Days after the NSCN (IM) issued a statement taking exception to Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister Y. Patton’s certain remarks on the peace parleys and perceived delay in arriving at a solution, the BJP Nagaland on Sunday hit out at the militant group saying “Nagas need to know the truth”.
“Right now, our leaders need to speak out for it is high time now… Nagas need to know the truth as the Naga political issue and its related problems are not something which have to be kept in the dark; everybody deserves to know what is going on and what will happen,” a statement from BJP Nagaland’s media cell said.
It said the BJP Nagaland unit has “always been at the forefront in advocating an early and amicable solution to the long-standing Naga political issue. And despite the multitude of opinions and allegations hurled against our legislators in recent times, it needs to be accepted by all if we are really craving for a solution”.
“We need to be more vocal about what is happening, what we want to achieve, what we need to hold on to, and what we need to let go. Those blaming a few legislators for being vocal and voicing their opinions also need to understand that the legislators in a way also represent the voice of the Centre and cannot be ignored or dismissed,” the statement said.
Notably, the saffron party’s statement came a day after the core committee led by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Deputy CM Patton (BJP floor leader in the Assembly) held a meeting with an NSCN-IM delegation led by V.S. Atem, a longtime aide of the militant group’s powerful general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah.
“At this crucial juncture, when all our leaders need to speak out, it is disheartening that some leaders and their party are maintaining a stoic silence over the matter, despite holding influential positions like leading the core committee, as ignoring it will in no way add anything to our collective aspirations of the long-standing political solution,” the BJP statement said.
It asserted that “BJP Nagaland shall never shy from advocating what is needed to be told because we stand with the Nagas in its aspirations for an honourable and acceptable solution”.
It is a rare occasion that an established national party has gone on record to join issue with NSCN (IM) or any such militant organisation.
There is a perceived feeling among a section of Naga leaders, common people and also important players in New Delhi that there is a deliberate attempt to delay the solution as ‘the status quo’ suits some vested interests, including a section of established political stars in the state.
On May 27, the NSCN (IM) had expressed concern at the recent “outrageous” statements made by Nagaland BJP ministers and NPF leaders on the Naga political solution with reference to the Framework Agreement of 2015, Naga Flag, a separate Constitution and integration of Naga contiguous areas.
It had said that many of the Nagaland BJP ministers and other party leaders are “not able to fully appreciate the complexities and intricacies involved and are simply allowing themselves to be carried away by their election syndrome”.
Patton had recently used strong words with regard to attempts being made by certain quarters to delay the solution, saying: “Some big (perhaps militant) leaders do not want a solution. They want to keep relaxing and enjoying the comforts of life with money collected through extortion and taxes.
“If this continues, I would say, go to hell. You won’t go to heaven. How can you go to heaven by causing so much hardship to the public? We must come out openly now. It is high time. Enough is enough.”
NPF leader Kuzholuzo Azo Nienu had also referred to the Framework Agreement of 2015, saying the potent NSCN (IM) group has “sealed its fate” and has virtually endorsed the Constitution of India by inking the same.
Therefore, he said, it is high time “for NSCN-IM to say whether they take it or leave it” vis-a-vis the flag and the separate Constitution demands.
The Centre has more than once categorically rejected the twin demands of flag and Constitution.
Sources said that the top concerned players in the government have conveyed to Nagaland Chief Minister and even the likes of former Chief Minister S.C. Jamir to convey to the Naga people to appreciate that when the Centre took strong steps with regard to Jammu and Kashmir, how could a flag or a separate Constitution could be given to Nagaland.
NPF leader Azo Neinu said that in the given context, the stance taken by the government of India is to be appreciated as it has decided to allow the use of the Naga flag for cultural programmes.
“In fact, the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and the Home Minister (Amit Shah) are willing to visit Nagaland and also hoist the Naga flag for any cultural event. As a regional politician often taking stance against the BJP, I must appreciate that the government of India has gone all out to accommodate the request and demand of the Naga leaders,” Neinu said.
However, the NSCN-IM has rejected this proposal too, saying that Naga flag could not be used merely for cultural activities.
The government sources say that the twin demands of flag and Constitution were raised by NSCN-IM only after October 31, 2019 when the officials claimed formal talks were already over.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books, ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. The views are personal)