Thuingaleng Muivah (82), general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), which signed a framework agreement with the government last year, told The Hindu that the outfit had not given up its demand for sovereignty.

Mr. Muivah also said that a separate flag and passport for Nagas was not just a “demand” but a right as the “Nagas were never under Indian rule.”

“No, no. The understanding on shared sovereignty has been arrived [at] because the uniqueness of Naga history is recognised. We are not giving up on the demand of sovereignty,” Mr. Muivah said in a rare interview since the signing of the agreement, and perhaps the first after the death of NSCN (I-M) chairman Isak Chishi Swu.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had told  last year that the NSCN (I-M) had given up its demand for sovereignty and the rebel outfit wants “a solution within the Constitution of India.”

‘Talks will succeed’

Mr. Muivah said the talks this time would succeed as the government was positive. “We are confident because this time there is positivism from the Government of India.”

Mr. Muivah, a Naga from Manipur who was associated with Mr. Swu for the past 52 years, dismissed the possibility of the talks running into trouble because of Mr. Swu’s death.

“Well, there is no point in delaying the talks. The Nagas were kept divided, not by the Nagas but by external forces. But now things are clear. Indians are bound to accept the demand of the Nagas.”

On a separate flag and passport, Mr. Muivah said: “Well, it is actually not a demand. Why? The Nagas were never part of the Indian union by consent of the Naga people. That is why the Nagas will have the right to decide their role as we were never under Indian rule. We were ruled by ourselves, that is why theNagas will have a right to rule themselves. This has been recognised by the Indian side.”

He said the framework agreement would have to be kept a secret to “save the course of the talks.”

“Time will come [when it will be shared with the public]. It is a secret because until a complete settlement is done, some secrecy will have to be maintained,” he said.

Mr. Muivah signed the framework agreement on behalf of the Naga outfit with interlocutor R.N. Ravi in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Naga outfits envisage a “Greater Nagalim” comprising the contiguous Naga-inhabited parts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Myanmar with Nagaland.

On August 3, 2015, at a much-publicised ceremony at the PM’s residence, Mr. Ravi claimed to have signed a “peace accord” with Mr. Muivah to find a final solution for the Naga issue.

Following the signing of the agreement, earlier referred to by the government as a “peace accord,” the Chief Ministers of Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh, which have a sizeable Naga population, said they were not consulted by the Centre on the issue. Congress president Sonia Gandhi charged the government with being arrogant in not consulting them.

The Centre is yet to release the terms of the framework agreement.

The government signed the agreement with NSCN-IM as it was the largest group representing the Nagas.

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