GUWAHATI: Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has batted for the integration of Naga-inhabited areas of Northeast, which is a contentious demand of major rebel group National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM).
Asserting that his government has always supported integration, he said it had been a long-standing desire of the Nagas for the integration of the Naga-inhabited areas of Northeast. Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have sizeable Naga populations.
“I appeal to the neighbouring states to recognise the history, yearning and democratic rights of the Nagas so that they can live together under a spirit of peaceful co-existence…” Rio had said in his Independence Day speech in Kohima on Thursday.
His assertion was perceived to be an attempt to mend fences with the NSCN-IM which is not happy with the state government’s ongoing headcount exercise called Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN). The National Register of Citizens-type exercise is aimed at identifying the state’s “indigenous” people. Nagaland has 16 recognised tribes but there are a lot of Nagas from Manipur who are settled in Nagaland. As such, RIIN comes in conflict with “integration”.
The NSCN-IM envisages a unified Naga homeland, called “Nagalim” by integrating the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal with Nagaland. The three neighbouring states are opposed to the design. The rebel group has been holding peace negotiations with the Centre since 1997 but a solution continues to elude both sides.
Ostensibly to exert pressure on the Central government to resolve the issue early, a section of the Nagas in Nagaland had celebrated the 73rd “Naga Independence Day” on August 14 by hoisting the “Naga national flag”. The celebration was led by the Naga Students’ Federation. Usually, it is celebrated by the myriad rebel groups.