The demand for Greater Nagaland is alive and the Constitution will have to be amended to give the Nagas greater control over resources when the finer details of the peace accord are decided, an NSCN (I-M) leader, a key figure in negotiations with the government, has said.
The unification of Naga-occupied territories was very much on the agenda, 65-year-old VS Atem said about the demand for Nagalim, or Greater Nagaland, with additional territory from Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. “Soon we will see the reality,” the 65-year-old leader told HT.
Remapping of the Northeastern states was not part of the agreement, government sources had said after the peace deal was signed.
Atem’s comments may cause concern among the three states that have Naga inhabited areas and have opposed redrawing of boundaries under the accord that came after 20 years of negotiations.
The Modi government had on August 3 signed a framework agreement with the largest Naga faction the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), promising an end to India’s longest running insurgency. The details of the agreement are still in the works.
Article 371A of the Constitution gave special status to Nagaland, saying laws enacted by Parliament shall not apply to the Northeastern state in certain cases, but the Centre had been saying that oil and water were national resources, which was not acceptable, Atem said.
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“Article 371A … endows special status to Nagaland…But when it comes to oil or gas or rivers, the Centre says these are national resources. So 371A is not acceptable. The Constitution has to be suitable amended giving genuine powers to Nagas,” Atem said.
Two years ago, Oil and Natural Gas Corp was forced to shut down exploratory operations, facing stiff opposition in the state. The former Naga army chief said more items from central and concurrent list would have to be moved to the state list.
The Constitution lays down three broad categories on which the Centre and states can legislate. Items on the concurrent list are shared between the two but in case of a disagreement, the Union government prevails.
Atem also said the Naga HoHo, an umbrella organization of civil society groups that wields a great deal of influence, be made a statutory authority. “It will undergo a transformation from a being merely a social body to a statutory body with legislative, executive and financial powers,” he said.
He even favoured a separate flag. “If Kashmir can have a separate flag, why not Nagas? China also has separate flags for Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But a separate currency is not feasible.”
At the forefront of the Naga movement for 42 years, Atem denied claims of decommissioning of weapons. “There will be no surrender of arms till the final integration is achieved,” he said.
On the secrecy surrounding the accord, Atem said he was given to understand that the cabinet committee on political affairs had cleared it. “So there is no secrecy really and if there is, you should ask the Indian government.” He insisted that the framework agreement set broader principles while the details “are yet to be fleshed out”.
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