Dimapur: There is no need to take permission from Indians as we are the master of ourselves; so, the problem is not with us but with them (Centre), said Thuingaleng Muivah, the octagenarian leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)-IM in an exclusive interview with EastMojo.
If they are not going to respect our unique history and our rights, they will be responsible for it, he added.
This seems to be a bold statement coming from the 85-year-old man, who has been leading a 22-year-long struggle for a sovereign Nagaland, especially at a time when the Naga peace talks with the Union government is reaching a decisive phase.
When the BJP-led government at the Centre insists that there cannot be two flags and two constitutions in one country, the ‘ato kilonser’ [prime minister] of one of the largest separatist groups from the Northeast, told EastMojo at Camp Hebron, almost 35 km from Dimapur, said, “We have every right of having our own constitution, we have the every right to have our own national flag, we cannot ask for permission from Indians as we are the master of ourselves.”
Following are edited excerpts from the exclusive interview with EastMojo:
For the past 22 years of the Indo-Naga peace talks, we believe that all substantive issues are set to be resolved, except the question of a separate flag and a separate constitution. Why is that?
Some questions are there, but these two are our prime demands. We are claiming for our own constitution and our own national flag by virtue of our position. In a democracy, sovereignty that belongs to the people and our sovereignty, the Naga sovereignty belongs to the Naga people. We were never under the Indians neither anyone else, our sovereignty lies with us. We have every right of having our own constitution, we have the every right to have our own national flag. We cannot ask for permission from Indians as we are the master of ourselves. So, by the virtue of our sovereign rights we can have anything that we deserve so that we can be identified.
During the historic signing of the Framework Agreement in 2015, based on the unique history of the Nagas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured that he will look for resolving the issue within his first 18 months’ time. But till now, it still seems that nothing is done so far. So what could be the delay towards the solution?
Well, from our sides, there is and there will be no problem. We are not demanding anything that is not our own, ours is ours in default by our sovereign rights. So the problem is not with us but with them. If they are not going to respect our unique history and our rights, they will be responsible for it. However, yes, on our part we will definitely respect their national flag and their constitution also.
And in order to have a peaceful co-existence of the two entities, we need to have our own identities and they need to have their own identity.
We will respect their identities and let them also do the same, if they recognise our sovereignty and constitution, then things will be alright, so the problem is not with us.
During the signing of the Framework Agreement in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the agreement is the signing example of respect, confidence as well as equality. So does the ongoing talks still based on these principles?
His commitment or his comment on the issue is impressing and yes, things are not going right but what to do. Only recently, they have started entertaining this kind of new issues into the framework agreement. The framework agreement was signed at the first and all Nagas have to go in the interlocutor, that is the ultimatum. It was really surprising to the Nagas after having a history of going through talks for so many years and now, they say they will not entertain this. Don’t we have the right to have our own national identities like flag and constitution? So the problem is not with us, the problem is with them, when he is the Prime Minister he can control it. So if they want a solution respecting each other there will be no restraints in the way.
If in case the Union government of India agrees to provide the Nagas with the things they want, what can the Nagas give the Indians in return? Similarly what Indian government give to the Naga people?
If they are positive, we will also respect them. Let them have their own constitution and their own national flag but those things should not be a matter of imposition on us.
If the ongoing peace talks happen to be similar to the Shillong Accord of 1975, what will be the alternate ways to avoid bloodshed and violence?
There will be only one choice left with the Nagas and it will be that Nagas will have to stand around till the end. Let them have their own rights but if they try to force them upon us without respecting the rights of Nagas and without respecting the owner of this land then extremely sorry, we will never come to them with our history and our tribe in surrendering to them, what is ours is ours.