Isak Chishi Swu
Agartala, May 28 : Nagaland is likely to go the Mizoram way, 17 years after peace talks began with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) in 1997.
As part of the formula, NSCN (Isak-Muivah) chairman Isak Chishi Swu — and not general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah — will become the chief minister of Nagaland, taking along some of his close followers in the council of ministers, and will face fresh elections within six months.
A senior Intelligence Bureau (IB) official said the proposal by central interlocutors was being fine-tuned after which it would be submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh.
“All this is in an embryonic stage and the formula will have to be approved by the new political dispensation in which Neiphiu Rio will play an important role,” he added.
Rio, who resigned as the chief minister of Nagaland in the second year of his third term in office, has already been elected to the Lok Sabha. He is likely to be included in the Union council of ministers in the next reshuffle of the NDA government. It is believed that his chosen successor T.R. Zeliang will resign to pave the way for assumption of power by the NSCN (I-M) leaders.
The official said Rio, an influential Angami Naga leader, had all along been a votary of peaceful settlement to Nagaland’s insurgency problem. He had been upset with former chief minister S.C. Jamir’s attempts at scuttling the peace talks and had also resigned from the Congress in 2002. He floated the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and with other regional parties and the BJP, formed the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, which won Assembly elections thrice in 2003, 2008 and 2013. Before the 2013 Assembly elections, Rio had said all 60 members of the Nagaland Assembly had offered to quit to pave the way for a settlement.
“He resigned as chief minister and contested the Lok Sabha polls only to help the process of peace,” the official said.
He said the tripartite Mizoram Peace Accord was signed by then Union home secretary R.D. Pradhan, late Mizo National Front (MNF) leader Laldenga and then Mizoram chief secretary Lalkhama on June 30, 1986. Following the accord and as per a tacit understanding, Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla, who headed a Congress government, resigned, paving the way for assumption of power by Laldenga and his colleagues, who were required to face Assembly polls within six months. Laldenga won the Assembly polls held in February 1987. That had put an end to the two-decade-old insurgency in Mizoram and peace still prevails in the state.
“The Mizoram Peace Accord formula is now being thought of as the most effective solution, specially in view of NSCN bosses Swu and Muivah’s adamant stand on Nagalim, which will set a larger part of the Northeast, specially Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, on fire. They are being persuaded to scale down their demand for Nagalim (greater Nagaland) by incorporating the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,” the official said.
He pointed out that making Swu the chief minister would be easy because he belongs to Sema group, a mainstream Naga clan predominant in Zunheboto district of Nagaland. Besides, Swu had led more than 300 Naga nationalist guerrillas on a hardy trek to Chin as “political officer” in 1969 with commander Mou Angami.
“Muivah has a similar halo as he had led the first large group of Naga guerrillas as political officer along with commander Thino Selie to China in 1966. He was accorded the status of ambassador of a friendly country by the government of China,” the official said. But, he pointed out, Muivah hails from the peripheral Tangkhul Naga community of Manipur and his elevation to the post of chief minister in Nagaland might not be acceptable to all.
However, the main worry of the government interlocutors and the NSCN top brass is keeping the dissident NSCN factions, led by S.S. Khaplang and Khole-Kitovi, on board before making a final announcement and a serious effort is continuing in this direction.