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The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.
The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.
Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.
The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.
When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.
"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.
"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.
Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.
On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.
Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.
Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.
The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.
Even as Covid protocols restrict international and domestic transport, the cross-border crime syndicates continue to make big money by smuggling truckloads of ‘sin goods’ into India through land and sea routes. Two major transit hubs, Tamu (Myanmar) and Dubai have emerged as bases of top smuggling syndicates, involved in pushing large consignments of branded cigarettes, seen as the most lucrative commodity having profit margins much higher than gold.
Trailing illicit factories in Malaysia and Indonesia, Indian agencies have recently busted a Myanmar-based crime syndicate that had been pushing truckloads of foreign brand cigarettes, primarily Marlboro, 555, and Esse Lights worth several crores. Confirming to IANS, the Commissioner of Customs (Preventive), V.P. Shukla said that his team seized two truckloads of branded cigarettes in the past two months in Uttar Pradesh, bearing Nagaland number plates. “It’s a very sensitive investigation, I would not comment more on the issue,” said Shukla, a 1993 batch IRS officer, known for busting several smuggling rings active in India.
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Elaborating on why cigarettes have become the most lucrative sin good, even more, profitable than drugs and the yellow metal, former Chief of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), D.P. Dash revealed, “Due to low production cost and very high rate of taxes on cigarettes, the profit in smuggling this item is by far the highest. The risk too, in comparison to smuggling drugs and fake currency, is minimum while dealing in contraband cigarettes. Therefore, for the underworld kingpins, ‘buttlegging’ is the most sought-after crime these days.” In fact, according to the estimates of the US Department of State, buttlegging or illicit trade in cigarettes is causing a worldwide tax loss of over US$ 50 billion annually. India also happens to incur major losses as crime syndicates active in the sub-continent now focus primarily on buttlegging.
In the season of the pandemic, it’s not gold but cigarettes, where smuggling rings are trying to make big money. “As purchasing power gets a little tight, people might be shy of investing in jewelry or even gold, but those addicted to smoking won’t quit the stick easily. Besides, the retail distribution chains selling cigarettes, like pan shops or grocery stores continue to operate during lockdown or curfews. So this illicit trade goes on,” said a Customs officer associated with a team that busted one of the biggest cigarette smuggling rings during a raid at Nehru Port Trust, in Navi Mumbai, early last month. According to this officer, the syndicates may be active but DRI sleuths are playing a vital role in dismantling smuggling rings involved in pushing sin goods and contraband narcotics into the country.
Top sources in Customs said that Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore are major hubs of distribution of contraband cigarettes. On Tuesday (April 20) when a truckload of foreign cigarettes, bearing a fake Nagaland number plate was passing through Lucknow, the Customs was quick to seize the consignment, worth over Rs 2 crore. Sources said that three smugglers were arrested on the spot. Thousands of cigarette packs recovered from the smugglers had a barcode which revealed that the big consignment of Marlboro brand of cigarettes was diverted from the duty-free shops in Switzerland. The sleuths wondered how this consignment from Europe reached Myanmar and was later pushed into India through the Moreh border in Manipur. The consignment was expected to reach Delhi where the packs would have been finally distributed in the Delhi-NCR market.
How cleverly the consignment is transported from a remote Northeast border to the heart of the National Capital Region (NCR) is too interesting. For instance, the truck seized in Lucknow for smuggling cigarettes was owned by a transporter of Sikar district in Rajasthan. The transporter registered the truck in Haryana and later on re-registered the same truck with Nagaland transport authorities. So while the number plate of the truck bears Nagaland registration, the fast tag, recorded on several highway tolls, bears a Haryana registration number.” At every stage, smugglers create such layers to hide their identity. From fake registration plates of trucks to fake fast tags, and from forged Aadhar cards to sim cards, all documents used by them are usually fake. In fact, more often even the gang members do not know the actual consignee,” a source disclosed to IANS.
