NE Dispatch: Press Council Seeks Report on 32 Killed, Missing Assam Journalists; Naga Day Celebrated

A roundup of news this week from the northeast.

The Assam chief minister paying tribute to journalists. Credit: Twitter

The Assam chief minister paying tribute to journalists. Credit: Twitter

Assam: Press Council of India seeks report from Assam govt on alleged delay in probing 32 cases of journalists’ murder 

The Press Council of India (PCI) has taken suo motu cognisance of the alleged inordinate delay in investigating 32 pending cases of killing or disappearance of journalists in Assam since 1987 and has sought an “action taken report” from the state government on each case.

In a statement issued by the statutory body on January 11, it said, “Concerned over the reports of inordinate delay in investigation and prosecution of 32 cases of murdered or missing journalists in Assam over the last three decades, PCI chairman Chandramauli Kumar Prasad has taken suo-motu cognisance of the matter and sought a status report from the chief secretary and director general of police of Assam on the cases.”

The state administration has been asked to file the report as per the recommendations of the 2015 committee on the safety of journalists that had been forwarded to all the states.

The PCI’s decision to seek a report has come weeks after state chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal distributed an ex-gratia amount of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the slain journalists.

Nagaland: Civil society bodies write to PM Modi seeking postponement of assembly polls till the Naga Accord is signed; first Naga Day celebrated

Several civil society bodies of Nagaland have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to postpone the impending assembly polls in the state and “impose President’s Rule” to help complete the negotiation process to arrive at the Naga Accord.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on social media in August 2015 that a solution to the vexed Naga insurgency issue had been found, the government is yet to seal the Accord.

Thousands of Nagas from the four states and elsewhere gathered at the Kohima Local Ground to take part in Naga Day under the banner of “Nagas Without Borders” on January 10. Credit: ANI

In a letter to Modi, ACAUT (Against Corruption And Unabated Taxation), a well known civil society body spearheading an anti-corruption movement in the state, wrote, “If the elections are held in Nagaland for the sake of constitutional process before the completion of the negotiation process with the six Naga National Political Groups (or rebel groups) and the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), then solution to Naga problems will remain a mirage.”

It said, “The people have been given to understand that negotiation between India and the parties involved is almost conclusive.” It expressed apprehension “that the much yearned Naga Solution will continue to elude us (the Naga people) if the 2018 state assembly elections are held as scheduled in the month of February/March.”

Similar letters have been written to the Prime Minister by Nagaland Tribes Council, the Central Nagaland Tribes Council and the Gaon Burrah Federation of Nagaland.

Stating that the elections would be “a distraction” to the ongoing talks with the working committee set up to take forward the negotiations, the Nagaland Tribes Council wrote, “All these voices of the people are being raised for one single objective of eradicating chaos and confusion and having lasting peace and progress.”

Meanwhile, in a first, people from various Naga tribes residing in Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, were seen assembling at a public ground in Kohima on January 10 to celebrate Naga Day. The date was picked to coincide the memorandum submitted to the Simon Commission on January 10, 1929, by the Naga Club, which for the first time, made an official request to the British that Nagas be allowed the right to self-determination after they leave India. This memorandum led to the socio-political foundation of the Naga nationalist movement.

The Naga Club members comprised people from various tribes taken by the British to France as labourers during the First World War. On returning home, they developed the idea of instilling unity among various tribes to come under the umbrella identity of Nagas and seek a common socio-political future.

Local media reports said, thousands of Nagas from the four states and elsewhere gathered at the Kohima Local Ground to take part in Naga Day under the banner of “Nagas Without Borders” on January 10.

Organised by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), the participants sang Naga patriotic songs, took part in cultural programmes besides supporting a joint declaration.

The declaration reportedly said that Nagas were a people comprising many “nations (tribes)” living in their ancestral lands spread across the present states of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Burma (Myanmar). “By coming together in solidarity under the theme ‘Nagas Without Borders’ we demonstrate our collective desire to live as one people.”

Urging the central government to “go beyond militarization and repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and all other anti-democratic legislations not worthy of a great democratic nation like India,” it also sought to “encourage the Governments of India and Burma to admit to the gross human rights violations and to apologize for their wrong doings to the Naga people for rebuilding relationships and peaceful co-existence.”

Manipur: A. B. Mathur is also the Centre’s interlocutor for the KNO-UPF peace talks; meets delegation in New this week

A. B. Mathur, the newly appointed interlocutor of the central government for the ongoing peace talks with the two armed groups of Assam, is also the Centre’s representative in the peace talks with Manipur’s United People’s Front (UPF) and the Kuki National organization (KNO).

Former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma meets Union home minister Rajnath Singh. Credit: Twitter

Former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma meets Union home minister Rajnath Singh. Credit: Twitter

After the announcement that central interlocuter Dineshwar Sharma was being relieved from the ULFA and NDFB talks in Assam due to his new Kashmir assignment, it was not immediately clear to the armed groups engaged in talks with the Home Ministry whether Sharma would cease to be the central interlocutor for their negotiations too. However, things became clear only after a delegation representing the two groups landed in New Delhi for another round of talks.

On January 9, prior to sitting down with Mathur for the sixth round of talks, the delegation comprising six members of the UPF and seven from KNO were first taken to Sharma to bid him farewell.

As per Calvin H of Zomi Reunification Organisation, a constituent of UPF and a delegation member, in the ensuing talks with Mathur, former special secretary of the RAW, they raised the demand for a territorial council on the lines of the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam. A draft outline of the territorial council, signed by UPF spokesperson Aaron Kipgen and KNO negotiator Seilen Haokip was submitted to Mathur. The delegation didn’t raise its earlier demand for “a state within a state” or a separate Kuki state.

The peace talks with the two umbrella organisations of armed groups operating on the India-Myanmar border areas of Manipur have been continuing with the Narendra Modi government since June 2016. On returning to Manipur, Aaron told the local media that the peace negotiation “is progressing in the right direction and several crucial issues have been discussed to provide constitutional safeguard for the Kukis in Manipur.”

KNO spokesperson Seilen Haokip was quoted as saying, “The  historical symbiotic and cordial relations between valley people and the Kukis (in Manipur), which was based on self-determination of each community and respect for each other’s identity and territory will be renewed and strengthened by Territorial Council for the Kuki people.”

Mathur told the delegation that he would visit Manipur soon to discuss the UPF-KNO’s demand for a territorial council with other communities and interest groups of the state before holding the next round of talks with it.

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