KOHIMA, Sept 28 (IANS): Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is "serious" and is looking at time-bound steps for an early resolution of the decades-old separatist problem in Nagaland, Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang said Saturday.
"Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and Home Minister (Rajnath Singh) have told us that the government has decided to adopt time-bound discussion to resolve the six-decade-old separatist Naga movement," Zeliang told IANS in an exclusive interview here.
The centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) entered into a ceasefire agreement in August 1997. More than 50 rounds of talks have been held to end the insurgency that is said to have claimed 25,000 lives since 1947.
"I feel that the present government in New Delhi is serious and the new interlocutor R.N. Ravi is also serious about solution to the Naga political problem. The government has also invited the NSCN (IM) leader to New Delhi to resume talks and I am told they will be leaving soon. Therefore, we have high hopes that this problem can be addressed by the new government," said Zeliang, who was once a Rajya Sabha member.
However, Zeliang refused to reveal the formula for a lasting solution to the six-decade-old separatist movement in the state.
"We (the Nagaland government) are not participating in the talks, we are only facilitators.... If the central government comes out with an offer, we will also play our role," said Zeliang, who has been elected to the 60-member Nagaland assembly for five consecutive terms.
"If that formula is acceptable to the people, all the separatist rebel factions should also agree. If it is not acceptable to the people, we cannot say anything. But if the offer given by the Indian government is acceptable to the people, we will also be a good facilitator," he said.
Asked for his response to the feeling among many Naga intellectuals and others that talks with the NSCN (IM) will not ensure lasting peace since other groups like the Naga National Council (which started the Naga secessionist movement) are not part of peace process, Zeliang said: "If the outcome of the talks is acceptable to the people, everybody should agree. But if the outcome is not acceptable to the people, nobody will agree."
"But the Central government has taken note of the unique history of the Nagas. So their offer will be also genuine, which should be acceptable to the people....If the people agree, other factions also should agree," he said.
The NSCN (IM) has been fighting for an independent Nagaland for over six decades. But since the peace talks began, it has scaled down the demand to a "Greater Nagaland," including parts of three neighbouring States to unite areas inhabited by around 1.5 million Nagas.
Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have opposed the demand.
"Today, people think more about economic sovereignty. We should be self-sufficient. We should produce more than what we require, so that we can also export our products. So, that is the main focus of the people," Zeliang stated.
"The Nagaland assembly has passed four resolutions that all Naga inhabited areas should be integrated. But all depends on the talks, the outcome of the talks," the chief minister added.