Hoping against hope to resolve the Naga political issue before the 2023 elections in Nagaland, political pundits are, however, sceptical about settling the long awaited Naga peace talks before the polls, which are just six months away.
Amidst the calls for the suspension of Assembly elections and the resignation of all 60 MLAs, various organisations including the Nagaland People’s Action Committee intensified their campaign in support of their demands.
Political commentator and writer Sushanta Talukdar, who closely monitored the Naga political development for a few decades, said that there is a remote chance to settle the Naga political issue before the assembly elections, expected to be held in February next year.
“Like the 2018 assembly polls, the slogan – solution after election – might return this time too. Though all the political parties, civil society organisations and NGOs are enthusiastically waiting for the lasting solution to the long awaited Naga political issue, but there is a remote chance to settle the most vital issue,” Talukdar told IANS.
He said that the Naga groups as part of their pressure tactics hoisted the “Naga national flag” and held a large number of programmes in Nagaland and in many villages in the Naga dominated areas of Manipur to celebrate the “Naga Independence Day” on August 14, a day before Independence Day.
The Naga groups dominated by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), celebrating the August 14 events in a big way once again demonstrated that there would be no solution to the Naga issue without a separate flag and Constitution.
On the occasion of the “Naga Independence Day”, NSCN-IM General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah said: “All Nagas unite with one decision, one faith, and one politics on the principle of Nagalim for Christ.”
He had said that the Nagas have endured 25 years of gruelling ceasefire living up to “our commitment for a peaceful solution of 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 to fulfil the commitment given to the Nagas,” said Muivah in his speech, available with IANS.
Referring to the Emergency National Assembly of NSCN-IM held on May 31, the NSCN-IM leader said that the meet was one of the turning points in the history of the Naga political movement.
“We have taken the stand before God and Naga people that NSCN will uphold and protect the unique Naga history and the Naga National principle at any cost. The Naga flag and constitution are indivisible parts of the recognised sovereignty and unique history. We believe the Indian leaders too understand it,” the veteran Naga leader said.
The all important core committee on Naga political issues headed by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio recently met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi and discussed the Naga peace talks issue.
However, nothing was disclosed about the important meeting. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also the convener of the BJP-led anti-Congress alliance of regional parties — North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), was also present at the meeting.
Rio asserted that the NSCN-IM and the Centre’s interlocutor A.K. Mishra would hold discussions to resolve the Naga political issues.
“I am hopeful that the Central government, the NSCN-IM and all other stakeholders would soon resolve all aspects relating to the protracted Naga political issues,” said Rio, who is also the top leader of the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP).
The NDPP-led Nagaland government had earlier on a number of occasions urged the Central government to conclude the ongoing Naga peace talks before the Assembly elections.
After holding a massive rally in Nagaland’s commercial hub Dimapur earlier this month, the Nagaland People’s Action Committee (NPAC) sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding an early solutions to the “Naga political issue without further delay”.
Thousands of Nagas including a large number of women attended the meeting under the banner of NPAC that was supported by various Naga groups, civil society organisations and NGOs.
The memorandum, sent though Nagaland Governor Jagdish Mukhi (Assam governor with additional charge of Nagaland), said that the Naga people are in the 25th year of the political negotiations between the government of India and the Naga negotiators, which began in 1997, and the unending political process has adversely affected the lives of each individual and family in the state.
“The unresolved Naga issue has produced countless scoundrels and thieves and in the name of political issues, threats and intimidation have stifled the growth of a perceived Naga society, which you (PM) assured would be a vibrant one,” the memorandum read.
The NPAC told the Prime Minister that as the economic well being of ordinary Naga families has completely collapsed in the absence of an equitable welfare formula and governance save on paper, the consequences are frightening.
The NPAC said that in 2018, when the civil societies and all political parties, including the BJP, unequivocally demanded a solution before the elections, the BJP breached the trust of the people and filed nominations with the slogan “Election for Solution”, against the will and wishes of the people which is still fresh in their memory.
Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton, who is also the BJP legislature party leader, in a recent public meeting in Wokha district said that the Centre should resolve the Naga peace talks issue by August 15 this year.
“If the Naga political issue was not settled now, the long pending issue would take another 100 years to settle,” said Patton, who is a member of all the important committees, including the Core Committee on the Naga political issue, headed by the Chief Minister.
The NDPP is the dominant party of the ruling alliance in Nagaland with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has 12 MLAs, as one of the important constituents.
In April 21 of the 25 MLAs of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) merged with the NDPP increasing the strength of the NDPP to 42 in the 60-member Assembly.
The BJP, the NPF and the NDPP are the constituents of the opposition less all-party United Democratic Alliance (UDA) government, formed last year to take forward the Naga political issue between the Centre and Naga outfits and various other groups,
UDA Chairman T.R. Zeliang said that following the request of the Chief Minister and other leaders to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the central government’s representative A.K. Mishra visited Nagaland twice since September last year.
Mishra during his second week-long visit from April 18, met the Chief Minister, leaders of the NSCN-IM, Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), core committee on Naga political issues as well as the Naga civil society and discussed the peace talks issue.
The Centre has been separately holding peace talks with the NSCN-IM and eight other Naga groups, which came together a few years ago under the banner of NNPGs.
Mishra, during his first visit to Nagaland in September last year, also discussed the Naga issue with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Since 1997, the Government has held more than 85 rounds of negotiations with the NSCN (IM) and other Naga groups.
However, the NSCN-IM’s insistence on a separate Naga flag and Constitution have become big hurdles.
The former government interlocutor and then Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who is now holding the gubernatorial post in Tamil Nadu, had rejected these demands on a number of occasions.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)