Oct. 26: Inclement weather in the Nagaland capital raised doubts about the Prime Minister’s visit tomorrow, but there was no shortage of enthusiasm among the Nagas with a community delegation from Manipur expected to reach Kohima to petition Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas.
Vajpayee may gently prod all Naga groups to come together and agree on a final resolution of the Naga problem. But he will not get down to the nitty-gritty of forging a consensus among the rival factions because infighting suits the Centre.
“It is not for the Prime Minister to be involved in such a process. At best, he will make a suggestion that the groups should come together,’’ a senior official said in Delhi.
With the peace talks with the NSCN(I-M) making no perceptible headway, it makes little sense for the Centre to get the unity move under way.
“It (the infighting) will be useful for the Centre to refuse certain concessions to the NSCN by saying other outfits are opposed to it,’’ the official said. Governments need this kind of leeway while negotiating on sensitive political issues.’’
The Prime Minister’s visit coincides with concern in Delhi that the talks between the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre’s interlocutor K. Padmanabhiah have not progressed as fast as expected after the Naga leaders came to Delhi.
Much of the problem revolves round the issue of redrawing state boundaries to allow all Naga tribes to live within a geographical boundary conforming with the Naga concept of a traditional homeland. With Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam opposed to giving their territory to the Nagas, the Centre has little to offer the NSCN (I-M) on this score.
The Prime Minister is also scheduled to launch a mobile phone service in the Northeast. A meeting of the ministries of defence, home and communications was held on Friday to work out the scheme. At present, mobile service is available only in Guwahati and Shillong in the region.
At the meeting, the communications ministry said the infrastructure would be in place only in January, leaving the launch largely symbolic.
The Nagaland government has made arrangements to take the Prime Minister to Kohima from Dimapur by road, should the weather prevent travel by air. “We have made arrangements for the Prime Minister to travel by road, provided he wants to do so,” home minister T.M. Lotha said.
If Vajpayee decides to stay in Dimapur, it will be at the Police Rest House in Chumukedima.
The Met office has forecast cloudy weather throughout the Northeast during the next 24 hours.
The Prime Minister is likely to announce an economic package for Nagaland during his three-day visit, but what the residents want most is a commitment on the proposal to integrate the Naga-inhabited areas.
Angam Ruivah, a member of the All Naga Students Association of Manipur (Ansam), said over phone from Imphal that a declaration of over 1,000 pages would be submitted to the Prime Minister.
He claimed that the tribal chiefs of over 1,000 villages in the four Naga-dominated hill districts of Manipur had signed the declaration. “Efforts are on to convince the 11 Naga legislators to sign the declaration.”
Ruivah said a few legislators had agreed to support the move.
“They will have to sign because it concerns the future of their own people. In fact, our legislators assured us that they would do whatever is required of them for the interest of our people.”
The Okram Ibobi Singh government in Manipur had yesterday warned all Naga ministers against signing the declaration.