Our Spl Correspondent
KOLKATA/NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 17: Taking a giant step towards reconciliation, the leaders of umbrella organization NNPG and NSCN-IM held an informal and preliminary ice-breaking meeting at Kolkata on Monday evening.
“It was a usual Naga get together…Some jokes, handshakes and nostalgia. Refreshing memories…,” an informed source informed this Journalist in Delhi.
The NSCN-IM delegation comprised 7 members, led by vice president Tongmeth Wangnao and senior leader VS Atem. On the other side, the 11-member NNPG team was led by convener N Kitovi Zhimomi.
“The dinner was good and sumptuous… a lot of well cooked pork, fish and chicken”, said a source quoting an insider in Kolkata.
Was the dinner like ‘Naga preparation’?
“They all seemed to be hungry and focused more on eating than judging whether they were cooked in Naga style or Bengali style…But as usual, Kolkata fish is always delicious”, a source remarked on a lighter vein.
The mediator team of Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) is led by Rev Dr Wati Aier and the delegation also comprised a few women members and peace-makers.
There was a brief prayer and the welcome address was delivered by Wati Aier who described the occasion as “momentous and historic”.
The hosting of the crucial round of meetings in Kolkata has a rather emotive significance as the 2014 meeting could not materialse after a few militant leaders did not turn up citing technical difficulties.
Sources in Delhi said the informal and first round of deliberations on Monday over dinner went off well and as “reports reaching the national capital” suggest all key leaders from both sides have been “respectful about and to each other”.
There were handshakes but no bear hug, one source remarked in Kolkata.
The key rounds of deliberations would be held on Tuesday, October 18.
Answering questions, a source in Delhi said, “Initial reports reaching us suggest one group came to Kolkata in an Indigo Flight while the other landed on an Indian Airlines aircraft. We will not be surprised if they travel together in the same flight henceforth”.
Last month putting the Naga peace talks on a faster track, peace emissary AK Mishra held a series of meetings with both the warring sides. The NSCN-IM, led by Atem, had put up in Delhi for more than a week.
The Kitovi-led NNPG delegation too was in Delhi prior to the beginning of Durga puja and Dusherra festivities in Delhi.
The Centre has welcomed the fact that the NNPG and the NSCN-IM issued a joint statement on September 14 at the initiatives of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR).
“The Modi Government is keen to take the assistance of any social organisation and forum to ensure an early signing of the final peace pact”, a source said.
The issue of alleged ‘nexus’ between State politicians and one set of negotiating parties had also figured in last month’s meetings in Delhi.
On September 12, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had directed the NDPP-BJP-NPF and so-called ‘opposition-less’ Government to convince the NSCN-IM to ink the final solution to the protracted Naga political issue at the earliest. “Delay is not for us… we are ready to sign even today”, the Central team, also comprising Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and other senior officials from the Central agencies, had told the Naga legislators and Ministers.