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Naga MLAs Sense Public Mood, Mount Pressure On Rio To ‘Deliver’ Peace

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NEW DELHI, April 11 (IANS): Naga voters are hardly naive. Only they can decide, and no other factor can influence the outcome during elections.

No one knows these hard realities better than the elected political protagonists, the 60 legislators who were elected in 2018, after the polls were held from the verge of ‘open boycott’.

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Thus the elected MLAs now want chief minister Neiphiu Rio and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver a peace pact at the earliest.

One crucial fact about Nagaland politics is that while money and other factors often tilt the mandate; but when it comes to the crux, the people themselves would decide in all their rustic style and political wisdom.

Macho-ism is part of Naga political life. This is one reason, the women are generally ‘defeated’ in electoral contests for the state assembly.

To lie docile is never a typical characteristic of Naga politics. Politicians often quiz one another, “Mota no hoe (Are you not a man)?”

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The query is a direct challenge to know the person’s decision making ability and sheer determination in the face of complex situations. Head hunting was a sport for this valiant community.

The MLAs now sense public mood perhaps crystal clear and hence are insisting to work unitedly for an early solution and peace accord.

Most elected legislators irrespective of party affiliation now believe that time for reckoning and taking a final call has come. It is in this context they are questioning each other and also the opposition-less UDA leadership on the relevance of consultative committees and repeated meetings.

The approach to hold such meetings with social organisations and pressure groups might have delayed the peace process; but they also know that to continue in power is one thing but to face people during elections is another ballgame.

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The 2023 battle would be tougher than many might have presumed. No one knows this better than 60 elected MLAs including ministers from Rio’s own party NDPP and also BJP.

There have been a few desertions from the ruling NDPP of Rio in Mokokchung district lately. This could be attributed to local factors but normally such a thing does not happen in a party whose senior most legislator is the chief minister.

“It’s time we truly deliver as the facilitator because the talks between the Government of India and two negotiating Naga groups NNPG and NSCN (IM) are over,” is one new refrain.

Of course, the NSCN (IM) denies such an idea and it has blamed the then negotiator and Governor RN Ravi for so called ‘misinterpretation’.

Even in a statement on April 10, 2022 (Sunday) evening, the NSCN (IM) said: “Ravi could not convince the NSCN (IM) to sign an agreement without the Naga flag and the separate Constitution.”

However, Governor Ravi had made a statement on the floor of the House that all discussions between the Centre, NNPG and NSCN (IM) were over by October 31, 2019. The elected legislators are also aware that the Governor’s speeches in state legislatures are endorsed by the cabinet decision.

So they know the state government and chief minister cannot deny or disown the statement made by the Governor. And if at all the Governor made a statement in assembly without cabinet nod, the chief minister and his cabinet were duty bound to step down that very day.

Hence, the belated realisation, that it is time to face the reality without resorting to any other strategies that could further delay the peace process and finally an accord.

It is reported that in the April 9 meeting at Kohima, some MLAs including chief minister Neiphiu Rio were ’emotional’ as the Naga issue and to arrive at a peace pact is certainly an emotive issue for every Naga worth his salt.

“Everything is in the hands of the centre now…,” was one refrain at the meeting, sources say.

A section of legislators irrespective of party affiliation suggested that the consultative committee or core committee of the state legislators headed by the chief minister himself should now “honestly report” to the centre on the feedback they receive from the Naga people and various Naga groups and voluntary organisations.

A couple of MLAs maintained that if someone (or organisations or groups) say flag and constitution are important, it should be reported to the centre frankly. If the NNPG, an umbrella organisation of militant groups led by N Kitovi Zhimomi, says it is keen to accept the ‘arrangement worked out’ by October 31, 2019, all these have to be honestly conveyed to the centre.

There is no point looking the other way or hoping for some major or drastic changes. The Centre should then apply its mind and take a final call.

“The NNPG, and former Nagaland Governor (RN Ravi) negotiated on the principle that politics is an art of possibilities, and so the focus was to resolve the Indo-Naga political problems. We should aim for a win-win situation for both sides,” Kitovi said in Delhi recently.

Left to it, the Modi government has been treading the path cautiously unwilling to take any risk. Hence it has been going slow and even soft at times. The centre wants to avoid any situation like the 1970s when the Shillong Accord actually split the rebel-guerrilla camp.

But few developments in recent weeks have unnerved the Centre. A seminar was hosted at Dimapur wherein ‘radical elements’ from Sikh organisations and Tamil Nadu also participated and made certain anti-Indian government remarks. The Centre has ticked off the state authorities already.

Chief minister Rio is expected in the capital this week and it is likely he could face a few tough questions on such meetings.

Rio was understood to have been “embarrassed in a big way” when state BJP chief and his own minister (for Higher Technical Education), Temjen Imna Along, said on the floor of the assembly last month that no less than Home minister Amit Shah had made it clear “in front of Rio” that even in 400 years some demands (Flag and a separate Constitution) cannot be met.

In effect, Rio lost grip that very moment as he ran a coalition regime with the support of 12 BJP legislators.

Hence the MLAs including ministers are now giving much importance to the coming week’s political and administrative developments once the ‘core team’ under chief minister Rio’s leadership is in Delhi.

The developments related to ED summons to five associates of chief minister Rio are also curious and crucial things unfolding.

Last week, it is learnt Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself indicated to veteran Naga leader SC Jamir that he is keen to put the peace talks on a faster track.

Time is running out in terms of ensuing elections by February-March 2023 and hence even MLAs are getting restive.


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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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