” retired IAS officer Khekiye K. Sema, who is also the president of Senior Citizens Association of Nagaland (SCAN), a civil society group, told ThePrint.
Sema added, “We want the negotiations to happen in faster pace. Today’s meeting was like a helping hand to the government to take note of the seriousness of people who want some kind of settlement.”
Thursday’s meeting was held at the State Banquet Hall in the chief minister’s residential complex in Kohima.
‘All Nagas should be united’
Following extensive deliberations during Thursday’s meeting, it was unanimously decided by all groups to work collectively for the peace process. The organisations that took part in the meeting also appealed to the negotiating groups — NSCN (IM) and seven NNPGs — to come together as members of “one Naga family” to achieve “one solution in a transparent manner that is acceptable and honourable”.
“It was a positive discussion. A resolution was taken unanimously and every party expressed the desire to come together. All Nagas should be united as we are fighting for one cause that should be fulfilled with unity,” Reverend K. Benny Lotha, senior pastor at the Kohima Lotha Baptist Church, told ThePrint.
However, representatives of the Naga Hoho, the apex tribal body of Nagaland, walked out of the meeting later over differences in the manner in which it was conducted.
But BJP National Spokesperson Mmhonlumo Kikon, who co-chaired the consultative meeting, said the Naga Hoho representatives left without communicating their concerns to the government.
“They were invited by the chief minister to not only attend the meeting, but also to present their views. However, they left the meeting before lunch without intimating the Chair. They were slotted to present their views in the post-lunch session along with other groups and public intellectuals. All the organisations present were given the opportunity to present their views in the day long consultative meeting,” said Kikon.