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NSCN hits back, says Rijiju is not competent to comment on Naga peace process

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Union minister told media that sovereignty was dropped from the ‘framework agreement’ for the proposed Naga Accord.

New Delhi: The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (I-M), which is negotiating for a peaceful settlement of the Naga issue with the central government, has taken strong exception to Union minister Kiren Rijiju’s comment that the issue of sovereignty was dropped from the ‘framework agreement’ for the proposed Naga Accord.

The separatist group said Rijiju is not competent enough to comment on the ongoing Naga peace talks, which are “progressing at the highest level”.

“It is unbecoming of Mr Rijiju to have made such statements…on the ongoing negotiation to which he is incompetent to comment,” the NSCN (I-M) has said in a statement.

It also called Rijiju’s remark a “figment of his own imagination”.

The minister of state for home had told media Saturday that the Centre would soon arrive at a tangible solution to the Naga problem within the Indian Constitution without compromising on the territorial integrity of other states.

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government had signed a framework agreement with the NSCN (I-M) in August 2015. Later in September 2017, it brought in six Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and civil society leaders to join the dialogue process.

Last year, the NSCN reportedly agreed to ‘shared sovereignty’ while continuing to demand for a separate flag, passport and currency for “Greater Nagalim”.

Even the Joint Committee of Civil Societies in Nagaland had met several political leaders, including PM Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh last year, seeking assurances that territorial integrity would be respected.

Apart from ‘sovereignty’, the separatist group’s demand for territorial integrity of Naga-inhabited areas in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh (apart from Nagaland) is another major contentious issue in the negotiation.

In January this year, two persons were killed in an intense agitation in Assam’s Dima Hasao district following a media report on the “proposed draft agreement”, purportedly prepared by Jagadamba Mall, a Nagaland-based RSS pracharak, which included Dima Hasao in the proposed “Greater Nagalim”.

“Nagas have every right to be together. But we also have to see the ground reality. The question of integration doesn’t arise here,” Alezho Velu, a representative of the NSCN-run “Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland” (GPRN) had told ThePrint in February this year.

“The people have to decide. You cannot force someone to be a part of us,” he added.

Even Naga civil society leaders have criticised the NSCN for its lack of transparency in their dialogue with the Indian government since they signed a ceasefire agreement in 1997.

“They are the best negotiators among the Nagas but I wish they had brought the factions together and told them that it’s not sovereignty or whatever percentage that the Nagas can get,” said Niketu Iralu, a civil society leaders.

The greatest concern now, Iralu added, is that there should be no violence after the settlement of the Naga issue.

According to Velu, since there is no scope of integration in the negotiations with the NSCN (I-M) and NNPGs, a ‘compartment’ solution will be formed. “To solve the situation of the Nagas, we cannot create a problem out there in the neighbouring states. A realistic approach has to be taken,” he said.

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