Amidst uncertainty among some quarters on the future of Naga peace talks, Nagaland Chief Minister Nephiu Rio on Tuesday showed an unprecedented 'clarity' on focus and laying down the priority.

".....the Central Government and the Naga nationalist groups have informed the State Government about its willingness to bring about lasting peace in the state," the Chief Minister said.

"I want a solution because that will bring a new hope for the youth, the students and for the future," he remarked in a rather unambiguous manner.

The remarks from the Nagaland Chief Minister came at a critical juncture when the Centre is moving ahead persuasively to arrive at a stage when it can ink the 'Final Peace Pact' with multiple Naga groups.

Chief Minister Rio was "specifically" instructed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah to pursue NSCN (IM) to come on board as the militant group had raised the bogey of separate Flag and Constitution since 2019.

The peace talks are aimed to end the decades-old insurgency in the tough terrains of the wilderness of northeast that started in 1997 when I.K. Gujral was the Prime Minister.

Raising of separate Flag and Constitution was seen as a major hurdle from NSCN (IM) even as NNPGs(umbrella organisation of seven groups) is more than keen to ink the 'Final Peace Pact' at the earliest.

Addressing the inaugural session of the Platinum Jubilee celebration of Chakhesang Students' Union (CSU) held in Phek town - 122 km from state capital Kohima - on Tuesday, the Chief Minister made the crucial statement.

Expounding on political settlement, Rio said, "There is so much injustice in Naga society that there is a need to 'rearrange the whole state' and also change the mindset of the people to become a better society and survive as a people."

The Centre is willing to grant additional seats in the Assembly and Parliament to resolve the decades-old Naga political issue, he said.

At present Nagaland has a 60 member state Assembly and two Member of Parliament - one each in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

The Naga peace talks have been put on fast track lately and the Centre has also reached out to NNPG leaders.

The competencies being finalised between the Central government and Naga groups seek to ensure setting up of a Legislative Council.

On the similar vein, there are moves to increase the number of members in the Lok Sabha to two and in the Rajya Sabha to two-three.

There is also a need to take steps to 'open windows for new opportunities' in Nagaland and other parts of the northeast to garner greater corporate investment, sources said.

Some clauses in the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act and certain provisions of Article 371 (A) "may be" looked into to encourage higher corporate investment and greater involvement of Nagaland and other northeastern states in implementing the Act East policy.

This has become all the more important to achieve 'expected results' vis-a-vis economic development and success of the government's Act East Policy and India's growing ties with South East Asian countries and members of ASEAN.

At present, states like Mizoram, Nagaland has only one member each in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Other states in the region like Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have two members in the Lok Sabha.

During the debate on Kashmir in the Lok Sabha in August 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that there will be "no dilution" to the essential spirit of the Article 371 (A) for Nagaland.

Efforts are on to take the states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh on board. These states have a substantial Naga population.

Chief Minister Rio also said that Nagaland will soon enter into the election year as the state will go to polls by Feb-March 2023.

"While many candidates are working hard and developing their prospects for the elections and the general public are also looking towards the election period as festival, I am looking forward to a solution to the protracted Naga political issue because unless a solution is arrived at, there is no perfect peace in our land and no peace of mind," Rio said.

Nagaland Chief Minister Rio, who belongs to NDPP, has been requested by Naga People's

Front to campaign for the Assembly elections in Manipur. The NPF is contesting 10 seats in Manipur.

Two important BJP leaders Nalin Kohli, party in charge for Nagaland, and Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju visited the state recently and held crucial meetings with important stakeholders.

Both the leaders separately were briefed by state BJP leaders about the latest political situations. An important line told to the Central leaders has been the BJP's 2018 slogan - 'Election for Solution'.

"If we fail to deliver a solution, our party will face tough times during elections in 2023", was the general refrain.

The BJP's then party general secretary and in charge of Nagaland, Ram Madhav, had coined that slogan in 2018 as response to persistent demand by various Naga groups and militant organizations that no election should be held in the state if no solution is arrived at.

Contesting only 20 seats, the BJP's strike rate was the best as it could win 12 seats.

It is understood Union Law Minister and a lawmaker from Arunachal Pradesh, Kiren Rijiju's visit to the state was quite significant.

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books,

'The Talking Guns: North East India' and 'Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth')

Source : IANS

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