The potentially explosive issue of Greater Nagaland has staged a comeback amid hopes of an ‘honourable solution’ to the 18-year-old Naga peace process.
Greater Nagaland envisages bringing all Naga-inhabited areas under one administrative umbrella. Pursued by the extremist National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) since it declared truce in July 1997, it has been a major stumbling block in the peace process.
On Friday, representatives of Naga civil society unanimously endorsed a five-point resolution passed by the Nagaland legislative assembly on July 27, including “integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”.
Other resolutions included resumption of ceasefire between New Delhi and NSCN-Khaplang, which walked out of the peace process (inked in April 2001) on March 27 this year; and withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 from Nagaland.
But Nagaland’s neighbours in the northeast -- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur -- are wary of “integrating Naga-inhabited areas”. These states view Greater Nagaland as a threat to their territorial integrity. They have witnessed violent protests, particularly in Manipur where a mob set the state assembly ablaze in 2001.
“We will not part with even an inch of land,” Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said while his Manipur counterpart Okram Ibobi Singh said his government would not allow the state’s map to be redrawn for a solution to the Naga political issue.
The ministry of home affairs’ bid to strike a balance between ‘Naga aspirations’ and apprehensions of Nagaland’s neighbours is believed to have prolonged the peace process nearing a ‘lasting solution’, as Union home minister Rajnath Singh said during his last visit to the northeast.
“The central government is apprehensive that the Naga people may turn down any proposal, resulting in a deadlock and breakdown of ceasefire. The fear psychosis can be removed if we go for further consultations with Nagas living in Nagaland and elsewhere,” Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang said.
The views of Nagas living beyond Nagaland -- crucial for the integration idea -- would be documented before RN Ravi, the centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks, is expected to hold consultations with various Naga stakeholder groups soon.