Days before Presidential poll, NNPG & NSCN-IM intensify media turf war

New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) Just a week before the Presidential poll and as speculation is rife that the Centre may work on a pragmatic peace formula after July 18 to resolve the Naga insurgency, a turf war in the media
 
Days before Presidential poll, NNPG & NSCN-IM intensify media turf war

"Naga people do not appreciate how efficiently they cook up stories to cover their own evil deeds and shifting responsibilities," the working committee of the NNPG said in a statement as a rejoinder to a statement issued by rival NSCN-IM.

The statement from NSCN-IM issued on Sunday claimed that NNPG leader N. Kitovi Zhimomi has nexus with Indian security forces and that a contingent from Assam Rifles accompanied Kitovi during his recent visit to the Naga areas of Arunachal Pradesh.

Denying the charge, the NNPG said on Monday that NNPG convener N. Kitovi Zhimomi and other members "never travelled" to Tirap, Changlang and Longding Naga areas of Arunachal Pradesh in the last couple of years.

"Therefore, the Assam Rifles escorting his (Kitovi's) convoy is someone's figment of imagination," it said, alleging that the NSCN-IM is only trying to be "habitual liars" in the entire process.

Notably, influential Naga organisations from Arunachal Pradesh have backed NNPG's peace initiatives and push for an early solution.

The NSCN-IM had on Sunday also accused the Government of India of "desperately trying to push through a new edited version of the 16-Point Agreement (Statehood Agreement of 1960) at the cost of betraying the Framework Agreement signed between NSCN (IM) and the government's interlocutor on August 3, 2015.

"Rogue elements are pushing around with the blessings of the Government of India targeting the destruction of <br>Framework Agreement," the NSCN-IM has alleged.

The turf war in the media though is unfortunate but these are on expected lines as the Government of India is expected to take more 'concrete and specific' steps for finalising a Peace Pact after next week's voting on July 18 for the Presidential poll.

The process has to be expedited if the Centre and the BJP's central leadership are keen on an early solution.

Striking a balanced deal and a probable 'solution' to end the seven-decade Naga insurgency have become all the more crucial as elections are due in Nagaland in February-March 2023.

In the 2018 polls, the BJP had pledged 'Election for Solution' and it has been claimed at various official levels that parleys on the Naga issue were completed by October 31, 2019.

This is denied by the NSCN-IM and it says the demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution have to be given. The centre has rejected both the demands outright.

It has been also suggested that the Naga peace parleys that began in 1997 August should now come to an end at the earliest.

However, there are various complexities in the entire issue.

Veteran Naga leader S.C. Jamir, who enjoys good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and also certain others have alleged that some political elements would not favour early solution and would prefer status quo.

There are also indications that Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who heads a coalition with the BJP, is in favour of advancing the polls to the end of 2022 itself.

But his detractors say advancing the polls would mean that CM Rio is in favour of delay in finalising the peace pact.

"Some of them may even feel a peace pact is like a death warrant," Jamir told IANS in March, suggesting underground elements belonging to NSCN-IM too were in double minds over an early solution.

The NNPG now says "the goalposts have been changed multiple times" by the NSCN-IM and thus discussions have been moving from issues such as Naga sovereignty, greater Nagalim, out of the box solution, integration of Naga areas in northeast, Pan Naga Hoho, flag and constitution.

In contrast, the NNPG claimed that it would be honest in its dealings.

NSCN-IM leader Thuingaleng Muivah is a Tangkhul Naga and the community has sizable presence in Manipur.

It is in this context, earlier this year, that the NNPG had stated that despite being 'outsiders' or like 'tenants', the NSCN-IM has been trying to decide the fate of Nagas within the state of Nagaland.

In fact, retired IAS officer Khekiye K. Sema also suggested in a newspaper article that the "Nagas of Nagaland have no choice but to take a look back at our history."

He wrote the NSCN (IM) is "spearheading the negotiation with the government and trying to decide the fate of<br>the Nagas of Nagaland without letting us know exactly what our future is going to look like".

On the other hand, the NSCN (I-M) has declared that it would not accept any "toxic divisive policy" to repeat the past blunders.

In the sixties and seventies, accords were signed but the vexed Naga insurgency has continued to thrive and disturb peace and normalcy in Nagaland.

( is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also the author of books 'The Talking Guns: North East India' and 'Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth'. Views expressed are personal)

--IANS<br>arm/