| Naga MLAs in front of Parliament House in New Delhi. Picture by Prem Singh |
New Delhi, Aug. 7: Former militants, civil society groups and the public will form an interim government if a settlement is reached with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio said here today.
All the 60 members of the Nagaland Assembly, led by Rio, called on Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and urged him to expedite the negotiation with the rebel group. The ceasefire agreement with the NSCN (I-M) was signed on August 1, 1997 and talks have been going on since. Interlocutor R.S. Pandey today briefed Rio on the talks between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M).
Earlier in the day, the Nagaland delegation called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament where the vice-presidential election was in progress.
Rio said the MLAs had unitedly resolved on July 19 to step down and facilitate an alternative arrangement to pave the way for an interim government. In case of such an eventuality, “it will be an interim government that would be run by them (rebels) and civil society (groups) and public,” Rio told reporters outside North Block. “We are ready to resign,” he added.
On the divergence of opinion among the half-a-dozen rebel factions on how to define a solution to the problem, Rio said the Forum for Naga Reconciliation was expected to bring them under a single umbrella.
He said all the rebel factions had signed the Naga Concordant, whereby they had agreed on reconciliation.
The FNR is a church-led effort to bring an end to years of bloodshed among warring rebel factions. Naga factions have fought for years over the definition of a settlement or on questions of holding power. Power equations among rebel groups have changed rapidly over the years on tribal affiliations and leaders in the state government have willy-nilly shown sympathy for one group or the other.
The MLAs’ meetings with various leaders here, including leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, is significant in the light of the hectic parleys between government representatives and the NSCN (I-M).
Representatives of outfit’s rival factions are also camping in New Delhi to keep a watch on the developments.
A member of NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) said, “Some NSCN (I-M) members had called on legislators and told them about some of the points agreed to by the government of India.”
The Nagaland chief minister’s offer is on the lines of the precedent set in Mizoram in 1986 when Lalthanhawla stepped down to make way for Mizo National Front chief Laldenga as chief minister.
Knowing well that the Nagaland case is different, Rio has now put the ball in the Centre’s court. Asked if integration of contiguous Naga-dominated areas, a major demand of the NSCN (I-M), was possible, Rio said this was now upto the government of India.
His partymen said they had told the Centre to thrash out a solution before the elections slated for February next year.
Union home secretary, R.K. Singh, was present at the meeting between Shinde and the legislators.