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Unique Naga solution mulled

New Delhi, Oct. 15: A settlement with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), possibly early next year, could require the imposition of a benign President’s rule in Nagaland before an “interim” government is put in place and the state given a J&K-like separate flag.

Reaching what is hoped to be the final phase of deliberations with the NSCN (I-M), the Centre is understood to be now clearing the decks.

The settlement will be followed by consultations with other Naga rebel groups to accommodate their demands, the sources said.

The negotiations with the NSCN (I-M) had begun after a ceasefire was signed in July 1997.

If indeed the vexed problem ends, it will be the end of India’s oldest living insurgency and bring into the mainstream one of the most powerful outfits in the Northeast.

Sources said a demand by Nagaland legislators of an interim government might require central rule for a while before a “Naga government” is put in place.

However, a consensus on this is pending.

They said as part of the agreement, Nagaland would get a separate “state flag” on the lines of the red flag of Jammu and Kashmir, the Assembly will be renamed “Tatar Hoho” and a pan-Naga social body will be formed, all of which would require an amendment to the Constitution.

The sources said the Centre could make additions to Article 371A that grants special status to Nagaland, with borrowed ideas from Article 370 that governs Jammu and Kashmir, pending a consensus by various parties on these issues.

Former interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah said, “There is a choice of either expanding Article 371A or adding another part specifically on Nagas to the Constitution.”

For renaming the Assembly, the Centre will enhance State List of the Constitution by bringing in subjects from the Central List and Concurrent List to “reflect the uniqueness of the Nagas” as promised by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sources said.

The vital question of “decommissioning of weapons” that was debated hotly among NSCN cadres is understood to have been resolved.

Sources said the few thousand cadres of the outfit might be absorbed into the army’s Naga Regiment and into paramilitary forces.

Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today received a group of 19 Nagaland legislators led by chief minister Neiphiu Rio here to discuss possible modalities to a conclusion of the talks with the NSCN (I-M). Rio and others later called on NSCN (I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah at his temporary residence on Lodhi Road.

Earlier this year, all Nagaland legislators had met the Prime Minister and home minister offering to step down for a solution and wanting an interim government with rebels, civil society members and politicians. “I am hopeful and we want it done before the elections,” Rio told The Telegraph today. Elections in Nagaland are due in March 2013.

Since a settlement will entail a constitutional amendment in both Houses of Parliament, the Nagaland legislators are meeting various party leaders. Most parties, including NDA partners, are eager for a solution although an MLA said the Left parties may pose a problem.

A highlight in the settlement is a pan-Naga social body. At its genesis is the question of identity that was manifested in Muivah’s demands of “dual citizenship” and integration of Naga tribes under a single administrative unit. The latter was flatly denied by the government in view of opposition from neighbouring states. Last week, Shinde said he was talking to the chief ministers of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to build a consensus.

On one count, the government is believed to have agreed partially: Nagas’ passports will indicate their residency in Nagaland. On the other hand, identity of Nagas will be maintained by a pan-Naga body even for Nagas living in the country and abroad.