Flags out Will underground leaders decide to come together?
Photo: Benjamin Lorin Sugathan SOMETHING IS afoot in Nagaland. In the past week, all 60 MLAs of the state made their way to Delhi to push for a settlement of the long-standing Indo-Naga political problem. Earlier on 19 July, these MLAs offered to resign to make way for an interim government comprising different underground groups.While various chief ministers in the past have offered to quit office for a government formed by underground groups, it is for the first time in the state’s 48-year-history that MLAs across parties have come together to form the Joint Legislators Forum (JLF) to pave the way for any alternative that may emerge from the ongoing peace process.
“We have different political voices, but now we are speaking as one, to hasten the solution of the Indo–Naga political problem,” says Dr Sherzulei, president of the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF). Former chief minister and leader of the Opposition, Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee, SC Jamir, backs the JLF. “This is what the people want and we are willing to do everything to make it possible,” says Jamir.
According to sources, CM Rio has submitted a proposal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that his government would step down to make way for an interim government comprising the underground factions. TEHELKA had earlier said (What’s Next For Nagaland?, 18 February) that as different groups try to pull together to form a collective government, the state Assembly would make way for them. If such a solution is reached, it could be a model for resolving other long-standing disputes within the country.
The timing of the statement is interesting. Nagaland goes to polls in 2013 and the country in 2014. The worry is that if the political faces in the state and the Centre change, the progress made in the past 10 years could be lost. Secondly, as a senior Naga political leader said, “Unfortunately, elections are an expensive affair, presently all 60 MLAs are willing to make way, however, after incurring the costs of an elections I am not sure how many will be willing to resign.”
On his part, Sherzulei stands by the sincerity of his party’s decision. “It’s too early to say what will happen to the political parties,” he says. “However, we, as a party, are prepared to make way for a new government. We have no intention of participating in the political process.”
Does this mean the end of political parties in Nagaland? The general consensus seems to be that in their present form, the political parties may become redundant. However, given that there are so many underground factions in Nagaland, they will align themselves based on political ideologies. Many feel the NPF could find a new role for itself, but it could be curtains for the Congress.
As the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) and the Naga Hoho put their weight behind the JLF resolution, Home Secretary GK Pillai feels there is a long way to go. “It was only when Pu Laldenga signed the Mizo Accord with the Centre in 1986, that the government of the day made way for him. Without a solution between the Centre and the underground groups, this statement doesn’t mean much.”
However, could this just be another masterstroke by Chief Minster Rio? Having launched his party in Manipur last year, could he be looking to remain relevant in both India’s and Nagaland’s politics, post a solution? What remains to be seen is if this statement is mere political posturing or just the next logical step in attaining a Naga solution. But one thing is clear. While sovereignty may not be possible, for the Nagas, statehood is not the final solution. They aspire for more.Avalok Langer is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.