May 26: The NSCN (I-M)’s threat to go in for a referendum on the integration of Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast has opened an old wound.
A day after the Naga outfit’s general secretary Th. Muivah was quoted as saying that the issue of integration was “not negotiable”, Assam and Manipur said they wanted peace in Nagaland but not at the cost of their territorial integrity.
Rejecting the NSCN (I-M)’s roadmap to peace as one that conflicted with the interests of their states, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and his Manipur counterpart Okram Ibobi Singh said there was no question of yielding even an inch of their territories.
There was a similar outcry when the Centre had extended its ceasefire with the NSCN (I-M) to Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The situation spun out of control in Manipur with 18 people being killed during the violent uprising against the Centre’s move. Overcome by anger, protesters even set fire to the state Assembly building.
Gogoi said in Guwahati that his government’s stand on the issue of integration of contiguous Naga-inhabited areas was unchanged. “We are for peacefully finding a solution to the Naga problem, but opposed to the expansion of Nagaland’s territory to parts of our state.”
A senior minister in the Ibobi Singh government echoed Gogoi. “There is no change in our government’s stand. Any solution to the Naga problem should not envisage tampering with the boundary of Manipur.”
The minister said in Imphal that the government’s stand reflected the views of the people of Manipur. “In any case, a demand for a referendum should come from the Naga people themselves and not from the (insurgent) leaders,” he added.
A leader of the United Committee, Manipur (UCM), Sapamacha Jadumani, said all NSCN (I-M) activists, their sympathisers and affiliated organisations should shift from Manipur in the event of a referendum being conducted.
He said Naga village chiefs and former Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir had said at a meeting a few months ago that only 16 ethnic groups could claim to be Nagas.
Jamir did not say anything on the NSCN (I-M)’s threat to Delhi, but questioned the feasibility of the outfit’s seven-point “unity formula”. He indicated that there were fundamental flaws in the formula.
“I have meticulously gone through the seven-point reconciliation formula of the NSCN (I-M). A reconciliation process with strings attached will not be acceptable to other factions. Any reconciliation initiative has to be without unconditional,” he said in Kohima.
Neingulo Krome, who is the convener of the influential Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights, said, “The Naga Hoho and the Nagaland Baptist Church Council are primarily working for unification of all Naga groups. But nothing concrete has emerged in spite of the NSCN (I-M) announcing a reconciliation formula.”