The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nagas open to vote for unity, with rider

Bangkok, April 10: The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) is amenable to a vote in the Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast for determining their desire for integration provided it is supervised by a neutral third party.

The Nagas have expressed themselves sufficiently strongly that they want to live together, Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of the NSCN (I-M), claimed.

However, he said: “If the Government of India thinks that this natural aspiration of the Nagas is not clear to it, then let it organise a vote on the issue. And let a neutral third party acceptable to both sides supervise it. What better test can there be of a peoples’ will in a democracy'”

Muivah also offered to talk to MPs, MLAs and civil society representatives from the affected neighbouring states of Nagaland if and when he comes to Delhi.

However, he said: “Our issue is with India and that cannot be diluted. We will not negotiate our territory with our neighbours. But we do want them to understand us in the right perspective. We are a peaceful people and will always be open to dialogue and interaction to promote peace and harmony with our neighbours.”

Analysing the opposition to Naga integration, Muivah said: “Those who oppose us do so by virtue of the Indian Constitution which came into being in 1950. But the land of the Nagas has been with them since time immemorial. We do not want to discuss the Indian Constitution with these people because that cannot be the basis of their claim over Naga areas.”

The Naga leader talked of the “irrational chauvinism” of Nagaland’s neighbours, saying: “The Meiteis say there are no Nagas in Manipur. The Arunachalis say the same thing about their state. They totally dismiss the ground reality. How can we talk to people who say that we do not even exist' We can only talk to sensible people who want a peaceful settlement.”

All that he was willing to say to assuage the feeling of the neighbouring states was: “We shall respect their history and we shall accept their rights. But they also have to recognise that the Nagas were divided without their consent.”

He argued that it was an accepted political philosophy the world over that the people concerned should “decide their fate and that of their land”.

The Naga leader argued:“The Nagas are not an exception. They must have their rights and their land. We respect the rights of our neighbours. But perhaps that is not the case with them.”

Why did he think that the Nagas were seen essentially as territorialists in the Northeast' “This is a wrong impression that people have of the Nagas. We will never be expansionists. But equally, we will not accept if we are deprived of our land anywhere,” Muivah replied.

Muivah and a majority of his armed cadre come from Manipur and many believe that the integration issue is linked to this. But Muivah dismisses this as “na've analysis”.

“Like all political issues, Naga nationalism has a specific origin in the fact that we were always free. This reality must be defended. It is the most noble cause for me. So we are not fighting for the interest of any particular tribe. We stand for every inch of Naga territory and the right of every Naga. There is no question of our standing for any sectional or tribal interest,” he claimed.

The Naga leader denied the suggestion that he was self-righteous. Claiming that he believed in “revolutionary philosophy”, Muivah asserted that he never spoke out of emotion or sentiment but on the basis of “an objective analysis of reality”.

“From this perspective, I have to deal with issues at hand without bothering about whether I please or displease others. I would rather be with truth than respect the whims of others,” he claimed.

Correction: In the report “Muivah visit offer to ‘inert’ India” (The Telegraph, April 10), Muivah’s quote should have read: “Is peace with the Naga not more important than the Assam elections'” The word “not” went missing inadvertently.

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