By Nirendra Dev
New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS): In a landmark development which was hailed by an apex Eastern Nagaland-based body as "a very successful" meeting, Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured the delegation that time-bound steps will be taken to address the grievances of the far-flung region.
"It is to be stated that the Union Home Minister had appreciated the Eastern Nagaland people for being a part of the nation building thus far, which, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also aware, he stated. The Union Home Minister said that the grievances and request for a separate entity is understood," a statement from the Eastern Nagaland People's Organisation (ENPO) said.
Eastern Nagaland, the native home of the Konyaks, Sangtams, Changs, Phoms, Khiamniungans, Yimchungrus tribes, was included as part of the Nagaland state by way of the 16 Point Agreement inked in 1960.
At present, the region has six districts -- Tuensang, Mon, Shamatore, Longleng, Noklak and Kiphire.
The ENPO is stewarding the movement for the creation of Frontier Nagaland as a separate state.
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 Tuesday, Shah held the much-awaited crucial meeting with the ENPO leaders in presence of sitting BJP MP S Phangnon Konyak and two former MPs -- Asungba Sangtam and Wangyuh Konyak.
He assured of taking multi-pronged time bound strategies to address the people's grievances.
"The 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 the Nagaland state government. Shah also assured to visit Eastern Nagaland personally by January 2023; for which, the ENPO eagerly awaits his visit," the ENPO statement said.
Sources said Shah is likely to visit Eastern Nagaland for in January 2023.
Among others, Home Secretary, Director Intelligence Bureau, Additional Secretary Home (NE) and A.K. Mishra, the peace emissary in the Naga talks, also attended the meeting.
Mishra's presence also makes it amply clear that the MHA and Home Minister Shah himself understand very well the intricacies of the ongoing peace parleys with the NNPG and the NSCN-IM and how all these are inter-linked.
A delegation of NNPG led by N Kitovi Zhimomi is also expected for crucial rounds of discussions with Mishra later this week.
Mishra reportedly has lately adopted '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 as articulated by the NSCN-IM and especially its aging leader Thuingaleng Muivah.
The absence of any state government representative on Dec 6 (Tuesday's) meeting despite the hoopla created by a section of NDPP and ministers when a delegation including Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had air-dashed to Delhi on December 3 show a different story.
One key ENPO source on December 2 itself steadfastly opposed the presence of any minister or Chief Minister Rio for the meeting, saying no third party presence was required unless "they do not want to sabotage things".
Rio's cabinet has ministers from Eastern Nagaland and they are also from the BJP. Now pressure will mount on 20 elected legislators 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 and cobalt.
But most of these have remained untapped due to a plethora of reasons.
The people from the region have grievances of being not treated properly by the mainstream Nagaland.
The charge is, however, denied by the mainstream politicians.
Tuensang-Mon region had joined Nagaland state since the 1960s when the 16 Point Agreement was inked between Naga public leaders under the banner of 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) had become deputy Chief Minister in 1990 under the ministry headed by K.L. Chishi.
Sources said it was indicated at Tuesday's meeting that by December 15, the Home Ministry will set up a special committee.
It will be assigned to visit Eastern Nagaland for on the spot review of the demand and grievances probably in the presence of Nagaland state government representatives.