A crucial, decade-ender dialogue between New Delhi and the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) group gets under way at Dimapur on Tuesday. The day coincides with the expiry of the ceasefire with the Naga militant outfit that began on August 1, 1997.
According to Nagaland commissioner TN Mannen, Union labour minister Oscar Fernandes and his high-level team would be reaching Dimapur— Nagaland’s commercial hub bordering Assam — Tuesday morning for the meeting that could see the ceasefire being extending yet again.
The NSCN (I-M) leadership had earlier this month warned of returning to militancy if New Delhi “keeps beating about the bush” in its bid to solve the decades long “Indo-Naga” conflict. However, a consultative meeting between the NSCN (I-M) and civil society organizations such as Naga Hoho — apex tribal council — and church leaders on July 27 raised hope of an extension.
“The Central team for the ceasefire extension talks will include interlocutor K Padmanabhaiah, Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Lal and MHA secretary Naveen Verma,” Mannen said.
The “Indo-Naga” talks have apparently been stuck on the issue of territorial integrity. The NSCN (I-M) wants all Naga-inhabited areas in the Northeast to be brought under one administrative unit. Included in the NSCN plans are large chunks of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur.
Besides, the Isak-Muivah group has also been harping on change in the ceasefire ground rules and the reining in of members of the rival NSCN (Khaplang) group, which declared ceasefire in 2000. But truce by both groups did not lessen fratricidal battles, leading to the death of over 200 cadres and civilians.
NSCN (I-M) chairman Isak Chishi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, would take part in the meeting along with other leaders. Swu and Muivah are camping at Camp Hebron, the NSCN (I-M) headquarters about 40 km from Dimapur.
Meanwhile, Naga Hoho publicity secretary Chuba Ozeokum said the civil society in Nagaland favoured extension of the ceasefire with NSCN (I-M). "But we also want New Delhi to expedite the peace process and resolve the conflict," he said.