The Assam Congress today asked in what "capacity" was Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma participating in the peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM).
The party brought up the issue of taking the Assam state Assembly into confidence over the matter since the insurgent group's claims include areas within Assam's territory.
Mr Sarma, along with his Nagaland counterpart Neiphiu Rio, today held a closed-door interaction with NSCN (IM) chief negotiator Thuingaleng Muivah in Dimapur. The Assam Chief Minister had said last week he had been authorised by Union Home Minister Amit Shah to hold preliminary talks with the NSCN (IM).
"The question now arises: In what capacity will the Assam Chief Minister talk to NSCN (IM)? As Chief Minister, can he go and hold talks without taking the Assembly and Cabinet into confidence?" Assam Congress President Bhupen Kumar Borah said in a statement issued today.
"The NSCN (IM) is known to be a supporter of 'Greater Nagalim'. And for all we know, it is supposed to include parts of Assam."
Greater Nagalim was a sovereign state demanded by the NSCN, which included Naga-populated parts of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh, along with a chunk of Myanmar. Negotiations have been on with the government on the matter which began taking shape in August 2015 following the signing of the Framework Agreement between the NSCN (IM), the Central government, and the Nagaland government.
The contents of the agreement, however, were not made public then. Suspicion was further fuelled when the then interlocutor and Nagaland Governor RN Ravi published an allegedly modified version of the agreement in August 2020.
In a bid to tackle the issue, the Centre replaced Mr Ravi. This move, reportedly involving Mr Sarma, was welcomed by the NSCN.
"It has been reported that the Chief Ministers of Nagaland and Manipur have also been asked to be part of the talks along with the Chief Minister of Assam. But we have come to know that the Manipur Chief Minister has decided not to participate due to differences over the 'Greater Nagalim' issue," Mr Borah said in the statement.
It may, however, be mentioned that Mr Sarma, besides being Assam Chief Minister, is also the convenor of North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), an grouping of political parties from the region allied to the BJP.
Mr Borah, on behalf of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee, demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister Shah, and Mr Sarma make their intentions clear.
"The APCC, thus, views the act of participation by Dr Sarma in the talks with full of suspicion and mistrust and apprehends that Assam's interest may be compromised in the long run. The Congress party demands that the Goverment of India immediately put the contents of the Framework Agreement of 2015 in public domain," Mr Borah said.