GUWAHATI: National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM)'s army chief Anthony Shimray confirmed that the Naga peace talks will continue beyond October 31.
“That (deadline of October 31) will be extended after today’s (Thursday’s) talks. It will be extended and there will be further consultations,” he told this newspaper. “…The peace process will continue. It was not spelt out (during Thursday’s talks) but it is in that way,” Shimray said.
Earlier, the Centre purportedly set a deadline of October 31 to find a solution to the vexed and protracted Naga problem.
The Centre-NSCN-IM talks in New Delhi on Thursday were held amidst the ongoing stalemate surrounding the NSCN-IM’s demands for a separate “Naga national flag” and “Naga constitution”.
Shimray said the twin issues were raised during the meeting but they remained inconclusive. They were neither accepted nor rejected, he said.
The NSCN-IM leader said it was more or less agreed that both sides needed to discuss further and consult people, including different stakeholders. He added that the interlocutor in Naga talks, RN Ravi (Governor), would return to Nagaland, after discussing with senior leaders and the NSCN-IM would do the same thing.
“For the Nagas, they will not compromise on the two issues. Since Government of India has recognised the uniqueness of Naga history and its political situations, Indians and Nagas will co-exist as two separate entities based on the principle of shared sovereignty. It is there in the Framework Agreement (signed on August 3, 2015),” said a NSCN-IM leader, who did not attend the meeting but was privy to what transpired.
“Since the Government of India has recognised the uniqueness of Naga history and political rights and situations, the issues of Naga flag and constitution automatically come in,” he added.
As the two sides met, hope, fear and anxiety filled the mind of Nagaland people wondering about the outcome of the talks and fate of the 22-year-long peace process.
In Manipur, a neighbour of Nagaland, the worries were about the state’s territorial integrity. The Nagas have a sizeable population in the state and the Meiteis (Manipuris) have already made it clear that the final Naga accord should not hurt Manipur’s interests. The worries of the Manipuris increased following media reports that the Centre is considering giving a territorial council each to the Nagas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
People, mostly women, took out a march in Imphal on Thursday to assert that the Naga agreement must not affect the territorial integrity of Manipur. They chanted slogans like “Bring solution, not problem” and “Give peace, not pieces.”