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No change in Assam territory, says CM

- Gogoi for ‘emotional integration’ of Nagas, peace in region

New Delhi, Nov. 3: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said he did not mind “emotional integration” of the Nagas as long as the state’s territorial integrity was not compromised.

He was answering a question on how Assam looked at the NSCN (I-M) talks, during a press briefing here today.

Gogoi, Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki have been briefed about the Centre-NSCN (I-M) talks as the negotiations include the fate of Naga tribes in these states.

“It (the settlement with NSCN-IM) should not affect our territorial integrity; I am all for emotional integration. We want complete peace in Nagaland,” Gogoi said.

The outfit’s demand for integration of Naga-inhabited areas in other states under a single administrative unit has not gone down well with Nagaland’s neighbouring states. Naga tribes are spread over Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and even Myanmar.

Emotional integration is a term that has been used often by politicians and rebels in Nagaland. However, in the current context, it seems Gogoi was hinting at a proposed pan-Naga socio-cultural body for Nagas as part of a final settlement. The body is proposed to take care of the socio-cultural milieu of the Nagas across state boundaries.

Tuki more or less echoed Gogoi. “We have not been consulted yet; they (the Centre) may consult us. Three districts in Arunachal Pradesh are affected. We have no issue if the settlement is within the state (Nagaland),” Tuki told The Telegraph.

Arunachal’s Tirap, Changlang and the newly created Longding districts are populated by some Naga tribes, mainly the Wanchos and Noktes. Both NSCN (I-M) and the group led by the Myanmar-based S.S. Khaplang are active there, frequently fighting for control over these densely forested districts.

A settlement also purportedly includes disarming of NSCN (I-M) and absorption of its armed cadres in Indian paramilitary or military forces.

NSCN general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and chairman Isak Chishi Swu are currently in Nagaland and holding consultations with tribal bodies and civil society groups.

The outfit is seen, as Gogoi indicated, as the most powerful in the region, where it is known to have trained cadres of rebel groups in other states as well. “I definitely want a solution, as peace and stability of the whole Northeast depends on it,” Gogoi said.

However, the chief minister of Manipur, the state which would be most affected by the settlement with the Muivah-led outfit, has reserved comment on the proposed solution.

Ibobi Singh will have to deal with the bulk of offsetting influences of the settlement that would entail increased autonomy to the Naga-inhabited districts in Manipur.