As Naga peace talks reach a crucial stage - a breakthrough is expected in the next few months - Naga rebel group NSCN (IM) and security forces are at loggerheads after the latter claim to have busted a recruitment racket and rescued 32 people in Mon district of Nagaland. The operation, carried out on November 21, was a joint effort by the Indian Army and the Assam Rifles, also saw the arrest of two NSCN (IM) cadres.
However, the rebel group has countered the government's claim. In a press release the group has said the Naga youth were coming to their camps of their own volition and this was not a violation of ceasefire ground rules.
"Ever since the Naga political movement began more than 70 years ago the passion to serve the Naga nation has been growing steadily and spontaneously among Naga youth because Indo-Naga political issues matter to them," the group's statement read.
"... it is a question of redefining Naga's political identity. It is a question of protecting Naga's historical and political right. Thus, it is a question of Naga's pride as a nation. This is the reason why young people, irrespective of their education level continues to be motivated to find their way to NSCN camps and other political group," the statement added.
The statement was in response to the press note issued by Lieutenant Colonel Sumit Sharma, Defence PRO, which said: "covert recruitment racket of NSCN (IM) busted in Mon on November 21, 2019".
The note had appeared in local dailies on November 25, 2019, the NSCN (IM) said.
The Defence statement claimed that based on specific input regarding a group of youth taken by NSCN (IM) cadres to Aopao camp from various villages in Mon district, Army and Assam Rifles team had pursued a car and intercepted it on the Mon-Aboi Road, thereby foiling a major recruitment bid.
The NSCN(IM) is firm on its demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution, but seven other rebel Naga groups - jointly referred to as the Naga National Political Groups or NNPG - had already expressed their willingness to sign a final peace agreement while keeping a window open for future political discourse on the contentious issues.