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A Tribune Special
Al-Qaida connection spells danger in North-East
Swati Chaturvedi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 11
The government’s stonewalling has put the seven-year-old Naga ceasefire in jeopardy.

Top-level sources told The Tribune that it is time the government paid attention to the political demands of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-I/M) otherwise the situation may reach the boiling point.

Some pointers to the gravity of the situation are the fact that for the first time during the last round of negotiations in Amsterdam between the NSCN and the government’s interlocutor a clearly frustrated T.H. Muivah is said to have threatened that the government would only pay heed to their demands if bombs exploded in New Delhi. That this is not an idle threat is borne out by the 5,000 motivated and trained NSCN cadres operating in the North-East.

Says a top government official: “With nearly 75 per cent of the Army pre-occupied in Jammu and Kashmir, can we afford to open another front in the North-East? The government has become complacent and forgotten the fact that the negotiations were started only after a comprehensive threat assessment exercise was carried out and the NSCN was found to be a grave threat.”

The NSCN’s links with China, which have been dormant for several years, are also a cause for considerable concern. Intelligence reports made available to The Tribune indicate that with the growing presence of Al-Qaida activists in Bangladesh, a possible tie-up between them and the NSCN cannot bode well for the future.

So, should concessions be made to the NSCN just on its ability to wreck the peace on the ground? No, the truth, say analysts, is somewhat different. The NSCN’s demands are two-pronged.

At the beginning of the dialogue process Issac Chisi Swu and Muivah, the founders of the NSCN, had insisted that negotiations be held in a third country with implicit implications on the issue of sovereignty. The government conceded this and a series of negotiations were held but no real concessions were made.

Even the NSCN demand for “Greater Nagaland”, which is anathema to the government, is not as unreasonable as it is made out to be.

Consider this, the NSCN wants the integration of contiguous Naga areas. Just in Manipur, Ukrul, Tamenlong and Senapati the Naga population is 83 per cent, 76 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.

The Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh has a population that is 83 per cent Naga.

The Left’s commitment to the Common Minimum Programme of ensuring territorial integrity of the North-East has really upset the NSCN, specially since the same government is prepared to carve out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh and Vidharba from Maharashtra.

The government has in the past created two states based on ethnicity: Nagaland, which is the land of the Nagas, and Mizoram, which is the abode of the Mizos.

What language is to the areas of the heartland, ethnicity is to the North-East. Apart from the tribes of Assam and the Indo-Tibetan tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, the major tribes in the North-East are the Nagas, the Meities and the Mizo Chin Kukis. Naga insurgency is not the only problem, and from time to time other tribes have also raised the banner of revolt.

If the government cannot concede “Greater Nagaland”, then at least a commission should be set up to study the vexed question of reorganisation. The general belief that the reorganisation of the North-East took place in 1972 is a fallacy. The only reorganisation that took place was the creation of Meghlaya. Otherwise Nagaland was already created in 1963. Manipur and Tripura were princely states and there was no change in their territory. There was also no change in the North-East Frontier Area (NEFA) except for its nomenclature.

NSCN leaders say all that the government wants is a holding operation and with the ceasefire being extended, it is not interested in sincere negotiations. Officials concede that the government’s brief is not to make concessions. This is obviously not a recipe for success.
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