'Chief Minister Rio is holding the Naga Peace Accord hostage with his tacit support to the NSCN-IM, egging them to refuse to accept a solution within the Constitution.'
Kewekhape Therie, who heads the Congress party's Nagaland unit, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com why he has sought Nagaland Governor Jagdish Mukhi's intervention to dismiss the Neiphiu Rio government in Kohima.
The Nagaland government consists of the National Democratic Progressive Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, two Independent MLAs and the Opposition Naga People's Front, which became part of the Rio government in July 2021, making the Nagaland assembly Opposition-free.
Why is the Congress in Nagaland demanding the dismissal of the Neiphiu Rio-led United Democratic Alliance government? How will the state gain from his government's dismissal?
Neiphiu Rio has become an obstacle to a political solution to the Naga issue in the state. He is hand-in-glove with the NSCN-IM. His administration and police are protecting them (the NSCN-IM).
That is the reason the NSCN-IM is not keen to come to the negotiating table for a final solution and is taking advantage of the vague language used in the Framework Agreement (signed between the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland [Isak Muivah faction] -- the most dominant group of Naga rebels).
Once his government is dismissed, then only the Government of India will be able to negotiate with the NSCN-IM and a permanent settlement will be possible that fulfills the aspirations of the Naga people and accords them respect.
Isn't the BJP supporting Mr Rio's UDA in Nagaland?
Yes, but now the BJP government at the Centre will understand that the main obstacle to the 90-year-old issue of the Naga people is this man (Rio) and a settlement will be possible only after his government is dismissed.
Why are you blaming only the chief minister for the imbroglio over the NSCN-IM not wanting to give up its claims for a separate constitution and flag?
Because he (Rio) is not standing with the people of Nagaland. The tribals in the state, civil society and all the political parties want a political solution. He doesn't want a solution because if a settlement is ensured he will lose his power and influence.
How does Mr Rio benefit from not ensuring a political settlement of the issue?
Because these people (the NSCN-IM)) continue to support Rio with money power during elections and help him get elected.
You have charged the chief minister of being hand-in-glove with the NSCN-IM. Do you have any evidence to prove your charge?
He has himself admitted in the Nagaland assembly that when he was home minister he lost 156 AK-47 rifles and 44,500 pieces of ammunition. Nobody knows if these arms and ammunition were stolen or if he himself gave it to the NCSN-IM.
The enquiry is pending with the National Investigation Agency (NIA). They have just registered a case. There are no proceedings happening in this case now.
He (Rio) is arm-twisting the NIA and the central government that any further action in this case will derail the peace process with the Naga rebels.
Will the core committee's approach seeking Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's help to negotiate with the Naga rebels help bring about a solution?
There is no reason the state of Nagaland should have ceded its power to Assam's chief minister. The people of Nagaland are strong and mature enough to find a lasting solution to our problems with the involvement of our own people.
Rio is seeking Sarma's help because he needs to be in Sarma's good books as the latter has solid influence over the BJP's central leadership.
By keeping Sarma in good humour, Rio feels that he can continue ruling the state forever. Sarma, Rio feels, will safeguard his position in Nagaland.
We can always seek the central government's involvement, but seeking the help of a chief minister of another state to solve the internal conflicts of Nagaland is quite bizarre.
Sarma has no position or influence to meddle in our internal affairs and even if he does come up with a solution, it will not be acceptable to the Naga people.
You have charged the central government with having a secret understanding with the NSCN-IM.
When they (the central government and the NSCN-IM) signed the Framework Agreement, Prime Minister Modi made a grand announcement that the NSCN-IM has joined the mainstream with the signing of the Framework Agreement (in 2015).
It meant that the NSCN-IM accepted the supremacy of the Indian Constitution and agreed to abide by it, which meant the NSCN-IM agreed to any settlement to the Naga problem within the Union of India.
But now they (the NSCN-IM) have backed out of this agreement and are demanding a separate constitution, flag and sovereignty. This was not part of the Framework Agreement.
Then why did the prime minister announce that they (the NSCN-IM) have agreed to join the mainstream? Is the prime minister lying to us (the people of India), or, is the NSCN-IM lying to us?
What is your solution to solving the Naga problem?
Once the Rio government is dismissed and renegotiation (with the NSCN-IM) takes place under President's Rule, automatically these people (the NSCN-IM) will agree to something within the Constitution of India.
Rio is the only man holding the Naga Peace Accord hostage with his tacit support to the NSCN -IM, egging them to refuse to accept a solution within the Constitution of India.
That is why I am demanding his ouster and renegotiation with the Naga rebels.