GUWAHATI: As the Centre and the Isak-Muivah faction of the major insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) inch closer to settle the more than six-decade-old Naga political problem, the state government and the tribal bodies have renewed their demand for the creation of “Greater Nagaland” by carving out the contiguous Naga-inhabited areas.
The state’s leading tribal organisations raised pitch for the demand during a meeting with Chief Minister T R Zeliang on Friday. Earlier on July 27, the Nagaland Assembly had adopted a five-point resolution to reiterate their demand.
Zeliang said a similar meeting would be held soon with leaders of Naga organisations of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
The tribal bodies argue that “the Nagas are one people and as such, they have every right to live under one administrative umbrella”.
Greater Nagaland is one of the most contentious demands of the NSCN-IM, which has been engaged in peace negotiations with the Centre over the past 18 years of their ceasefire. The outfit demands that Nagaland’s boundary be redrawn by slicing off the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
But the three neighbouring states are strongly opposed to the design. The Nagas are in a majority in Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Chandel and Senapati districts of Manipur and Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
They also have sizeable populations in Assam’s Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts.
Greater Nagaland is a very sensitive issue, particularly in Manipur, which will lose more than half of its land if the Centre accedes to the demand. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Manipur during Sangai Festival last year, Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh had made it clear that the state would not part with even an inch of its land. Zeliang said the Nagas were deeply longing for an early solution to the political problem.
“An early and honourable solution to the protracted Naga issue is greatly desired by the people for peace and development… The endorsement of the demand by the tribal bodies will send a good message to the people of Nagaland and the Government of India,” he told reporters after Friday’s meeting.
Apart from the NSCN-IM, at least four other armed insurgent groups are active in Nagaland. So, the Centre believes that a settlement with the NSCN-IM may not necessarily be acceptable to the other groups.
It is in this perspective that some tribal bodies insist on the unification of the rebel groups before “solution”. One of the groups, NSCN (Khaplang), has gone back to old ways after unilaterally abrogating its 14-year-old ceasefire with the Centre in March.
R N Ravi, the Centre’s interlocutor in Naga peace process, will visit Nagaland soon to meet cross sections of the civil society to get the pulse of the people.
“We will strive for unity among the various groups. Alongside, the process for solution will continue,” Zeliang asserted.