Kohima, Aug. 17: The Naga movement has found a high-profile campaigner in US senator Barbara Boxer, who is trying to convince a group of colleagues to visit India to study the problems that have fuelled unrest in Nagaland for over five decades now.
Boxer, who has championed causes like environment conservation and consumer rights, stepped into her new role as upholder of the so-called Naga cause by attending the inauguration of the National Socialist of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah)’s office in Washington. In her speech, she reportedly backed the group’s demand for a “greater Nagalim”, including Naga-inhabited areas in other states of the Northeast.
The senator’s daughter Nicole is married to Hillary Clinton’s brother Tony Rodham. She is known to wield clout in Washington, being a member of the senate foreign relations committee.
An official source said Delhi knew of Boxer’s attempts to muster support in the US for the NSCN (I-M) and was worried over the prospect of a fact-finding team visiting India.
“After standing up for women’s rights in Afghanistan, Boxer is now showing interest in the Naga political problem. She has taken the initiative for a visit by a US delegation to India to gain knowledge of the Naga movement,” he said.
Boxer is not the only influential foreigner whose support the NSCN (I-M) has garnered. The Amsterdam-based Naga International Support Centre has helped the militant group to gain access to parliamentarians in the European Union.
The insurgent outfit has long been a member of the United Nations Unrepresented Peoples’ Organisation.
However, Boxer is believed to be the NSCN (I-M)’s best catch, considering the fact that she can truly internationalise the group’s self-proclaimed struggle for Naga rights.
Though the NSCN (I-M) is upbeat over winning the US senator’s support, many in Nagaland believe the development might upset its equation with Delhi and negate the gains from the dialogue between the two sides.
The convener of the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights, Neingulo Krome, is one of those who has reservations about it. “The timing is wrong. It should have taken place before the ceasefire agreement with Delhi.”
Krome warned that the NSCN (I-M)’s relationship with the US senator could “trigger misunderstanding with the government of India” and even derail the ceasefire, which took effect in 1997.
Security forces deployed here are alarmed over the development and have questioned the motive behind the move.
“The NSCN (I-M) already has offices in Bangkok and Amsterdam. Now, support is coming from Washington. This calls for immediate attention of the ministry of external affairs,” a senior army official said.
Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio, however, said people were jumping the gun in questioning Boxer’s motive.
“It is good if anyone helps.”
This is not the first time that the Naga problem has been discussed in the US. American Baptist churches have long been interested in the developments in Nagaland. In 1997, they organised a “Naga reconciliation meet” in Atlanta. Apart from representatives of the Church, militant leaders attended the meet. However, NSCN (I-M) leaders were conspicuous by their absence at the conclave.