KOHIMA: Nagaland Health and Family Welfare Minister Imkong Imchen on Tuesday said he supported the demand of various Naga pressure groups to defer the upcoming assembly elections in order to facilitate a solution to the seven-decade-old Naga insurgency.
The term of the 60-member Nagaland assembly expires on March 13, 2019.
"I strongly feel that the assembly elections should be deferred to facilitate a solution to the Naga political settlement (insurgency). Moreover, government interlocutor R.N. Ravi had said that political negotiations are at its final stage," Imchen told IANS.
"Election is not a big deal compared to Naga political issue," he added.
He said the Nagaland Assembly last year had unanimously adopted a resolution urging the central government to take emergent and extraordinary steps for an "honourable and acceptable solution" before the Assembly election.
Noting that the central government can defer the elections under extra ordinary situation, the Naga People's Front legislator, however, said that it was up to the central government to take a decision on it.
"There is no question of 'boycotting' the election, since it was only a proposal to the central government to defer the election. But if the central government is sincere enough, they can defer the elections to pave way for a Naga political settlement," Imchen said.
On August 3, 2015, the central government and the separatist group, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland Issac-Muivah (NSCN-IM) signed the Framework Agreement to end the insurgency.
Last year, the government had also signed an agreement with a Working Committee comprising six Naga National Political Groups.
At least nine pressure groups, including the powerful Naga Mother's Association and Naga Hoho Ahave urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to defer the elections due to the seven-decade-old Naga insurgency.
"Elections at this hour would most likely jeopardise the Prime Minister's desire for peace. A political solution to the seven-decade long Indo-Naga political issue must be given greater importance over the democratic electoral exercise," one of the groups had stated in their memorandum to Modi.
The separatist NSCN-IM group has been in talks with the government since 1997 after the signing of a ceasefire agreement.
Nagaland became India's 16th state on December 1, 1963. The mostly mountainous state, spread over 16,579 square km, is home to 16 major tribes, each with distinct customs, language and dress.