The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi warm to Naga demand
- Hint of Disturbed Areas Act removal

Guwahati/Kohima, July 16: As another round of talks with the NSCN (I-M) today got under way in Bangkok, Delhi indicated that the term of the Disturbed Areas Act, which is in force in Nagaland, will not be extended beyond July 22.

The NSCN (I-M) has been demanding the withdrawal of the legislation, which it describes as a “draconian law”, ever since the Naga peace process began in 1997.

Sources said the three-member central delegation to the Thai capital, led by chief interlocutor and former Union home secretary K. Padmanabhaiah, met NSCN (I-M) chairman Isak Chisi Swu and general secretary Th. Muivah at Hotel Shangri-La and straightaway broached the topic of extending the ceasefire.

The secretary to the NSCN (I-M)’s “collective leadership”, Apam Muivah said over phone from Bangkok that “other substantive issues”, including the demand for integration of contiguous Naga-inhabited areas, figured in the discussions.

However, he declined to give details. “It would not be proper to divulge everything because the meeting was inconclusive,” he said.

Several senior leaders of the NSCN (I-M), including R.H. Raising, Puni Mao, Lungaleng and Q. Tuccu, accompanied the Swu-Muivah duo to the meeting. After the meeting ended, the two delegations were engaged in an informal discussion for about an hour. The formal dialogue will resume tomorrow.

Sources in the Union home ministry said extension of the truce between Delhi and the NSCN (I-M) was just a formality. The current term of the ceasefire, which has already had several extensions, ends on July 31.

Except for another extension of the ceasefire, the talks in Bangkok are not expected to be a fruitful exercise because Delhi remains indecisive on most contentious topics, including the integration of Naga-inhabited areas.

Its latest formula for peace — statutory powers to the Naga Hoho — enthused neither the tribal organisation nor the NSCN (I-M). Both refused to accept any move to make any traditional Naga organisation a part of the “Indian political structure”.

The Naga Hoho is the apex organisation of the Naga tribes and has been involved in the peace process since the beginning. Though the Bangkok meeting is unlikely to achieve much, Delhi’s willingness to lift the Disturbed Areas Act from Nagaland is seen as a positive development.

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