By Nirendra Dev
New Delhi, Dec 6 (IANS): Amid fast progress in peace talks to resolve the decades-old Naga insurgency, all eyes are on the Centre's stance on the demand for a separate state 'Frontier Nagaland' carving out of eastern part of Nagaland.
The meeting between Home Minister Amit Shah and the Eastern Nagaland People's Organisation (ENPO) is likely to be held on Tuesday evening.
Eastern Nagaland, the native home of seven tribes, was included as part of the Nagaland state by way of the 16 Point Agreement inked in 1960.
"The ball is in the Centre's court," says the ENPO, the apex organisation stewarding the demand for separate statehood.
The meeting scheduled earlier on December 3 was deferred as the Union Home Minister was in Gujarat in the wake of the Assembly polls.
The seven tribes -- Konyak, Sangtam, Chang, Phom, Khiamniungan, Yimchungru, Tikhir -- reside in Eastern Nagaland's six administrative districts of Tuensang, Mon, Shamatore, Kiphire, Longleng and Noklak bordering Myanmar.
An 11-member delegation of ENPO leaders accompanied two former MPs Asungba Sangtam and Wangyuh Konyak, are currently in the national capital.
Some of the ENPO leaders are critical of the Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his NDPP-BJP-NPF dispensation in Kohima.
These seven tribes have stayed away from this year's annual tourist extravaganza of Hornbill Festival being hosted in Kohima.
Some community leaders say the gesture could be interpreted as Eastern Nagaland's lack of trust in the Rio government.
On December 3, a few ENPO leaders did not appear much enthusiastic about the state government delegation led by Chief Minister Rio to attend the meeting with Shah.
"Are they also coming? But why?" a source queried.
Another ENPO leader said as far as the people of the Mon-Tuensang region are concerned; only those who back "our demand for statehood" should logically attend the meeting.
Answering questions, the source went on to state" "Unless they are coming to sabotage our demand and a very specific demand of a new state, why will they feel comfortable in the room?"
Tsapikiu Sangtam, president ENPO; Chingmak Chang, president ENSF; Y. Konyak, ENWO representative; and Lemba Chang member of ENPO are also part of the delegation.
When Tuensang and Mon were included in the 1960s to be 'parts of the 16th state of Indian union', that is the present day state of Nagaland, there were a lot of hopes and aspirations for seven tribes from this region.
But the general feeling now is that this region has been failed by main-stream Nagaland.
This view is of course countered by mainstream Naga politicians. One viewpoint is a number of MPs from various parties actually hailed from this region.
The list includes sitting Rajya Sabha MP S. Phangnon Konyak of the BJP. She is also the first woman Rajya Sabha member from Nagaland.
Others were former MPs Chingwang Konyak, Asungba Sangtam, Wangyuh Konyak and the late C.M. Chang.
The ENPO has been stewarding a demand for 'Frontier Nagaland' for the last decade or so.
Surveys in the 1990s had revealed that along the entire belt of Nagaland (encompassing the six districts), runs a rich vein of coal, limestone, nickel, marble, cobalt and magnite.
But most of these have remained untapped due to a plethora of reasons.
A retired IAS officer in the state told IANS: "Blessed with the temperate climate, Nagaland on the whole has remained one of the few green spots, rich in sub tropical diversity and mineral wealth. Yet it has retained the sub-Himalayan climatic characteristics".
Some years ago, students from Eastern Nagaland took the tough plunge and the Eastern Nagaland Students' Federation (ENSF) dissociated themselves from the apex and much influential Naga Students' Federation (NSF).
The grievance was never in its history a Naga from Tuensang-Mon region was allowed to become President of NSF.
The Centre has on the other hand made significant progress in peace talks with NNPG, an umbrella organisation of Naga underground outfits.
The NSCN-IM demand for a separate Flag and Constitution have been rejected by the Centre.
According to Clause 10 (b) of the 16 Point (or Statehood) Agreement, there was a provision for setting up of a Regional Council with elected representatives from all the tribes and the Governor may nominate representatives to the Regional Council.
It was also stated that the "Regional Council will elect members of the Naga Legislative Assembly".
The demand for a separate state comprising Eastern Nagaland had gained momentum at a time when the NSCN-IM was negotiating with the Centre for "unification of all Naga contiguous areas".
Nagas reside in parts of Myanmar and also in other northeastern states such as Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Centre had earlier ruled out possibilities of redrawing the boundaries of these three northeastern states.
The Nagas of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have lately supported the initiatives of the NNPG to resolve the Naga issue with the the Central government through dialogues and discussions.
The Narendra Modi government's stance and decision on Ladakh region vis-a-vis Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 has fueled speculation in some quarters on whether a similar roadmap may be adopted even with regard to Eastern Nagaland.