Many will probably recall the stand taken sometime in the late 1990s when Naga civil society undertook a mass campaign under the slogan ‘Nagas want solution and not election’ with the mass based organizations making their appeal to the Government of India and also the political parties in the State.
Except for the Indian National Congress (INC) under SC Jamir, the other parties including the regional outfit NPC and even the BJP lend their support to the appeal. The Congress on the other hand argued the case that continuity had to be maintained and election was a constitutional necessity to have a government in place. While stating this, the then Chief Minister SC Jamir reiterated his stand of stepping down when a final settlement between the Government of India and the Naga undergrounds was arrived at and to pave way for such an alternative arrangement.
Despite the heavy criticism that he had faced then for his stand, it now appears to be that SC Jamir’s position has become a precedent for successive State governments in Nagaland—from Neiphiu Rio to now TR Zeliang who have taken the stand that they will not resign before the solution or in other words they are ready to dissolve the government only in the event of solution coming.
The fact that almost twenty years have elapsed since that mass campaign and Nagaland has seen the smooth functioning of an NPF government (after dislodging the Congress in 2003) for three consecutive terms, it is perhaps an appropriate time for both India and the Nagas to once again explore creative ways towards the solution that everyone is talking about.
While the slogan ‘Nagas want solution and not election’ remains the same, the circumstance in the 1990s and now in 2018 is completely different. In the run up to the Assembly Election in 1998, the ceasefire between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) had just been signed in 1997 and peace talks were only beginning. At that time therefore, it was a little premature to expect a settlement. We are now in 2018, more than 20 years after the peace process started and 3 years since the Indo-Naga Framework Agreement was announced to the world by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As rightly mentioned in the recent memorandum of the Naga Hoho submitted to the Prime Minister of India, this is indeed an “exceptional situation” requiring an appropriate response from Delhi. For the Nagas too, this is a most opportune time to take extraordinary initiatives. If our elected representatives really want early solution, shouldn’t they go ahead and resign en-mass and start an all out campaign for solution?
Taking such a bold step (and not merely giving assurance to resign) will in fact force the issue on the Government of India and demonstrate that Nagas are very serious and determined for early solution and not election.
However it appears to be that our politicians are seemingly reluctant to leave office. On the one hand they publicly go around crying for early solution but in reality their end game seems to be more money and power. Our political parties and leaders despite their tall claims seems to be more interested in elections than solution. Hopefully the Modi government will not allow corrupt politicians and party politics to dictate on the present delicate situation vis-à-vis the Indo-Naga peace process.
The Government of India must not look down upon the demand made by the Naga people as something that is unreasonable or outlandish. In fact, the Government of India’s Interlocutor and the NSCN (IM) had last year issued a joint statement that they were closer than “ever before to the final settlement and hope to conclude it sooner than later”.
Naga people are united in the demand for an early political settlement. The Government of India must respect the sentiment of the Naga people and not exploit the current fluid situation. On the other hand, it is also clear that the Naga political groups must come to a meeting point since the Modi government has made it clear that there will be only one solution. In that sense the Naga reconciliation process has to be reignited somewhere and soon!
With General Election in India slated for 2019, it is not just the Nagas but the political dispensation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which must now act with even greater urgency. It will also be good to keep national party politics out of the Naga peace process. The all round peace dividends, mutual trust and understanding gained between India and the Nagas through more than 20 years of dialogue must not be allowed to diminish or derail.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has huge responsibility on his shoulders to see through this very sensitive yet vital period to “mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future”, as he had said during the signing of the Framework Agreement on August 3, 2015. Hopefully the Prime Minister will not forget his words that India “will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems”, but also partner the Nagas “as you restore your pride and prestige”.
The time is now, Prime Minister Modi, to deliver on your words, of being “deeply concerned about resolving the Naga issue”, as you had said on August 3, 2015 on national television.
Naga Republic View