No bargain on political, territorial rights of Nagas: NSCN (IM)

Kohima/Itanagar, March 7 (IANS) The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) Sunday said it would not ‘compromise the political and territorial rights of the Nagas’ and welcomed the central government’s ‘bold step’ to resume dialogue.

‘The political and territorial rights of the Nagas would not be compromised under any circumstances. We appreciate the union government for (promising to meet) future challenges through a serious political dialogue and admitting past mistakes,’ NSCN-IM steering committee convenor V.S. Atem said in a statement.

‘NSCN-IM welcomed the bold step taken by the centre to resume dialogue with Nagas and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for extending invitation to its leaders,’ he said.

A five-member delegation of the Isak-Muivah faction of NSCN-IM led by its general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah met Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram last week.

The statement said the NSCN-IM upholds the inalienable sovereign rights of the Naga people and would negotiate in the spirit of mutual respect.

The NSCN-IM, one of the oldest and most powerful of about 30 rebel groups in India’s northeast, earlier fought for an independent Naga homeland.

It has scaled down the demand to a Greater Nagaland, proposed to be formed by merging Naga populated areas of the adjoining states.

Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have rejected the demand. The NSCN-IM entered into a ceasefire with New Delhi in August 1997.

The last round of inconclusive peace talks between the government and the Naga outfit was held in March 2009 in Zurich.

Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh Home Minister Tako Dabi reiterated that his government would not spare ‘even an inch of land’ for Greater Nagalim, and would oppose any such move ‘tooth and nail’.

‘We expect a permanent solution on the Naga issue through the peace parleys between centre and NSCN-IM so that the entire northeast region could get a huge relief from the decades-old stalemate,’ Tako Dabi told reporters in Itanagar Saturday.

‘Talks with NSCN-IM should progress without touching Arunachal Pradesh and we would not part with even an inch of our territory at any cost,’ the minister said.

Meanwhile, thousands of Naga and non-Naga people have organised mass rallies in recent days in neighbouring Manipur and Nagaland demanding an early solution to the Naga dispute.

The rallies, held separately in the two states, were organised by the United Naga Council, a socio-cultural Naga body, and other organisations.

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