Amid the uncertainty over solution to the decades-old Naga political issue before the Assembly elections in Nagaland likely to be held early next year, renewed attempts are being made to remove northeast India’s one of the major political stumbling blocks.
After the all-important Parliamentary Core Committee headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio met Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi on September 12, a delegation of Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) went to the national capital on September 19 for holding talks with Centre’s representative for the Naga political issue, A.K. Mishra, and other central leaders and officials.
Along with the latest developments in Delhi, in the two-day session of Nagaland Assembly (September 20 and 22), the Naga political issue was once again discussed, seeking to resolve the much-awaited issue at the earliest.
Before the last Assembly elections in 2018, the BJP and its allies had campaigned with the slogan “election for solution” even as several groups had called for boycotting the polls saying “no solution, no election”.
After over 80 rounds of talks between the Centre and the Naga groups, dominated by the NSCN-IM, there is still a stalemate over the contentious issues of separate Naga flag and constitution.
The NSCN-IM has been demanding a separate flag and constitution, which the former government interlocutor and then Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi had rejected on a number of occasions.
The Naga groups as part of their pressure tactics hoisted the ‘Naga national flag’ and held several events in Nagaland and in many villages in the Naga-dominated areas of neighbouring Manipur to celebrate ‘Naga Independence Day’ on August 14, a day before Independence Day.
On the occasion of the ‘Naga Independence Day’, NSCN-IM General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah had said: “All Nagas unite with one decision, one faith, and one politics on the principle of Nagalim for Christ.”
He had said the Nagas have endured 25 years of gruelling ceasefire, living up to “our commitment for a peaceful solution to the Naga political issue”.
“We have also waited patiently for seven long years after the historic Framework Agreement was signed on August 3, 2015. We have not left any stone unturned for what it takes to bring a solution that is honourable, inclusive, and acceptable to both the Nagas and the Government of India.
“The ball is now in the court of the government to make the right move and fulfil the commitment made to the Nagas,” Muivah had said.
Amid calls for the suspension of Assembly elections and resignation of all 60 MLAs, various organisations, including the Nagaland People’s Action Committee, have intensified their campaign in support of their demands.
Political commentator and writer Sushanta Talukdar, who has been closely monitoring the political developments in Nagaland for decades, said that there is remote chance to settle the Naga political issue before the Assembly elections.
“The slogan ‘solution after election’, which was raised before the 2018 Assembly polls, might be repeated this time too. All the political parties, cutting across party lines, Naga civil society organisations and NGOs are frantically waiting for a lasting solution to the long-awaited Naga political issue.
“However, there is remote chance of resolving the decades-old sensitive issue before the upcoming Assembly elections,” Talukdar told IANS.
The NSCN-IM has once again reiterated that the “God given Naga flag is non-negotiable in the name of Naga political solution”.
The editorial in the September issue of ‘Nagalim Voice’, the mouthpiece of the NSCN-IM, said that 25 years of Naga political talks and seven years of Framework Agreement (FA) is a long period of endurance and commitment exhibited by Naga people for the peaceful settlement of Naga issue.
It said that after signing the FA on August 3, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took pride in announcing that he had solved the longest insurgency movement in Southeast Asia.
During his two-day visit (September 15-16) to Nagaland to kick start the party’s preparedness for the Assembly polls, BJP’s national President J.P. Nadda had said that there are certain issues which Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton and Higher Education Minister Temjen Imna Along Longkumer are trying to resolve.
Nadda had said: “Like we signed accord in Tripura in 2019, Bodo accord in 2020 and Karbi Anglong accord in 2022, we would do the Naga peace process.”
Recently, the working committee of Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) had decried the seat-sharing formula of BJP and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) for next year’s Assembly polls.
NNPG is a conglomerate of several Naga groups talking to the Centre on Naga political issues.
The influential and traditional Nagaland Gaon Buras (village chief) Federation in a letter to Nadda had demanded that the Assembly elections should be conducted only for the legally constituted legislature as per the settlement reached.
The Federation stated that the 2018 Assembly elections could happen without any hindrance following the assurance of ‘election for solution’ given by then BJP in-charge for Nagaland, Ram Madhav.
“The five-year term of the Assembly would be over by March 2023. We expect that the commitment made by the BJP would be honoured without any fail before that,” the Federation stated.
Earlier this month, the Centre had reportedly asked the 11-member delegation of the Parliamentary Core Committee headed by the Chief Minister to convince NSCN-IM to resolve the remaining core issues that are delaying the Naga peace process.
“We want the solution before the elections. Our desire was conveyed to the government of India and we are grateful to the Union Home Minister for giving us time to express our mind,” said Neiba Kronu, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs.
Highly-placed sources said that the Central government was willing to allow the proposed Naga flag in socio-cultural activities, but the NSCN-IM rejected the proposal.
The Nagaland Chief Minister, however, has requested in a bid to break the stalemate to allow the flag for civil use.
The BJP and the NDPP recently finalised the seat-sharing deal to contest the upcoming Assembly elections. As per the seat-sharing formula, the NDPP will contest 40 seats while the BJP will contest 20 seats. The NDPP-BJP alliance in Nagaland was formed in 2018.
In 2018, the NDPP had contested 40 seats and the BJP had contested 20 seats, winning 21 and 12 seats, respectively. The Naga People’s Front (NPF) was the single largest party with 25 seats.
Last year, 21 MLAS of NPF had joined NDPP to form an all-party opposition-less United Democratic Alliance (UDA) government in the state.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)