GUWAHATI: Assembly elections in Nagaland, due in two months, could face rejection from the Nagas, for they suspect the Centre is attempting to derail the settlement of the protracted ‘Naga political problem’ by imposing the polls on them.
The Nagas suspect that the ‘forced’ election will push the seven-decade-old political problem to the backburner. However, the fact that they are not going to achieve a solution before the election was evident from a tweet by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s office. The tweet read: “HM also told the Nagaland Chief Minister that announcing the dates for Assembly elections is the prerogative of the Election Commission and the elections have to be held on schedule. Any reports to the contrary are incorrect.” The Centre’s interlocutor in the Naga peace process, R N Ravi, reconfirmed the timely election.
Chief Minister T R Zeliang met Rajnath in New Delhi on Wednesday and reiterated the demand of the Naga civil society for a ‘solution before election’. Two months ago, he had taken all his ministers to the national capital to raise the demand. The Naga Hoho, Nagaland’s apex social organisation, has warned that the polls could face rejection from the Nagas if held before settlement of the Naga issue. The Nagas at large, including all Assembly members, stand opposed to the polls. The Nagaland Assembly, in fact, has adopted a resolution seeking deferment of the polls.
“I think rejection (of the polls by the Nagas) is inevitable. If India is willing to give solution within six months or a year’s time, why should they conduct the election? They can postpone it,” said Naga Hoho president Chuba Ozukum.
The perception among the Nagas is that MLAs in the 60-member Nagaland House may not necessarily step down midway through their term. “If they (MLAs) are serious about resolving the Naga issue, they should pave the way by stepping down. But they will, surely, have a second thought,” said Ozukum.
Some influential Naga organisations have urged PM Narendra Modi to settle the issue first before holding the polls. In a representation to him, the Nagaland Tribes’ Council (NTC) insisted that the “ongoing negotiations (between the Centre and various Naga extremist groups) should bring logical result to the protracted Naga issue without letting any situation hamper the progress.”
Pinning hopes on talks
The Nagas were pinning hopes on assertions by President Ram Nath Kovind as well as R N Ravi, the Centre’s interlocutor, late last year that a solution was round the corner.
Seven Naga insurgent groups are engaged in peace negotiations with the Centre.
For 20 years, the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland led the talks. A few months ago, six other Naga rebel groups joined the process.