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Hopes of early resolution of Naga peace talks: Rio

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AONGLENDEN (NAGALAND), Feb 22 (PTI): Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Wednesday said that there was a “hope” for an early resolution of the Naga political problem following the unconditional commitment of the NSCN-IM and Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) to collaborate on the matter.

The concerns of the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), which has been demanding a separate state, will also be addressed after the assembly elections are over, the chief minister said.

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“We have been working on it for all these years. The Framework Agreement was signed in 2015 and then, in 2017 Agreed Position was signed,” Rio told PTI about the progress in resolving the deadlock over the Naga peace talks.

To find a solution to the decades-old problem, the Central government has been holding separate negotiations with NSCN-IM since 1997 and the Working Committee of NNPG, comprising at least seven groups, since 2017.

The Modi government inked a Framework Agreement with NSCN-IM in 2015 and Agreed Position with NNPGs in 2017.

However, the final solution is yet to be attained with NSCN-IM remaining adamant on its demand for a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas.

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Rio pointed out that the different groups “were not being able to come together”, which was holding back the progress.

But with the January 14 agreement, based on historical rights and to uphold and protect the identity of the Nagas, there is hope for a solution to come, the CM added.

The NSCN-IM and the NNPGs had on January 14 this year declared their unconditional commitment to collaborate for the resolution of the Naga political issue with the Government of India.

The declaration came after four months of signing the September Joint Accordant between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the NNPGs which have been engaged in separate dialogue with the Centre for a solution to the Naga Political Issue (NPI).

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The NDPP leader, who is fighting the state polls in alliance with BJP to retain power, said the issues of the eastern districts of the state will also be addressed post-elections.

Refusing to “predict or comment” on the possibility of bifurcation of the state in keeping with the original demand of the ENPO, Rio said, “They definitely deserve support from the state government for addressing deficiencies in developmental activities, literacy rates, economic backwardness.

“We will give them full support to bringing them at par with the rest of the state in terms of equal development,” the veteran Naga leader said.

He also mentioned the Union Home Minister Amit Shah holding discussions with the ENPO leadership and said, “Amit Shah ji had spoken to them, explained the situation and also given them the options of what is possible.

“With that, they were convinced and they also called off the election boycott and a peaceful election will be conducted,” he said, referring to the ENPO’s initial call for boycotting the polls.

The ENPO has been demanding separate statehood for “Frontier Nagaland”, comprising six districts of Mon, Tuensang, Longleng, Kiphire, Shamatore and Noklak, which sends 20 MLAs to the state Assembly.

Rio also sounded optimistic about retaining power with a “thumping majority” and forming the government again.

On his NDPP being made the “major partner” in terms of seat sharing, he said it was done by the BJP high command out of respect for the Nagas. The NDPP is contesting in 40 seats, while the BJP has fielded candidates in 20 seats.

“It is an arrangement by the BJP high command out of respect for Nagas and for being a Christian-dominated state. We are grateful to them for it,” Rio added.

Rio was here to address an election rally for NDPP candidate Sharingain Longkumer from Aonglenden constituency in Mokokchung district.

Election for the 60-member state Assembly will be held on February 27 and the counting of votes will be taken up on March 2.

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