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Demand for ‘Naga’ talks

New Delhi, Jan. 7: The Centre and the Nagaland government should be looking for a “Naga solution” rather than an “NSCN (Isak-Muivah) solution”, a senior leader of NSCN (Khaplang) said today.

Myanmar-based Wangtin Naga termed the Nagaland government’s Joint Legislators Forum a sham that is simply supporting the NSCN (I-M)’s negotiation with the Centre .

Legislators across party lines in Nagaland had united late last year to ask the Centre to hammer out a solution before elections (due next month in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura) are held and had offered to “step down” for an “alternative arrangement”. Led by chief minister Neiphiu Rio, they urged the Centre to conclude the “Naga talks”.

Wangtin has advised Rio to change the wording to “I-M talks” carried on by NSCN (I-M) leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah.

The Khaplang group had split from the undivided NSCN in 1988 after differences with Swu and Muivah.

The NSCN (I-M) has been in negotiations with the Centre since signing the ceasefire in 1997. The NSCN (K), which signed it a few years later, has not been invited for talks.

“There is no Isak-Muivah issue, only a Naga issue. People want a Naga solution, not an Isak-Muivah solution and the Centre should also keep that in mind,” Wangtin told The Telegraph over phone from somewhere on the Myanmar-Nagaland border.

He said the Centre should talk to all sections of people, including church leaders and scholars, instead of only NSCN (I-M) leaders. “My format of talks is inclusive talks, otherwise it will be factional talks.” The NSCN (K), which has a following in the eastern areas of Nagaland that border Myanmar, is also calling for wider consultations with the multitude of tribes.

“Let these I-M talks get over, then Naga talks will start,” Wangtin said, foreclosing a final decision on the talks if the NSCN (I-M) makes a breakthrough any time soon.

The Konyak Naga leader’s statement comes in the wake of several failed attempts at bringing about a reconciliation among warring Naga rebel groups. It assumes significance as he is close to the outfit’s chairman S.S. Khaplang and was a signatory to the ceasefire agreement the group signed with the Myanmar government in April last year.

Sources said Wangtin and his associates are likely to hold informal talks with the Centre later this month.

Naga Hoho, a conglomeration of several Naga groups, will hold a consultative meeting of civil society groups in Delhi on January 12 and 13.

“The meeting will discuss the talks going on with the government of India. It does not plan to have any politicians,” Hoho president Keviletuo Kiewhuo said today.

A call on the Naga talks also needs to be taken by the Manipur government since the solution involves autonomy in the Naga areas of Manipur also.

The hope is that at least an interim solution can be reached before the elections in Nagaland.