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In Search of a Lasting Peace

Is the oldest separatist militancy in the country coming to an end?

That was the question on everyone's minds when leaders of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim called on Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani in January.

After years of persuasion, Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, chairman and general secretary respectively, of the NSCN-IM ended their 35-year exile and agreed to talks on Indian soil. The initial signals from the Naga delegation were positive. "We praise the wisdom of the Government of India. There is a lot better understanding on its part," Muivah said.

There is optimism in New Delhi. But apprehensions remain among Nagaland's neighbours in the Northeast about how far the Centre will go to accommodate the NSCN-IM's demand for a greater Nagaland, including parts of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Swu's statement that "there is just one Nagaland, no big or small Nagaland," did not ease these fears.

Even in Nagaland, people like former chief minister S C Jamir see no point in reaching an agreement with only the NSCN-IM. "The truth is the NSCN-IM alone does not represent the Naga people," Jamir said. "There can't be a permanent solution unless all sections, including all militant factions and different communities are directly involved."

If the Naga peace talks are taken forward substantially, many secessionist outfits in the Northeast may fall in line. A fresh round of talks between the NSCN-IM leaders and K Padmanabhaiah, the Centre's interlocutor, is scheduled to be held soon.

Text: G Vinayak

Isak Chisi Swu (second from left) and Th Muivah (second from right) pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

Complete coverage: The Ceasefire in Nagaland

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