Naga accord: Some issues yet undecided, ex-CM Neiphiu Rio

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) Former Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Tuesday said that even though the historic Naga accord was signed between the Indian government and the NSCN-IM, both sides were yet to take a decision on demands like the right to retain weapons in areas of the northeast where the insurgent group has its presence.

“The Naga accord should not be seen as an immediate settlement between the government and the NSCN-IM. There still are demands from the NSCN-IM to be allowed to carry arms, especially in areas where it has a presence.

“Now this might be basically to protect themselves from attacks by rival factions. But the government is yet to decide on this demand,” Rio, who served as Nagaland chief minister for three consecutive terms, told IANS in an interview.

Rio is in Delhi to attend the ongoing monsoon session of parliament.

The 64-year-old leader of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), who gave up his chief ministership to become the lone Lok Sabha member from Nagaland, also said the government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) have decided on a time-frame under which they expect to decide on all the demands.

Refuting media reports that the government did not accept the NSCN-IM’s demand to redraw the state’s border to incorporate Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal, he said: “The demand for Greater Nagaland is the main demand of the NSCN — irrespective of which faction it is. The question of dropping that demand does not arise as this is what the conflict is all about.”

“Demand for Greater Nagaland is part of the 16-point demand in the agreement by the NSCN-IM. I do not think it is going to be dropped. However, let’s see what happens,” said Rio, adding that every thing would be clear once the minutes of the accord are out, which he believes would take some time.

In a surprising but historic move, the NSCN-IM and the government on Monday signed the Naga Peace Accord settling an almost 20-year-old peace negotiation process that started in 1997 after the group signed the ceasefire agreement.

NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, who signed the accord on Monday at a ceremony at the prime minister’s 7 Race Course Road residence, hailed it as a “momentous occasion”.

Asked what if the other factions of NSCN do not give a positive response to the peace accord that was signed on Monday, Rio said: “The Naga Peace Accord is based on the basis of principles of the NSCN which is the same. There is still room for discussion with other factions and the government will surely talk with the other factions also. They will be brought to the negotiation table.”

Apart from the NSCN-IM, there are three other major factions involved in the insurgency in the state. These are NSCN-K, NSCN-U and NSCN-KZ — and experts aver that they are unlikely to accept the newly-signed peace accord.

Rio said Prime Minister Narendra Modi called him on Monday evening and spoke to him about how to solve problems related to Nagaland further.

Refuting rumours about Isak Chisi Swu not being consulted on the final agreement of the Naga Accord due to his deteriorating health, he said: “Swu was informed about each and every minute development related to the issue and even general secretary T. Muivah had spoken to him prior to the ceremony at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence.”

NSCN-IM chairman Swu was admitted to a Delhi-based hospital on July 5 after he suffered renal failure. The 85-year-old leader underwent surgery on July 14 and is said to be recovering.

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