Guwahati, May 25: The NSCN (I-M) today threatened to go in for a referendum on its demand for the integration of Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast if the Centre continued to be indecisive on the issue.
The organisation announced its stand after the talks between its leadership and the Centre’s chief interlocutor, K. Padmanabhaiah, again ended in a deadlock. The meeting was held in Bangkok.
NSCN (I-M) chairman Isak Chisi Swu and general secretary Th. Muivah were unavailable for comment, but a source in the Thai capital confirmed that the duo held firm on the issue of integrating Naga-dominated areas. He said the NSCN (I-M) top guns made it clear that this demand was “not negotiable”.
The outfit’s “collective leadership” had initially refused to talk to Padmanabhaiah, but relented after the former Union home secretary lobbied hard for a meeting with the duo. When the dialogue finally began on Friday, the two sides failed to arrive at a consensus on the main issue.
“Delhi should understand that the masses are with us on the issue of integrating Naga territories. If it continues to ignore our genuine grievances and demands, we will be forced to go in for a referendum,” the source quoted Muivah as saying.
Official sources in New Delhi said Padmanabhaiah, who has been retained as chief interlocutor in spite of repeated objections by the NSCN (I-M), informed Swu and Muivah that the Centre was willing to have an “open agenda” for the next round of talks, provided they agreed to come to India.
NSCN (I-M) deputy kilo kilonser (home minister) V. Horam had said on Friday that his outfit had no objection to holding talks anywhere, provided all substantive issues were included in the agenda. It is not known whether Swu and Muivah, who had met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other political leaders in New Delhi in January, expressed similar views during the discussions with Padmanabhaiah.
The relationship between the chief interlocutor and the NSCN (I-M) soured after he was quoted in an RSS publication as saying that all members of the outfit would be disarmed before a formal accord was signed.
Swu and Muivah reportedly told Padmanabhaiah in no uncertain terms that there was no question of laying down arms as long as Central forces remained in Nagaland.
The NSCN (I-M) has always had reservations about Padmanabhaiah being the Centre’s chief interlocutor. The outfit wants a person with a “non-bureaucratic background” to represent the Prime Minister in the dialogue. This was the reason why its top leadership had refused to meet the former Union home secretary this time.
Before the Swu-Muivah duo consented to meet Padmanabhaiah, the Bangkok meet was expected to be no more than a stock-taking exercise by the chief interlocutor and middle-ranking leaders of the outfit.