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Rio firm on Naga turf claim

Calcutta, Nov. 16: Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio today asserted that he was optimistic about a positive outcome to the ongoing talks between the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre but added that not everyone can be kept happy.

Rio, who was speaking after the inauguration of a second Nagaland House in Calcutta, said, “We emphasise inclusion but if someone refuses to join us, no one can do anything about it.”

He said there cannot be complete consensus on the issue and he does not expect every group to join.

Against the backdrop of recent developments, with the NSCN (Khaplang) expressing that it is open to talks, Rio referred to the Naga National Council, which has openly criticised the peace process and the terms of the proposed interim agreement.

The NNC had said any attempt to submit the rights of the Nagas under the Constitution would be a sell-out.

Rio also asserted that the Nagas who have been historically divided “without their consent” want to be integrated and to protect the rights of this community it is essential that the territorial boundaries of the region are redrawn.

He said, “The Constitution permits redrawing of the territorial boundaries. The Nagas who have been divided into four states in India — Assam, Manipur and Arunachal, besides Nagaland — and in Myanmar want to come together.”

When it was pointed out that Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh recently said they would not allow any compromise in the territorial integrity, Rio said, “It is not a matter of compromise but a matter of rights. In a democracy it is incumbent upon the government to protect the rights of the minorities.”

He added that the integration issue was on the agenda of both the underground militants and the overground civil rights groups.

Four resolutions have been passed in the Nagaland Assembly in favour of Naga integration. The interim agreement is being chalked out before the Assembly elections scheduled for February-March 2013.

“Even last time integration was an issue. Any proposal that brings the Naga people together will be accepted,” he said.

Despite the assertion, Rio, however, did not seem too confident of such a solution. “The Centre has mentioned that the territory of the states will not be disturbed. If territorial integration is not possible we must have cultural, emotional and social integration,” he said. He added that it was important that the security of Nagas in the different states is ensured. “I cannot sacrifice my peace for your peace.”