GUWAHATI: Ningkhan Anthony Shimray, the newly appointed army chief of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), has said that the envisaged settlement of the “Naga political problem” will protect the rights and interests of the Nagas without antagonising neighbouring states.
“We are working hard to hammer out a solution. This will be a solution that will not hurt or impact any other community or state. It is a process of talks that is concerned about the Nagas’ rights. While bringing a solution based on our historical and political rights, we are not going to undermine the rights of our neighbours and stakeholders. That’s why it is taking time to resolve the issue,” Shimray, in his mid-50s, told The Sunday Standard in an exclusive interview.
The Nagas also have a sizeable population in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Given the NSCN-IM’s contentious demand for creation of a unified Naga homeland called “Nagalim” or “Greater Nagaland” through the integration of contiguous Naga-inhabited areas, the three states are worried the demand might affect their territories.
Shimray said that seeking a political solution based on Nagas’ rights did not mean that rights of neighbouring states would be undermined. “These are things that we are working on carefully. It is a concern that we don’t antagonise any community or state. We are trying to achieve something that can be feasible and workable based on the interests of both entities (Nagas and the Centre)…
“We are working towards protecting the rights of Nagas irrespective of where they are living, as well as without hurting the interests of the neighbours. Right now, I can’t spell out how things will pan out but once the time comes, all will know,” Shimray said.
On the perception that, post settlement, there would be an authority to safeguard welfare of the Nagas in these three states, he said, “The Pan Naga Hoho will have jurisdictional authority over issues such as culture and social development, based on Naga uniqueness and history.”
He continued, “The grievances or rights (of the Nagas) have been ignored in some way or the other. In some parts, there is racial discrimination. These will be corrected, but it won’t be a counter against any other state. Their rights will be looked into.”
Recently, Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti had said that Nagaland polls would be held on schedule. Asked if it was an indication that the Naga settlement was not happening yet, Shimray said these were two different issues. “We are focusing on a long-lasting solution. I can’t say when the issue will be resolved. We are working hard,” he said.