The apex Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), which held a crucial meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday, expressed satisfaction at the manner the Centre has handled their demand for carving out a separate state out of the 16th state of the Indian Union.
“Hon’ble Union Home Minister highlighted a clear Road-map for amicable, legislative and sustainable solution for Eastern Nagaland. Which will include consultation with the people of Eastern Nagaland and Nagaland State government. Hon’ble Union Home Minister has also assured to visit Eastern Nagaland personally by January 2023; for which, the ENPO eagerly awaits his visit,” the ENPO statement said.
It was given out as a landmark meeting which was later hailed by Eastern Nagaland-based body as “a very successful” one. Mr Shah assured the delegation that time-bound steps would be taken to address the grievances of the far-flung region.
“It is to be stated that the Hon’ble Union Home Minister had appreciated the Eastern Nagaland people for being a part of the nation building thus far, which, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modiji is also aware, he stated. Hon’ble Union Home Minister stated that the grievances and request for separate entity is understood,” the statement from the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) said.
The seven tribes from the region: Konyaks, Sangtams, Changs, Phones, Khiamniungans, Yimchungrus and Tikhirs have stayed away from this year’s annual tourism extravaganza of Hornbill Festival being hosted in the state capital.
Eastern Nagaland comprises six districts – Tuensang, Mon, Shamatore, Longleng, Noklak and Kiphire. Shah held the much-awaited crucial meeting with ENPO leaders in the presence of sitting BJP MP (Rajya Sabha), S Phangnon Konyak and two former MPs, Asungba Sangtam and Wangyuh Konyak. Among others, Home Secretary, Director Intelligence Bureau, Addl. Secretary Home (NE) and A K Mishra, peace emissary in Naga talks, also attended.
Mishra’s presence also makes it amply clear that Home Minister Shah understands the intricacies of the ongoing peace discussions with the NNPG and the NSCN-IM and how all these are interlinked. A delegation of NNPG led by N Kitovi Zhimomi is also expected for crucial talks with Mishra on December 8.
Mishra reportedly has lately adopted a ‘more crystal clear’ stance vis-a-vis his interaction with the stakeholders. The Centre has categorically rejected the demands for a separate Naga flag and Constitution articulated by the NSCN-IM. One key ENPO source on December 2 steadfastly opposed the presence of any minister or Chief Minister Rio (for the December 3 meeting), saying no third-party company was required unless “they do not want to sabotage things”.
Rio’s cabinet has ministers from Eastern Nagaland. The pressure will mount on 20 elected legislators from the region to quit the NDPP-BJP-NPF ministry. Surveys in the 1990s had revealed that along the entire eastern belt of Nagaland (encompassing the six districts) runs a rich vein of coal, limestone, nickel, marble, cobalt and magnite. But most of these have yet to be tapped for many reasons.
The people from the region have grievances about not being appropriately treated by mainstream Nagaland. The charge is, however, denied by mainstream politicians. Tuensang-Mon region had joined Nagaland state in the 1960s when the 16 Point Agreement was inked between Naga public leaders under the Naga People’s Convention (NPC) and the Government of India. No leader from the region could become Chief Minister, while Chongshen Chang (from Tuensang district) became deputy Chief Minister in 1990 under the ministry headed by K L Chishi.
Sources said it was indicated at Tuesday’s (December 6) meeting that by December 15, 2022, the Home Ministry would set up a special committee. It will be assigned to visit Eastern Nagaland for a spot review of the demand and grievances, probably in the presence of Nagaland state government representatives.
The general feeling in Eastern Nagaland is that mainstream Nagaland has failed this region. This view is, of course, countered by mainstream Naga politicians. One viewpoint is several MPs from various parties hailed from this region.
The list includes sitting Rajya Sabha MP S. Phangnon Konyak of the BJP. She is also the first woman from Rajya Sabha from Nagaland. Others were former MPs Chingwang Konyak, Asungba Sangtam, Wangyuh Konyak and Late CM Chang. The Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) has been stewarding a demand for Frontier Nagaland for the last decade. The influential Eastern Nagaland Students Federation (ENSF) quit the apex Naga Students Federation (NSF) a few years back.