Nagas should unite to oppose Free Movement Regime along India-Myanmar border, says Niki Sumi
DIMAPUR — President of the NSCN/GPRN, ‘Gen.’ (Retired) Niki Sumi, called upon the Naga community to unite in deciding the future of the Free Movement Regime (FMR), emphasising that a united Naga front can make a substantial impact on the fate of the FMR.
Interacting with media persons at the Cease-Fire Supervisory Board (CFSB) office in Padumpukhuri on Tuesday, Sumi said that the FMR issue is not new as it was brought up during the time of SS Khaplang.
Claiming that Nagas in general did not raise any objection, Sumi said only the Khiamniungan community and a few others opposed the removal of the FMR and wrote a memorandum to the Central government.
He also clarified that the NSCK then had categorically stated that it would not compromise on border issues.
Stating that while Nagas are currently alarmed by the FMR issue, Sumi was of the view that there should not be any doubt, as Nagas are sovereign and lived freely on both sides, even before Myanmar and India gained independence.
According to the NSCN/GPRN president, the justification that border fencing would reduce illegal drug trafficking from Myanmar into India was “a lame reason and excuse,” because drugs worth more than what comes in from Myanmar enter through Afghanistan. There are other ways of eradicating drug usage in the country, he contended.
Even If the FMR is scrapped, Sumi said the Naga people should have courage and unite. He challenged the Naga people to be practical as there is no need to ask anyone for permission since it is not a political party or faction issue but a “Naga issue.”
In this context, he said that if the Indian government underestimates the Naga people, the Nagas should follow up practically, leave aside individual interests and unite to oppose the scrapping of FMR.
Responding to queries on whether the FMR issue would divert the peace talks, Sumi was of the view that the Naga peace talks are not related to the FMR issue, and opined that India must have planned for scrapping the FMR ‘way ahead.’
He said that in 1950, people from Myanmar could travel 40 kilometres inside India and stay for 72 hours, whereas Indians could travel the same distance but only for 24 hours without any visa.
In 1968, the FMR was reduced to 16 km, he said adding that GoI planned to fence the border even way back in 2018.
However, ‘it is impossible to divide the land without the knowledge of the Naga people,’ he added.
The GPRN/NSCN president also responded to queries about his group’s stance on the Framework Agreement with NSCN (IM) signed on August 3, 2015, and the Agreed Position with the WC-NNPG signed on November 19, 2017.
Taking the example of the Shillong Accord of 1975, which according to him, is “not the decision of Naga people and mandate of Naga people,” he emphasised the need for inclusivity.
In this context, Sumi claimed that when the Framework Agreement was signed, Nagas of Nagaland were against it and when the Agreed Position was signed, Nagas of Manipur, Assam, Myanmar and Arunachal were against it, and therefore, both the agreements have not been implemented yet.
“It will not be easy” without one solution that is inclusive for all, Sumi said, while categorically stating that the NSCN would not start any dialogue, “until and unless it is inclusive.”
Explaining further, he said that according to the NSCN (K principle and ideology, “inclusivity’ does not mean political groups but also includes representation from every tribe, and all the Naga frontal organisations must come under one banner as ‘one Naga’ and not with individual banners.”
On the core committee formed by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly on the Naga political issue, Sumi said that the Naga political issue is above the state government. Clarifying that he does not have any animosity towards the state government, he however, expressed doubt about whether the legislators would be willing to sacrifice their lucrative positions for the sake of the Framework Agreement or the Agreed position and become civilians.
On the role of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), Sumi said that he would prefer the church and FNR leaders to be a ‘silent spectators,’ stating that “it would have been better for Nagas.”
Further, pointing out that Naga youths are currently undergoing Hindi language training in different institutions in Nagaland in order to get government jobs, he asserted that Nagas will be suppressed until they stand up for their rights. Therefore, church leaders should also play a serious role in saving the Christian identity of the Nagas, he added.