The NSCN (I-M) and the Centre are not close to sealing a final agreement on the Naga political issue.
“We are miles apart,” member of the collective leadership of the NSCN (IM) “gen” (retd) VS Atem said on Wednesday while contradicting to a news agency report that “Naga peace pact any day”.
He said the NSCN is not aware of any such news.
The NSCN (I-M) and the Centre signed a framework agreement on Naga political issue on August 3, 2015.
On Centre’s interlocutor R.N. Ravi’s recent statement that “differing positions” on separate Naga flag and constitution were delaying the signing of the final agreement, Atem admitted that there were differences in the negotiations.
“The government of India says ‘Nagas have sovereign rights’ but because of the difficulty of the present dispensation, they proposed shared sovereignty. We accepted and signed an agreement so that we can have peaceful coexistence on the basis of shared sovereignty,” he said.
The senior NSCN (IM) functionary questioned the government of India’s difficulty in accepting the Naga national flag.
“Thousands have laid down their lives defending the Naga national flag which symbolises the sovereign rights of the Nagas, so there is no question of compromise on the Naga flag,” he maintained.
On the differences over a separate constitution, Atem said the NSCN had proposed a constitution to be called called the “Naga Yezahbo” in the final agreement while the government of India proposed that the agreement be called “Naga Yezahbo”.
Saying that the word “yezahbo” means constitution, Atem said the agreement cannot be called “yezahbo”. “An agreement is an agreement,” he asserted.
As such, Atem said, the two negotiating parties were not close to sealing a final agreement.
On other Naga national political groups (NNPGs) holding parallel negotiation with the government of India for a “separate deal”, he said, “We have no objections”. However, for those negotiating for the “Nagas of Nagaland,” Atem said, “They already have the 16-Point Agreement.”
Atem also pointed to the many “new parties” and “groups” which have come up in the name of Naga nationalism and claiming to represent the Naga people.
“There are seven parties today and they are claiming to be the majority. Let there be seven times seven, we are not bothered,” he said.
Atem alleged that “many leaders” were floating parties after parties “just to fatten themselves.” “These are the leaders of the Naga people,” he quipped.
The NNPGs and civil society groups are also sceptical of the claims of an early Naga pact.
Convenor of the working committee of NNPGs Kitovi Zhimomi termed the report “only wishful.”
“Fake news” was what the co-convenor of the working committee and Federal Government of Nagaland vice president, Zhopra Vero, said.
Naga Students Federation president Christopher Ltu said, “The government has clearly mentioned that there won’t be any solution prior to Lok Sabha election.”
Ltu said there is no guarantee that the BJP would retain power at the Centre and added that Ravi cannot assure that he will remain the interlocutor.
“In such a scenario, whatever progress has been made on the issue will be washed down the drain,” he added.