North-Eastern states put on high alert as Naga talks enter last leg

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Nagaland and Manipur have been put on high alert ahead of the final round of talks between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M), the outcome of which officials fear could displease some groups while placating others.

Nagaland DGP T John Longkumer said on Friday that the run-up to the “signing of the Naga peace accord”, a denouement in waiting for six decades, might be the most difficult one yet to manage. He said seven reserve battalions of the armed police were on standby with rations and fuel to last at least two months.

In Ukhrul district of Manipur, the birthplace of NSCN (I-M) general secretary Th Muivah, the administration has asked the civil supplies department to stock up on essential commodities in anticipation of disruptions in supply should there be a backlash.

In Manipur, home to the largest Naga population outside of Nagaland, the police administration has cancelled even sanctioned leave of all personnel posted in Imphal West district. The NSCN (I-M)’s primary demand is “integration” of all Naga-inhabited areas of the region, something Manipur has staunchly opposed all these years.

On why Nagaland was bracing for uncertainty at the goalmouth after chasing a peace deal for so long, Longkumer said, “This is because some groups might agree (to the deal) and some may not”.

Various civil society organisations and students’ unions have already expressed their displeasure at being left out of the talks. The influential Naga Students’ Federation submitted a memorandum to PM Modi on Wednesday, demanding that the “unique Naga identity be recognised through the Naga national flag”.

The last round of discussions between the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre in New Delhi failed to break the deadlock over the outfit’s demand for a separate flag and constitution. But both sides agreed to meet for a second time.

Sources said the previous meeting was more about ironing out the creases before the final talks than an attempt to arrive at an agreement. PM Modi’s has set October 31 as the deadline for interlocutor and Nagaland governor R N Ravi to seal a peace deal.

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