Naga rebels warn ONGC against drilling

Vol 6, PW 22 (15 Jan 03) People & Policy

ONGC IS UNABLE to resume exploration in Nagaland, despite ongoing peace talks between Delhi and rebels to end a four-decade separatist insurgency.

The reason: a ban by the feared National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah faction) against any drilling activity. NSCN is the dominant insurgent group in Nagaland and has been in peace talks with Delhi for more than a year.

Group chief publicity secretary Ng Hungshi tells PETROWATCH that ONGC will face "dire consequences" if it tries to resume drilling. "Our ban on drilling for oil in Nagaland continues," he said.

"Our stand is clear - nobody has the right to exploit the resources of the Naga people before a final political settlement is reached." ONGC wants to resume drilling in the Champang area of the Wokha district. Warns Hungshi: "Let them start and see what happens." Threats from the NSCN forced ONGC to stop exploration in Nagaland in 1994.

Before that, ONGC drilled 30 wells in Champang, four in Chumukudema-Tenpiye and one in the Changki area. Nine wells in Champang yielded oil.

Naga authorities also object to ONGC "misusing" its exploration license by commercially exploiting the state's reserves. This issue has been resolved and the Nagaland Mining and Geology department issued ONGC a fresh exploration license in 2001.

Chief Minister S. C Jamir is ready to let ONGC start drilling "whenever it likes".

But evidently, nothing can happen without NSCN permission.