'Won't allow oil & gas exploration in Nagaland', says NSCN-IM

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'Won't allow oil & gas exploration in Nagaland', says NSCN-IM
Credit: © Reuters.

Kohima, May 3 (IANS) Naga outfit NSCN-IM on Wednesday said that it would not allow any exploration of oil and natural gas in Naga territories until "honourable political settlement" of the decades-old Naga political issue between the Nagas and the government is reached.

According to the experts, Nagaland is estimated to have 600 million tonnes of oil and natural gas reserves. Exploration in the state was stopped in the 1990s due to extremism and opposition from the Naga groups.

Several other local groups in Nagaland, including the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), a body of seven Naga outfits, expressed concern after state Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma agreed in principle on April 22 for oil and gas exploration in the disputed inter-state border areas of the two states.

On May 1, the Chairman and Managing Director of the state-owned Oil India Limited (NS: OILI ) (OIL), Ranjit Rath, said in Guwahati that the exploration company was keen on exploring 3,000 sq. km. in Nagaland after carrying out operations in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Tripura besides Assam.

The NSCN-IM, in a strongly worded statement on Wednesday, said that ever since Nagaland state was created in 1963, "the Government of India has been casting covetous eyes on Nagas' mineral wealth as Nagaland state is endowed with a variety of mineral deposits, particularly petroleum".

"But the sticking point is the unresolved political issue that is still hanging fire in the negotiating table for more than 25 years. Significantly, more than two decades back, National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) had issued a standing order that no mineral wealth in Naga areas would be allowed for exploration and extraction until political settlement is arrived at. This order still stands valid today," the statement said.

It said that "therefore, no amount of justification in the name of mobilising financial resources for development would stand to ride roughshod over the inalienable Naga people's rights over their land resources".

The Naga outfit said that ironically, this oil issue has come at the time when the Centre is showing no sincerity and commitment to respect the historical and political rights of the Naga people as enshrined in the historic Framework Agreement of August 3, 2015, and pulling the Indo-Naga political talks for more than 25 years on flimsy ground of negotiating on the non-negotiable issue of Naga National Flag and Constitution. No wonder the huge mineral wealth is a reflection of God's gift.

"The 600 million tonnes of oil and natural gas reserves is a blessed wealth of Nagas and no authority would be given the liberty to exploit so long as the Centre continues to handle the Naga political issue in a flattering and betraying fashion," the statement said.

It further said: "As much as the Government of India attached huge economic significance to the mineral wealth, particularly oil and natural gas of Nagaland, the same degree of political commitment should be demonstrated in a meaningful and credible manner as demanded by the ongoing talks."

--IANS

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