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Apart from the Myanmar-India border, the smuggling kingpins based in Dubai carry major operations through the sea route. On March 1, and later on January 10, this year, DRI sleuths, in two different raids found huge consignments of foreign cigarettes at Jawahar Lal Nehru port trust, in Navi Mumbai. “Dubai is a major transit point from where such consignments are shipped to India. Though illicit cigarettes are reportedly manufactured in Indonesia and Malaysia, the consignments are initially shipped to Dubai from southeast Asia and then re-routed to Mumbai. At present Myanmar and Dubai are two major transit points for smuggling contraband items to India. The DRI sleuths have been tracking these syndicates round on a 24-hour basis, but we need more specific inputs, primarily from the insiders or the public informers to wipe out the crime which is incurring heavy tax losses to the country,” D.P. Dash, former Director-General of DRI suggested. (IANS/KB)
The Naga Heritage Village, the epicenter of the world-famous Hornbill Festival is quiet this year with the celebrations turned online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Located about 12 km away from Nagaland capital Kohima the Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, has witnessed thousands of footfall of tourists every year to witness the rich and diverse culture of most tribes of Nagas, vividly and colorfully displayed in the form of folk music and traditional dance besides exposition and availability of exotic food, crafts and art, and numerous life and customs.
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Dubbed as the “Festival of Festivals” here, the 10-day Hornbill Festival is celebrated every year from December 1 to 10. Thousands of tourists across the country and from abroad every year have witnessed the colorful festival.
According to a Tourism Department official, in 2019, the festival generated business worth Rs 100 crore over 10 days and attracted a footfall of over 2.70 lakh tourists, including 3,015 foreign visitors and guests, signifying the magnitude the authority and the people of the state attached to the festival, the biggest in the northeast region, comprising eight states.
“All 18 tribes of the state every year have been taking part in the mega festival and displaying their cultural and traditional extravaganza. Though we are pained for not being able to organize the carnival we also cannot ignore the safety of our people. By turning the celebration into the virtual mode, the government has kept the event lively even during the pandemic,” the official said.
The official of the Nagaland Tourism Department on Saturday said that the state government had earlier decided to celebrate the “Hornbill Festival 2020” in a complete virtual model only through various audiovisual media channels and social media platforms.
The Tourism Department earlier in a notification said that the “Hornbill Festival 2020” would be celebrated in completely virtual mode and would be telecasted through the Doordarshan and two other private television channels.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio tweeted: “I wish the citizens of Nagaland, well-wishers, and friends all around the world, a happy virtual Hornbill Festival 2020. When the world reopens, Nagaland will be ready with a tourism narrative in tune with a post-Covid-19 scenario and to welcome you to our beautiful land.”
In his Statehood Day message, Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi said: “We used to celebrate it in previous years with all the gaiety and cultural splendor of the people of the state during Hornbill Festival. This year, due to the global pandemic Covid-19, unfortunately, we may not be able to do it at that scale. However, true to the indomitable Naga spirit, we will do so in our own households observing the needed Covid protocols.”
The first edition of the “Hornbill Festival” was held in 2000. The festival coincides with the statehood day celebrations on December 1. With a population of 20 lakh, the mountainous Nagaland attained statehood on December 1, 1963. (IANS)
Reiterating his support for integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Thursday appealed to the neighbouring states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur to recognise the democratic rights of the Naga people.
“I would also like to reiterate the longstanding desire of the Naga people for the integration of all the contiguous Naga-inhabited areas. We have always supported this just and democratic right of the Naga people,” Rio after unfurling the national flag here on Independence Day.
“We again make a fervent appeal to our neighbouring states and all concerned, to recognise the history, the yearning, and the democratic rights of the Nagas and in the truest traditions of mutual respect and understanding, pave the way for the physical integration of the contiguous areas inhabited by the Naga people,” he said.
Reiterating his government’s commitment to the Naga political issue, Rio claimed that it continues to occupy the highest place on the state government’s agenda.
“The Joint Legislators’ Forum (JLF), a body constituted of all the elected Members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly on the Naga political issue, in its meeting on August 7 welcomed the appointment of R.N. Ravi as the Governor of Nagaland and expressed confidence that his appointment will further strengthen and expedite the political negotiations.”
The National Socialist Council of Nagalim Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), one of the main Naga militant groups had also said that the issue of integration of all Naga territories was an integral part of the ongoing political dialogue with the Centre.
The NSCN-IM has been in talks with the government since 1997 after the signing of a ceasefire agreement.
Ravi, the government interlocutor for the peace talks with various Naga insurgent groups including the NSCN-IM, was sworn in as Nagaland Governor on August 1.
Noting that the peace talks have been going on for the last 22 years, Rio also appealed to all the negotiating parties with the government to come together, sit across the negotiating table and rise above differences and unite for the sake of the people.
“We must not let go of this golden opportunity as peace has eluded us for too long and now is the most opportune time to come together and expedite the political dialogue for an early, honourable and acceptable solution,” he said. (IANS)