Tuesday, May 8, 2012

India has given Nagas everything: Rishang Keishing

An old-war horse of northeastern politics, Mr Rishang Keishing 92 is a staunch ‘nationalist’ wedded to the cause of Indian nationhood. Two times Chief Minister of Manipur between 1980 to 1988 and from 1994 to 1997, Mr Keishing has been Rajya Sabha member of the state. A Tangkhul Naga by birth, Mr Keishing, a surviving former member of first Lok Sabha in 1952, is one of the few politicians of his community who has often spoken against the demand of “Naga sovereignity”. I had interviewed him in 2009 in the corridors of Parliament and grilled him on the future prospect of long pending Naga peace talks and not surprisingly found him still sticking to his gun, urging for an “amicable solution within the constituional framework of India”. Well his argument, though earned him another round of criticism from his detractors, the veteran politician said, “why don’t everyone realize that this country (that is India) has given enough to Nagas and other northeastern people”. Interview with Rajya Sabha MP and former Manipur CM Rishang Keishing India has given Nagas everything: Rishang Keishing Excerpts: # As a veteran Naga politician how do you look back since you started political career as a member of parliament from the first Lok Sabha itself? Rishang: I do look at the rearview of the mirror of the car of my life. I am in this Parliament from the first Lok Sabha till now. We have seen a lot of things come and go. But as the problem of Nagas remain, I am really a concerned man. This country has given us enough but the political problem remains and violence is killing Nagas. # How do you view the state of Naga peace talks, which begun in 1997? There were lot of developments and efforts by Narasimha government to start the process and you also had a role as the Chief Minister of Manipur. Rishang: Yes, I am from Manipur and I am myself a Tangkhul Naga. My own tribe and some leaders are very active in Naga insurgency movement. You are right, we worked hard to start the peace process and Congress under Narasimha Rao started the whole process. But after the talks have begun, as state level leaders we had no role. It was purely between government of India and the NSCN leaders. # But this was 12 years back, now a question everyone interested in Naga affairs is asking what’s the progress? And amid these Naga leaders are reporetdly meeting people like Nelson Mandela? Rishang: You have a point. There is no denying the fact that we all don’t know what’s really being talked about. The talks are going on between the Government of India and the NSCN. But I take your question. If NSCN leaders are talking to the Government of India, I don’t find any reason why they should talk to Mandela or enyone else. Such talking to international leaders might not help the progress of the talks. # Are you then suggesting that there’s hardly any progress? Rishang: Is it important that I should say something like that. There’s hardly any progress as far as common Naga people’s awareness on the talks is concerned. And even if there is certain progress, we all don’t know. Look, as a politician I could be misunderstood. I am not saying as a former Chief Minister or as a MP I should know the details of the talks. But the talks should show some direction. I will be most happy if it is going on in right direction. # A few years back, your good friend and present Maharashtra Governor Mr S C Jamir had demanded that the subject matter of Naga peace talks should be made public. Do you also make the same demand from both the Government of India and NSCN? Rishang: I don’t what others have said in the past. But solution to Naga problem is everyone’s desire. Let them do the talking. But it should be in good direction. Earlier, there was talks about integrity of Naga contugous areas. Then that was stopped after violence in Manipur in 2001. Whatever, they talk, my emphasis is NSCN leaders should also look for a workable solution. # What do you really mean by “workable solution”? Can you elaborate on that? Rishang: Firstly, the solution should be acceptable to both – the Government of India and Nagas and the people in general so that there’s no major problem once we have a solution package on our table. Today we are in darkness. I am saying we need an amicable solution within the constituional framework of India. So far we state politicians either in Nagaland or Manipur have been taken into confidence. Well, we could come at later stage and I will give my opinion firmyly when that time comes. # So what’s your opinion? Any particular aspect that must be looked into? Rishang: Look, lifelong I have stuck to the integrity of India. If you are saying or doing anything on going outside Indian framework and sovereigntity, I will have nothing to do with it. Any solution has to be within constitutional framework and acceptable to all concerned. # You are really sticking to your well known nationalistic stance. I am not surprised anyway. Rishang: Why I should not? Why don’t everyone realize that this country, India has given enough to Nagas and other northeastern people. I am a most happy man in this country today. This country has everything and has given us everything. We have every concessions, every freedom and every means of best of education and development. This is going on for years and under present government of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi’s leadership we are getting a much better deal. That’s my point.

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