The opposition Congress on Tuesday raised questions over Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's involvement in the Naga peace talks and says the state's interest may be compromised in the long run.
Demanding publication of the Naga Framework Agreement (NFA), signed between the government of India and the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) in 2015, Assam Congress President Bhupen Kumar Borah has asked the Centre to clear at what capacity Assam CM has been involved in the peace talks in Nagaland. "As a Chief Minister of Assam can he (Sarma) hold talks with NSCN (IM) without discussion in the state Assembly and wothout taking Cabinet into confidence? The NSCN (IM) has been demanding for "Greater Nagalim" (integration of Naga dominated areas of neighbouring states) and for all we know it is supposed to include parts of Assam. Congress Party is committed to keeping its state intact and under no circumstances will allow any part of its land into Greater Nagalim," the Assam Congress chief told the media.
He asked: "Can the people of Assam trust Sarma to defend the state's interests when he had miserably failed to do so in the recent Mizoram-Assam border issue? He (Sarma) had publicly said that he is ready to give the whole of Barak Valley (southern Assam) and even Guwahati to Mizoram? Can Sarma be trusted to defend Assam's interests in his talks with NSCN (IM) when his blind allegiance to the Delhi BJP High Command's diktat are well known to all?" Borah said that it has been reported that Nagaland and Manipur Chief Ministers have also been asked to be part of the talks along with Assam CM but it was learnt that Manipur CM has decided not to participate due to differences on "Greater Nagalim issue".
He said that in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proudly announced the "NFA of Government of India" with NSCN (IM) by declaring that "we mark not merely the end of a problem but the beginning of a new future" but surprisingly the NFA was not publicly divulged despite strong demand from various parties including Congress.
"Subsequently, Modi also appointed his most trusted aide, Naga peace talks Interlocutor R.N. Ravi as Nagaland Governor in 2019. Matters did not improve further and the NFA appeared to be a 'discord agreement' as public spats between leaders of NSCN (IM) and Ravi became headlines of news reports.
Meanwhile, officials on condition of anonymity said in Kohima that in another development, Sarma, who is also the convener of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) arrived in Dimapur on Tuesday to hold meetings with his Nagaland counterpart Neiphiu Rio, leaders of various political parties and Naga groups and senior government officials. "Sarma might have been assigned by Union Home Minister Amit Shah to talk with all the stakeholders and get everyone on board before a final agreement is inked over the protracted Naga issue," a senior Nagaland government official said, refusing to be named.
The Central government has been separately holding peace talks with the NSCN-IM and eight other outfits, which came together a few years ago under the banner of NNPGs. The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997.
Meanwhile, after over a year, crucial meetings between the Government of India's envoy and Naga insurgent outfits began in Kohima on Monday to settle the long-pending Naga political issue involving various bodies, including the NSCN (IM). Officials in Kohima said that former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Central government representative A.K. Mishra and the NSCN (IM) leadership led by Thuingaleng Muivah held a meeting at the police complex in Chumoukedima on Monday.
NSCN-IM leader Rh Raising told the media after the meeting that everything should be initiated on the basis of the Framework agreement signed with the government in 2015. "We reiterate our commitment to the Framework agreement in letter and spirit. After the Covid-19 pandemic, the talks have resumed. The Government of India has sent us a letter stating that Mishra will hold talks with our leaders," Raising told a television channel.
Stating that a separate flag and constitution are uncompromising issues, Raising said: "Any agreement without separate flag and constitution is unacceptable and meaningless. The solution must be inclusive. We can't sign an agreement ignoring the sentiments of our cadre."
Both Mishra and other NSCN-IM leaders remained tight-lipped about the details of the discussions held in Monday's crucial meeting, which took place for the first time after the Union government on September 9 transferred Nagaland Governor Ravindra Narayan Ravi to Tamil Nadu.
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